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.