Valkyria Chronicles 2 (Preview)

The original Valkyria Chronicles on PS3 scored very well, but despite some very loyal fan support it didn’t sell, with sales of less than a million (according to vgchartz.com). So Sega have opted to take the series to the PSP instead.

The story takes place in Europa in 1937, two years after the original game. Think of Europa as a reimagining of WWII Europe but with a different war, and fictional countries. Weapons are similar to WWII weapons, but with the occasional anime twist. This time players will control a group of young Cadets from the Gallian Military Academy who are thrust into a civil war. Characters from the original game will return but in minor roles. Presumably this is so newcomers can come into the story without feeling lost because they’re not familiar with the first game, a wise decision considering the format change. Returning fans can expect to be looked after too with a few references and familiar characters popping up. The demo for the first game on PS3 is still available on PSN so why not have a look if you’re new to the series. Or if you have a Japanese PSN account, there’s a PSP demo for this sequel.

How does it play?

If you are totally new to the series here’s a gist of the gameplay. Valkyria Chronicles games are known as SRPGs or Strategy Role Playing Games. Players get a turn to move soldiers around a map with movement limited by a depleting AP (Action Points) bar, meaning by the time it runs out they can no longer move, so they better not get stuck in the open. Once they’ve stopped moving they can line up a shot or a burst of fire.

The player has limited CPs (Command Points) which indicates how many turns they have. They can use the same soldier multiple times or manoeuvre more members of their team to flank opponents or provide supporting fire. Once they’ve used all the CPs, that’s the end of their ‘Phase.’ Then they wait while the enemy has a Phase. Just because it isn’t a side’s turn though, doesn’t mean they won’t open fire if they get a chance. So while the battles are turn-based, characters in the game will take pop-shots automatically given half a chance. Players are encouraged to be efficient with their tactics to get a higher rating and greater experience awards at the end of each battle, which can be used to managed the growth of the main characters and of specific soldier disciplines rather than individual troops. In the original game this was because there were around 50 supporting characters and if you weren’t careful you could lose them permanently on the battlefield, but it wouldn’t particularly cripple your game if you lost one or two.

Can it work on the PSP?

The PS3 game used the analogue stick for aiming, with the D-pad for fine-tuning; hopefully this will remain the same in for the PSP as aiming with the face buttons has always felt cumbersome and inaccurate on the handheld. During player movement the L/R shoulder buttons are used to rotate the camera, which should be just fine.

The stop-start nature of the gameplay should work quite well on the portable console and checkpoints have been introduced mid-battle too. That should be handy with some of the longer battles in-case you’re prone to swearing at your PSP on the bus.

Co-op play features for the first time the series too with up to four players teaming up. Yes PSP co-op is massive in Japan (see Monster Hunter) but surely fans would have loved to play online with their PS3s too?

After initial ‘what the hell’ reactions when hearing about the format change it was a relief to see just how good looking the game is on PSP. The Canvas graphics engine was gorgeous on the PS3 without it would seem pushing the console particularly hard. Sure there’s a visual difference but it looks better than many thought it would. One curious addition though is the white border added to the edge of the screen, which makes the pictures appear even more canvas-like. Did anyone want this? Ask us after 40 hours of playing it!

It also looks like many cutscenes will be done in an anime style rather than using the Canvas engine. This could be to make up for the forced graphical step-down on the PSP or perhaps to gain some extra interest in the Japanese anime series based on the games.

An excuse the developers could argue for the transition to the PSP is that many gamers in their native Japan take advantage of the PSP’s portability over the PS3 where busy households may not be willing to let the living room TV be occupied for the long periods that the Japanese (along with the rest of us) like to sink into these long games. It’s considerably cheaper to make a PSP game than a PS3 one too. However, wouldn’t half the work already been done with the game engine already set-up on PS3?

It’s expected that the game will be around 30-40 hours with 20 new environments containing hundreds of missions to find. Plus Sega are already planning some DLC extras for it as they did with the PS3 game. The PSP needs a quality new RPG-style game as the system has become home to jaded re-releases of old titles of the genre rather than quality, modern IPs. Few would bet against this being an excellent game, but will enough people buy it this time?

Valkyria Chronicles 2 is out now in Japan and is scheduled for a summer release in Europe / America.

*I also posted this article at Hooked Gamers.

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