Valkyria Chronicles II Review

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Posted on August 30, 2010, Phil Owen Valkyria Chronicles II Review

The PS3/PS2 and the PSP are distinctly different things, not just in appearance but also in how you play games on them. Try as developers might, some franchises that are popular on a home console will just not work on Sony’s handheld, because most gaming experiences that are successful when the player is sitting on the couch staring at a big TV don’t work when they are transplanted to PSP.

Valkyria Chronicles II (PSP [Reviewed])
Developer: SEGA
Publisher: SEGA
Release Date: August 31, 2010
MSRP: $39.99

Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker comes to mind immediately; while that game may have worked in terms of gameplay, the truth of the matter is that the full Metal Gear Solid experience, as that game was intended to be, is far more annoying when you’re playing it on this awkward device you have to hold up to your face for long periods of time as you watch stupidly melodramatic cutscenes. The best PSP games are the ones that are built to be played in shorter bursts, like when you sit on the porch and have a cigarette or when you plant yourself on the toilet.

And this brings me to Valkyria Chronicles, a game I never really enjoyed. It was poorly written in the way you expect a lot of Japanese games to be, but that wasn’t my problem. My problem is that when I sit down to game, I do so with the intent to play for several hours. But for whatever reason, this game, as it jarringly went back an forth between turn-based tactical situations and lengthy button-prompt cutscenes, didn’t flow for me, and I couldn’t get into it, even if I really enjoyed the battles themselves; the structure and pace were off enough that I couldn’t enjoy myself.

But Valkyria Chronicles II is on the PSP. For the first few hours, because the game starts sooooooooo slowly and the battles are full of text popping up to tell you how to play the game, I was again bored out of my mind, and it certainly didn’t help that I found all the characters in this title far more annoying than those of the first game. But once all the tutorials are out of the way, the game finds a nice rhythm appropriate to the system it inhabits.

Not a lot has changed in this round of Valkyria Chronicles. The watercolor art style has been preserved, and, honestly, it looks just as good on the small screen as it did on my HDTV. It’s still the RPG class-based turn-based tactical combat we loved the first time around, though there are a few tweeks: there’s a new class, and the RPG-style progression now allows for branching, and so characters are no longer pigeon-holed into one class. For those not familiar with the idea, here’s the deal:

Like any traditional RPG, you’ve got a group of folks who specialize in something, like shooting or defending or healing. Unlike a traditional RPG, the combat is all from the third-person perspective, and you take turns moving each character around the battle map doing whatever that character is supposed to do. Think of it as living in the space between Final Fantasy (not XIII) and the first Mass Effect.

As before, the gameplay can be quite addictive, or at least it is when it gets challenging. Sadly, it isn’t challenging for many an hour, but once you beef up your dudes and ladies and move far enough through the game, you’ll find quite the enthralling experience as you face a few different, interesting mission types, like escort missions.

So, yeah, the story. The first game was about fake Poland or whatever (Gallia) being caught in the middle of a big war between the something-or-other-Empire and the something-or-other-Alliance. And you and your bros fought off whichever one of those was the bad guys. This time around, it’s two years later, and it’s still about fake Poland or whatever, except this time there’s a bunch of local racists rebelling because some of the Queen’s ancestors had black hair. Also, it’s like Harry Potter, because the whole game revolves around a bunch of kids at a military academy who fight the racists.  And that’s all I have to say about that, because the story is crap.

I don’t know how much I like this game. Yea, I like the battles, and I like methodically progressing my characters. I like those things a lot. But I don’t like the boring story or how horribly annoying all the characters are. Now, if players weren’t going to spend half their time with the game on things that aren’t combat and RPG stuff, I might could let all that lame-o bullpucky slide. But players will, and so I can’t.

P.S. There is adhoc co-op and competitive multiplayer, but I didn’t get to try it since I’m probably the only person in the state of Alabama to have a review copy. I’m told there is a way to take it online through the PS3, but I only leearned that today and was unable to try it out.

P.P.S. I enjoyed the game most when I was drunk, so take that for what it’s worth.

Same compelling and unique combat
New class!
Branching RPG progression

Lame story and annoying characters take up too much time
Too easy a lot of the time

Final Score: 75/100

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