Review: Valkyria Chronicles II

Valkyria Chronicles II
Platform: PSP
Genre: SRPG
Playtime: 44:06
Gods that was a grind at the end, but more about that in the actual review. How does the sequel to my favorite PS3 game hold up?

Gameplay: 8/10 Again, no fancy world map, but something closer to what’s typical with SRPGs where you choose an area and go to it, and get options in that area. No walking around towns or anything, it’s just the school campus. The confirmation for watching scenes is dropped, which is a nice streamlining.
The battle system is the same from the first game, just with a changed control scheme to make up for the PSP’s lack of a second analog stick. This also applies to the camera screw, especially with the pan up/down being assigned to triangle and X. The end turn button, Start, is a bit out of the way, and this time there’s no confirmation like in the first game, which can lead to early ended turns.
There are improvements in the expanded number of classes, which leads to more customization. The new armored tech class is actually VERY useful, and a fully upgrade anthem corps unit effectively replaces buffing orders. However, GETTING these classes is a MAJOR PITA due to the credit drop system. Have fun seeing Avan with 10 diplomas and 25 certificates while someone else needs just one more thing and can’t get it. Permadeath is also out and replaced by a hospitalization system where units left dead on the field for 3 turns are out of commission for three missions. If you pick up the body, you can send them back out into the battle after a turn or two.
The new connected map system is also very nicely done and adds to the strategy and replaces the large maps from the PS3 version well enough.
There’s ad-hoc multiplayer too, but I didn’t try it.

Story: 7/10 Blargh. It’s like they ran down a cliche list for “games that take place at a school” and just added war-related things here and there. The entire first half of the game is “whoo we are at school”, complete with jokes about tests, make up classes, and even a fanservicey pool scene. Then midway through, the game remembers that it’s about a war, and throws a massive mood whiplash curveball at you. Nearly every major event that gets the story moving again happens in this month, and it’s very jarring. The story doesn’t improve much over this, nearly every event has an obvious outcome, or doesn’t hit the emotional target as well as it should.
Speaking of months, the game moves on a month-to-month system like Mana Khemia. You have to take “key” missions to unlock the “story” missions at the end of each month. Especially if you need to grind, this creates an Atelier Iris 3 type situation where you might end up doing so many missions you forget where the story goes. At least there’s an event viewer, but the pacing is still horrible.

Characters: 8/10 I really never connected with the main trio of the game. Avan is a typical hot-blooded shounen hero, Zeri is the typical straight man, and Cosette is the typical sorta-love interest main clumsy girl. Only Cosette has any plot twist, and it’s solved in a stupid way.
As for other characters…Juliana tries to be a rival but doesn’t appear enough to make a large impact before her story events, though I felt for her. A bit. Lavinia, your tank driver, doesn’t get ANY character development — that is, until you can get on her character missions in the postgame. Yeah, she’s essentially faceless. Even Kreis in VC1 had more development during the main story.
Your classmates start out as an interesting bunch and eventually turn into “why the hell is that person in my team” Did we really need the wandering gambler, the nun, and the wild child? My favorites are Marion, Mischlitt, Magari, Melissa, Anisette, and Coleen. The character missions really help with development, but to get them you have to use the character and gain “points” with them, which can get annoying for the weaker units. Unlocking class-based potentials also sucks since it’s random, but it’s nice when a unit’s negative potential disappears or is replaced by a positive one after completing their story arc.
The villains…meh. They each had their own “thing” and you fought against them enough, but they didn’t resonate with me at all, even Dirk and his spoiler. The villain deaths (like you didn’t see that coming) are also rather anticlimactic.

Graphics: 8/10 Bit of a hit because of the PSP’s limitations, especially with only two body types for models (male and female). Girls with longer hair look weird when moving around since their hair doesn’t move. Also, the in-game engine cutscenes are replaced with animated ones. They’re good enough.

Music: 8/10 It reuses a lot of tracks from the first game slightly remixed, but they somehow sound a bit better sometimes. The new tracks are all great and along the same lines as the first game, except for maybe a couple more upbeat songs.

Localization: 10/10 Pretty much the same as the first, a very well done translation with maybe a couple typos (I don’t remember seeing any). No Japanese voice track, but that’s uncommon on PSP games without cuts. Obviously I don’t care about that.

Overall Rating: 8/10
Recommendation: If you liked the first game and have a PSP, give it a shot, though I don’t think it’s worth $40. $30 might be a good price, though even that’s hard to say since the first game is only $20. It’s also worth it so you can catch the cameos and references that Valkyria Chronicles 3 is sure to make to this game.


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