Valkyria Chronicles II Features

Valkyria Chronicles 2 was the right sequel on the wrong platform

The recent, unexpected and utterly delightful arrival of Valkyria Chronicles on PC has set me wondering about curious fate of Sega's franchise. It's a series that's garnered a passionate and loyal fan base thanks to the 2008 PS3 original, which won as many hearts with its colourful cast and timeless painterly aesthetic as it did minds with its quirky strategic action. Yet the chronicles of Valkyria seem to have played out in reverse and, through no fault of their own, suffered a demoralising downward spiral of devolution.

Despite the original earning its stripes as a worldwide release that shifted over a million copies, Valkyria Chronicles 2 received a sharp demotion. The shift to Sony's PSP may have made sense in its native Japan, where unabashed fans would relish the ad hoc multiplayer, but everywhere else it felt like a backward step that brought with it an inevitable drop in sales and a slew of technical constraints to boot. The third instalment never even made it to these shores. It's an inverse of the path this franchise deserved, and a waste of such big-hearted promise. After such an impressive start for the series, it was left to drift quietly into obscurity.

Valkyria Chronicles 2's arrival in 2010 was bittersweet, then. It was the sequel many had been hoping would materialise, but it on a platform already in decline. So, through strained smiles, we pointedly ignored the obvious fact that it was neither as attractive as its predecessor nor carrying all of its forebear's effortless charm. The PSP simply wasn't up to the task of depicting the delicate brush strokes and fine lines that allow the PS3 game to belie its age to this day. In trying to recreate that iconic look it lost much of its visual identity as once delicate details were mired in a muddy miasma of muted browns and greens. The variety of its environments was gone and, with it, some of the first game's grand scope and sense of scale. Most of this instalment took place in and around the grounds of the Lanseal Military Academy, which brought with it a change of personnel and the heavy funk of raging hormones and teenage angst.

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Valkyria Chronicles II

Sociopolitics, tanks, strategic deployment and, er, homework.

Japan's not short of games that have seen far greater success on portable systems than they ever did on under-telly gameboxes, but Valkyria Chronicles seems a strange choice for downsizing. It's remembered for its beautiful sketchbook-style graphics and hour-long strategic battles - two things that have had to be scaled down to fit the PSP. Thankfully everything else that made it interesting is present and correct. This is still a game where your gay engineer will enjoy a stats boost if you make sure she's deployed near female squad-mates, or your racist scout won't fight with Darcsen soldiers. It's still a complex, politically engaging storyline framed in an innovative semi-real-time battle system, with likeable, developed characters. Superb!