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When the follow-up to sleeper hit strategy/shooter Valkyria Chronicles was announced as a PSP exclusive, fans reacted with trepidation. Could a game so beloved in part for its unique visual style make the transition to a lesser-powered console with its charm intact? After spending some hands-on time with the game at E3, we can assure you that the prognosis for Valkyria Chronicles II is very positive indeed.
Valkyria Chronicles II follows up directly where its predecessor left off. In a fictional alternate history set around the time of World War II, a European nation called Gallia is under intense strife. Despite its victory against the Imperial forces, the country is now embroiled in a fierce civil war. Noblemen and peasants alike have risen to arms in an ethnic cleansing campaign against Gallians of Darcsen ancestry, and with the country’s army exhausted from its previous war, there are only a few fresh-faced recruits to deal with the insurrection.
Let’s get the major concerns about the move to the PSP out of the way. We won’t pretend that Valkyria Chronicles II looks as good as its PS3 predecessor – it simply can’t because of the vast difference in capabilities between the hardware. The hit the visuals take, however, is nowhere near as severe as you might think. Valkyria Chronicles II might not have the “storybook” visual style of the original, but it retains the bright, colorful backdrops and anime-styled character designs that make the game unique amongst so many other military-themed titles. It’s still pretty – just not quite as pretty.
Strategy buffs shouldn’t worry about the gameplay being downsized, either. The unique blend of third-person shooting and turn-based strategy makes the journey fully intact, and even adds a few new twists this time around. We had the chance to play through a brief, timed introductory mission that showed off the basic play mechanics as well as some of the new elements.
Valkyria Chronicles II consists of multiple combat missions which much be completed successfully. During each mission, you’ll have a certain number of troops you can deploy. You’ll be switching between “command mode” and “action mode” to plan and engage the enemy. The “command mode” lets you survey an overhead map of the field and select which soldiers to move. Each selection costs a Command Point, and when all points are used, the enemy takes their turn to attack. When a soldier is selected, the action switches to a third-person viewpoint, allowing the player the directly control a character, attack enemies, and use items as long as their character has sufficient Action Points. Every action from moving to shooting costs a character AP, so it’s important to make each and every step count.