[Disclaimer: This blog does not represent the views or opinions of Enkido as he exists in a sane state and he cannot be held responsible for the content expressed in this article. For real, it's been a while, how have you been. Also, cocks.]
Oh, why hello there. I haven't seen you all in a while, a little over a month if I remember correctly. Sorry about that. Well, things have finally slowed down and a thing happened that deserves writing about. I'll go ahead and let you guess what it is...
You guys are smart, I'm sure you've got it by now.That's right Valkyria Chronicles II has been out for two weeks now.
Wait? What do you mean that isn't what you were thinking? Didn't you see it? It's right there plain as day in the bottom left hand corner.
Anyway, if that wasn't the first thing that came to your mind when I said that, allow me to explain why it should have been.
Some of you may remember the first Valkyria Chronicles. It earned an 8.5 here on Destructiod and has an 86 over on metacritic. In my opinion, it's the best game to come out on consoles this generation, bar none. Suffice to say it does a lot of things right. Well, recently a sequal to this amazing game was released for the little brick of UMD that is the PSP. Well for the last two weeks I have been sinking my pernicious claws into the game and the first thing you should know is that it is the first game, with more content, and it's portable. Now, I'm not gonna give a review, as one, it's not really my thing, and two, there is no way I could craft a balanced review rather than just spewing pants pudding everywhere in adoration. That's right, pants pudding, Enkido is back and playing Valkyria Chronicles II.
I guess I should start with a few of the things that were a bit dissapointing, small as they are. First is looks. The first game was absolutely stunning, as would be expected on PS3. Well VC II isn't on PS3, and while the story bits of it are handled tactfully with anime cutscenes and the art style of the first game taking centre stage during character interaction, but during the the actual missions, I miss the canvas engine eye candy. Ultimately it is a small complaint. The other complaint is the removal of the sniper as a starting unit. In the first game I had a sniper that could put a bullet up a guys nose at 2,000 yards in driving rain with her eyes closed and a sever bout of hiccups. Marina Wolfstan is that much of a beast, and I miss not being able to train a sniper from the start. It is still possible to get snipers, but it takes a bit of leg work as they have to be upgraded from scouts. Those are really the only two gripes I have about this game.
Now for the stuff that makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. First of all it's portable, whcih means that I can take it anywhere. Nuff said about that. My favorite thing about Valkyria Chronicles II is the characters. The first game did a better job in my opinion of making the player care about the characters than any other game I have played. Not just the main characters either, I cared about my entire squad and all the characters I was commanding. I can say the same for its' successor with confidence. Although I don't like Avan as much as I did Welkin, the rest of the supporting cast is just as charming and interesting as ever. In fact this combination of character development and portability make for a potent reason to ignore your friends in social situations, because, lets face it, none of them are as interesting as the characters in VC II.
I won't spoil any of the character development, but I do want to say how well it is done. At first I was a bit scared, as the game takes place at a military accademy and has that anime style that I mentioned earlier, which had me expecting the game to take the easy route and place the characters in their various school anime stereotpes. In some cases the game does this, but even when it does it does so in a way that still makes you care about what is happening rather than just experiencing the same development you have seen recyled over and over in anime. In other cases, some characters are just nuts, like litterally, from secret stalkers to schizophrenics, insane. It makes the character development a real treat and continues the tradition of the first game. Of special mention is Marion Siegbahn, who makes me begin to understand how some Japanese men can end up marrying their handhelds. Don't judge me, you haven't been through what we have.
So, all the good stuff from the last game is still there, now for the new stuff that adds more to what is already amazing. First, the addition of more advanced RPG elements. In the first game you had your squad types and beyond developing better weapons and leveling them to elite class, you couldn't really do anything more with them. This changes in VC II, where you begin with a few starting classes, which can then be upgraded to more specialized roles such as scouts to snipers as I mentioned. I love this because it allows for more specialized roles, which is always a plus in my book when it comes to strategy games. Also, each individual unit chooses their path through the job tree, so each indidviual character chooses thier own specialty. Also, the game focuses more on how much each individual character does, rewarding those who did more with more credits, which are used to upgrade classes.
Another big part of the first game that changed for the better is the tank. In the first game you were able to modify your tank to fit your needs better. This was a good thing and was expanded upon for this game. For instance, you can choose what kind of tank you want to field, either a light, medium, or heavy tank. Similarly, the weapon and other choices are aslo expanded. My favoirte feature, however, is the ability to field an APC (Armored Personell Carrier for those not up on their military lingo) that can carry around your units. It is not as robust as a full blown tank, but the ability to carry and deploy units make it a great strategic asset.
Now for two things I am not so sure about. The first is that the game removes permanent character death. This was a little disappointing for me, as I am a fan of permanent character death. It makes you think that much harder about the decisions you make, knowing that if you lose a character you don't get them back. In VC II rather than losing a character permenately, when a character goes down and is not evacuated, they are hospitalized for three missions instead. During this time they can not be used, but after the three mission penalty you get them back with no ill effects. Though it isn't as devastating as losing a character in Valkyria Chronicles, I can say that after losing a character (forgive me Marion) I did still feel like shit, so there is still some emotional connection. Also, the game has a special way of twisting that knife as every day, when a character is hospitalized, there is a roll call in class that shows you who is out. It's as if the game is saying, "Hey Enkido, remember how you fucked up? Well you do now."
The other thing I am not sure about is the multiplayer modes. This was one thing I really wanted in the first game, but was nervous to hear about in the second. This is because I do not know how well the system in VC lends itself to multiplayer, so unless it is handled really well I am forced to be cautiously optimistic until I can try it myself. If only there were some person who liked this game as much as I did that could test it with me.