If you’re a strategy or role-playing fan, there’s a very good chance that you hold Sega’s Valkyria Chronicles in the highest esteem. The PlayStation 3 exclusive title took a little while to reach a good-sized audience – it needed a rerelease in this country about six months after its initial launch – but the critics have always backed this unique and wonderfully appealing adventure. Now, some of the fanbase were annoyed when they learned the sequel would only come to the PSP, although Sega hasn’t ruled out the possibility of giving the PS3 another effort. In the meantime, we take a look at this handheld iteration that is most certainly a true sequel; it’s not a portable remake or anything like that. This is good reason to be a PSP owner, even if you’re not especially psyched about the snazzy new PSP Go; Chronicles 2 won’t be missed by the hardcore faithful who still praise the original title to this day. The question is, will Sega have to water down the overall experience due to the game’s transition to lesser hardware?
Thankfully, it seems that – despite the obvious and expected downgrade in terms of visuals – the answer to the preceding question is a resounding “no.” Graphically, VC was never a groundbreaking production on the PS3 but it still had a beautifully-drawn charismatic charm to it, and the designers will attempt to recreate this in a handheld format. They called the visuals in the original “canvas graphics,” in that the cel-shaded approach should appear to the player as if the colors were quite literally “painted” on a virtual canvas. Well, it worked out very well and it’s not out of the realm of possibility to expect a similarly appealing atmosphere in the sequel. They’re scaled back but during gameplay, the edges of the screen sort of fade to white, which makes it look more like a game constructed from storybook cutouts. As for the time and overall setting, you will most certainly recognize your immediate environment.
The year is 1937 and a whole new group of students are enrolled at the Lanseal Royal Military Academy, which leads us to the anticipated gameplay, which should be very similar to that of the first VC. You’ll have the quasi-turn-based battles that can involve dozens of different units ranging from different classes of infantrymen to tanks, and you will spend CP (Commander Points) to execute actions in combat. One of the most intriguing aspects of this fairly straightforward approach was the ability to spend your CP exactly as you see fit; you can move one unit three times in a row or spread out orders to all different units. This will certainly return in VC2. But one thing that wasn’t in the original title are checkpoints, which will be included in this PSP iteration just because the battles can last quite a long time. And hey, you don’t want to abandon the entire battle just ‘cuz you’ve reached your destination and have to put the PSP away.
What will have to change just a little is the control scheme, but even that won’t be tough to grasp. You’ll use the d-pad to move your characters around, circle will let you use the weapon or item equipped, square switches to target mode, and both X and triangle changes the camera angle (you can also swing the camera about with the triggers). But perhaps above all else, PSP owners should get a charge out of the addition of co-op play, which has grown progressively more popular over the years. Up to four players should be able to join up in a single battle, and we really like the idea of teaming up to take down overwhelming odds. One last aspect we haven’t addressed is whether or not VC and VC2 will be connected in some way; i.e., if we play one, will we receive benefits in the other? If someone completed the original title, maybe you’ll get an extra piece of content in the sequel, or something like that.
Valkyria Chronicles 2 will – not surprisingly – release in Japan first; it’s slated to drop in January. But US gamers won’t have to wait too long, as VC2 is tentatively scheduled to launch during the second quarter of next year. Yeah, we still want the series to return to the PS3 at some point, but there are a lot of PSP fans out there who shouldn’t be ignored.
10/19/2009 Ben Dutka