The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
The first Valkyria Chronicles told the story of a war in Gallia, a small country
surrounded by military superpowers. When it released in the fall of 2008, Valkyria
Chronicles’ real-world plight paralleled that of the fictional nation of Gallia;
it was a quirky strategy-RPG beset on all sides by giants of the video game industry.
I reviewed Valkyria Chronicles for GI #188, an issue that also contained reviews
for Fallout 3, Gears of War 2, Fable II, Resistance 2, Mirror’s Edge, Chrono
Trigger DS, and LittleBigPlanet. Even surrounded by such high-profile titles, Valkyria
Chronicles amassed a cult following and was successful enough to spawn a second
As a fan of the first game, I was initially disappointed to learn the series was
moving from PS3 to PSP. Then I played Valkyria Chronicles II, and all was forgiven.
Sega makes some sacrifices to make the experience more portable, but it also made
improvements and added depth, resulting in a follow-up that stands right alongside
The strategic combat system remains remarkably similar to the first game. After
surveying the situation from the command map, you take control of individual units
to move and attack in real time. Putting players in the middle of the action avoids
the mechanical repetition associated with grid-based strategy titles, while still
delivering the thrill of a well-executed tactical maneuver. Unfortunately, the maps
and mission objectives lack variety; you’ll often fight in recycled areas,
and the sprawling battlefields of the original have been split up and shrunk down
to several bite-sized areas per mission.
The smaller maps are one reason the scale of the conflicts has been drastically
reduced, but there is another problem. Where you could once bring a veritable army
into battle, you are now limited to six soldiers on the field at once. This is especially
restricting when you need to wage war on multiple fronts. This limitation is the
most glaring flaw, since it also prevents battles from achieving the epic multi-front
scope of the original.
For many battles, your strategy hinges on shuttling allies from one area to another.
I found this disappointing at first, but new enemies and unit types ensure that
you aren’t constantly reaching into the same bag of tricks. The orders you
issue (like passive buffs and mortar strikes) aren’t nearly as overpowered
as they were in the last entry, forcing you to consider your options more carefully
instead of pumping up a single super-soldier. If that isn’t enough variety
for you, check out the new versus and co-op challenges. Multiplayer is local-only,
but that isn’t really a strike against the game, since I found the single-player
campaign far more interesting than the online features.
The PSP can’t reproduce all of the things that made Valkyria Chronicles a
fan favorite on PS3. For instance, the cel-shaded sketchbook aesthetic of the original
has been replaced with a more conventional anime vibe, and the plot isn’t
as sophisticated or compelling. Valkyria Chronicles II compensates by making your
time with your squad better than ever. The story doesn’t just focus on a few
teammates; the entire squad is front and center. The characters each have unique
cutscenes and missions that flesh out their personalities, and I became attached
to several of them – even a few that I didn’t like at the beginning.
From the new weapon upgrades to the improved tank customization, almost everything
outside of combat is a step above the last entry. Your allies feel more like individuals
thanks to the new XP and advancement system, which rewards a unit’s performance.
You still level up each class as a whole, but each unit receives bonuses for accomplishments
like kills, healing, and base capturing. This means that your personal favorite
units will excel and eventually take on specialized roles, like sniper or fencer.
However, because the base classes still advance as a group, no one is ever left
behind. The system is a great way to acknowledge and encourage the inevitable favoritism
that will emerge for players as they get to know the squad.
Valkyria Chronicles II is the best PSP game I’ve played in years. It could
have been even better if not for the limitations of the hardware, but hopefully
Sega wises up and puts Valkyria Chronicles III back on home consoles. A game combining
the large-scale combat of the original with the depth of the sequel would be a powerhouse
of the strategy genre. In the meantime, this entry should delight fans of the original
and inspire the uninitiated to pledge their allegiance to Gallia.
Email the author Joe Juba, or follow on Twitter, Facebook, and Game Informer.