The first Valkyria Chronicles title received numerous plaudits for its intuitive design, tactical combat, and immersive story. However, a strong response from players caused Sega to take the sequel to the PSP instead of the PlayStation 3, in order to provide the game with a strong multiplayer aspect and make full use of the handheld's ad hoc and wireless play. We had a chance to test out a brief hands-on demo of the game's updated battle system at the Sega booth during E3 2010.
Previous Coverage: We last saw Valkyria Chronicles 2 during our visit to Sega HQ last year. During this session we also got to chat with some of the game's developers, who filled us in on the game's story. VC2 will pick up two years after the conclusion of the first game. You will take on the role of a student at a military academy and become involved in a civil war set within the small European nation of Gallia. The depletion of the country’s resources caused by events in the first game causes the government to call upon you and your fellow military cadets to combat the rising insurgency.
What's New: Last time we got a very brief overview of the whole game. This time around, we looked closer at the changes to the combat since the last game. The demo took us through a quick battle sequence to demonstrate how the game will feel in action and to practice gunning down enemies. While the game's original BLITZ battle system has remained largely intact, Sega has added new customization options for weapons (of which there are now more than 600), as well as a tank, which you can take control of and move around during missions. The combat will be split between an overhead mode and a third-person action mode using turn-based play.
You will still get to choose from different members of the academy to make up your squad. If you explore your classmates' storylines, you will also find benefits that can be applied in battle, now known as "potentials." Since our last session wasn't hands-on, this time we got to try the battle controls for ourselves. The X button will be your confirm/select unit button. You will use square to begin targeting on the battlefield, while triangle will be used to switch between weapons. The right shoulder bumper will let you cycle through area maps--you can now choose which map you start in and no longer have to play in the order that the game wants you to.
What Has Changed: What we didn't know when we first saw VC2 is that there's a new melee class in town. This class includes armor, a shield, and a blunt object (sometimes a sword). Players in this class can charge headfirst into battle, deflecting bullets to close the gaps.
Because of the difference in screen size from the PS3 to the PSP, the Sega development team chose to focus less on story and more on the game’s missions. This means the game's unique watercolor look plays a more important role and will be used to tell the backstory of the game's characters through short cutscenes. We watched one or two of these and were thoroughly impressed by how striking the visual design elements really are, bringing back memories of Hayao Miyazaki films.
Final Word: Valkyria Chronicles 2 is looking like an impressive successor to the PS3 original. Don't be fooled into thinking the game has been somehow watered down by its transition to the PSP. On the contrary, it looks just as beautiful and plays just as well as its predecessor.