The SRPG Valkyria Chronicles 2 takes place in early 20th century and the European War II is underway with Europe divided into the Atlantic Federation and East Europa Imperial Alliance. The Alliance invades keen to get a hold of the powerful "Ragnite" minerals from Gallia, a small neutral nation that stood between the two sides. Gallia manages to fend them off but before they could recover from their fight, the Grand Duke Cordellia reveals that she is from the Darcsen bloodline, black-haired people who once brought disaster to the country and was stopped by the Valkyria. As a result of the discrimination since those times, a rebellious group who resented the Darcsens, form the "Gallian Revolutionary Army" to overthrow her causing a civil war to break out.
One day Avan Hardins receives news his brother was killed in battle but not being able to see the corpse, he refuses to believe it and decides to join the Lanseal Royal Military Academy to train while seeking out more information.
I haven't played the prequel for the PS3 so I can't make a fair comparison but, the game makes use of the "BLITZ" system once again and is basically part action and part turn based, usually taking place over a number of areas. You have a number of Command Points (CP) which you can use to give out commands to a single unit. After all CPs are used up, it's the enemy's phase.
You can have up to six members on the battlefield at any one time and there are five types of units to choose from, each with their own attributes such as the assault units who have high HP but short range attacks. Leaders have special skills just like in Advance Wars that cost a lot more CP to use such as heal units within an area.
Once you select a unit, you enter the battlefield and the action begins which usually takes place over a number of areas. You can only move between them once you take over an enemy base. Units can move as long as they have enough Action Points (AP) and while you're moving, enemies will shoot at you when you're in range which gives it a little bit of the excitement from ARPGs. They don't as much damage as when it's their turn but depending on which way your unit's facing, they can still be lethal. There's plenty of terrain usage as you would expect from a strategy game such as crawling in the grass and taking cover behind objects. The fun thing is you also get a bit of a FPS element thrown in because you have to aim a crosshair at the enemy and they all have their weaknesses such as aiming for the soldier's heads. Although the PSP lacks the console's dual analogue stick setup, it's good to see you can move the crosshair slowly if you use the d-pad and quickly if you use the analogue stick which makes it easy to aim.
This is all done at a very good pace and the flexibility of CP and AP means you can very much have a single unit storm through the battle field if you wanted to. That said, their max AP drops every after every turn and enemies always ends up facing you after an attack so, it doesn't quite work all the time fortunately. Otherwise it would be too easy. Then there's also many other varying environments to take into account too which gives this game plenty of depth.
Want to use brute force and barge your way through the enemy? Or maybe you just want to finish the mission as quickly as possible for that S rank. Well, there's so many customisations for the tank and team setups available, it really is up to you how you want to go about the missions!
It's also good to see the mission objectives aren't simply all about wiping out every enemy unit in the battlefield. They vary quite a bit - Aim for a leader, wipe out a tank, take over all bases, reach a certain point within a limited number of turns etc. Interesting enough, characters can be returned to camp when their HP has been knocked down to zero and if you don't, they get hospitalised for a number of days. Moral which rises when you are succeeding such as defeating enemy units or securing territory help your units to fight better.
Outside of battles, there's a top-down view allowing you to travel around Lanseal Academy a little like a visual novel game, experiencing optional random events that let you learn more about the characters. There's no dating sim element but there are some missions where you can help out classmates to increase your friendship level so that there are more chances of combo attacks, though. These turn out to be slightly more tougher missions because you can't choose which units can sortie. It's good to see main and side missions can be accessed at your own pace.
It's also when you can use the accumulated experience points and money to upgrade your units and weapons. The great thing is it doesn't just upgrade a single unit like in most RPGs, it upgrades all units of that type which again makes it very flexible. It was probably the best choice for the developers to make when there's such a wide choice of characters to choose from, not just the protagonists. What's more, each character has their own unique "Potential" skills which can be bad or good depending on the missions you manage to complete. This gives them a little more personal touch. For example, one of the girls is afraid of blood which lowers her stats whenever she gets hit by gunfire until you help overcome her fear in a certain mission.
There's so much extra content to unlock (and buy from the PS Store) in fact that it's also one of the game's downsides. For example, depending on what save data you have stored on your memory stick such as from the PS3 prequel and Phantasy Star Portable 2, you can unlock even more characters and missions. For this very reason, you'll find the game checking the memory stick every time you start it which can be pretty irritating.
Battles are presented in 3D and textures look fairly decent ranging from the common daytime, night and sandy deserts. The environments feel a little on the plain side but since it's supposed to be a battle field and there's a number of full character models to render, I guess some compromise was necessary. On the other hand, the top down view of the academy looks wonderfully rendered, hustling and bustling with little vehicles moving around, gunfire being seen in the training grounds, some weather effects depending on the time of the semester.
There are animated cutscenes by A1 Pictures who just happens to be responsible for the Anime show too. They're interspersed in the game including the opening itself and they all keep the stylish pencil sketch lines on the shadings. Most of the time the story is played out with portraits but they move about the screen and emoticons help add to the atmosphere quite a bit. Backgrounds are well rendered and illustrated with plenty of detail as you would expect from visual novel style presentations.
The orchestral theme performed by the Czech Film Orchestra makes a reappearance while the rest of the music by Hitoshi Sakimoto (Final Fantasy XII, Muramasa The Demon Blade) sounds pretty familiar from the first. That said, they still work with the atmosphere, different themes playing depending on whose phase it is. I'm sure many tracks will end up reappearing in future titles. There's also the odd radio transmission playing in the background depending on what you do. Despite your typical Anime personalities, the familiar dialogue between the characters can still be pretty entertaining and the story is mostly character driven. Only the main dialogue are voice acted while other times it's the odd sound effect which can get pretty repetitive. Do I really need a trainer crying out, "Level up!!" every time I level up a unit type?
On a side note, I just happened to notice Akihiko from Persona 3's voice actor, Hikaru Morikawa does the voice for one of the villains, Baldren Gassenarl. They look very similar with their short silver hair.
The richly detailed world of Valkyria is pretty funny actually - Instead of alarms followed by fire drills, it's a bell and students sortie out for war. Then whenever there are main battles, the characters somehow miraculously switch from the ruined black, wartorn battlefields back to their vividly coloured academy. Trivial details I know but still, the inconsistency kind of ruins the scenarios.
Valkryia Chronicles 2 is a great SRPG to play with so much depth, varying mission objectives and customisation available. It's got plenty of replaybility with lots of ranked missions and some are so seemingly impossible at first that beating them gives some great satisfaction afterwards. You even get to play on after finishing the game to play through any of the side missions that didn't come up! Now if the story was a little more intricate instead of focusing on the stereotypical cast of Anime characters most of the time then I think it would almost be perfect. Apart from that, I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of the game.
Time Completed 48 hours
- Interesting mix of action and turn based strategy.
- Large variety of mission objectives.
- Large selection of characters to choose from.
- Flexible levelling up and upgrading.
- Slow and quick aiming controls.
- Ranked battles for replayability.
- Can review all animated cutscenes and events.
- Can continue playing even after finishing the game for any missed events.
- Like all RTS games, finding that last enemy unit in eliminate all missions.
- Checking for saved files every time you start the game.
- Tank could use some profiles for storing customisations.