Bozz, a good friend of mine from university days, is a huge fan of Valkyria Chronicles. So am I, but in discussing the series with him and other hardcore fans, I’ve realized that I approach the games from a very different direction.

I didn’t own a PS3, so my first exposure to the Valkyria Chronicles games was the demo of the sequel for PSP. I bought Valkyria Chronicles 2 soon after playing the demo. When I purchased my PS3, I bought the first game and finally had an opportunity to play it. Fans were largely disappointed at seeing the sequel on the portable system because they felt that in many ways the game had been scaled back. The maps were smaller, deployments were smaller, the story was phoned in and the visuals weren’t quite as stunning. I still very much enjoyed playing Valkyria Chronicles 2 and I wondered if everybody was finding fault with it just because it wasn’t what they were expecting it to be.

To be certain, Valkyria Chronicles and its sequel are very different games, despite having some common core elements.  While I understand where the fans are coming from regarding the story-telling and visuals on the PS3 title versus the PSP title, I also came to appreciate all of the ways in which the sequel improved on the gameplay. To start, here are all of the criticisms of Valkyria Chronicles 2 that I agree with:

  • The story-telling is poor. Absolutely. While the story of the first game is compelling and engaging right from the get-go, the story of the second is ho-hum. The main character is incredibly uninspired and develops very little through the course of the game, to say nothing of the rest of the cast.
  • Maps/deployments are smaller. Yep. That’s partly a limitation of the system that it’s on and perhaps partly an experiment with the gameplay formula. It looks like Valkyria Chronicles 3, soon to be released in Japan, will have deployment sizes on par with the first game. Not sure what to say about the map sizes. I do appreciate that I can run through a VC2 mission in very little time, even story missions, making it much easier to squeeze into bus rides between Kitchener and Toronto. Being smaller isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I can understand the griping about it.
  • Character progression is more complicated than it has any right to be. This is a bit more of a subjective point, but the Credits system in VC2 is difficult to keep track of. You can either memorize/record all of the different credits that different characters need to get to the next class you want to assign them to, or you can randomly run lots of missions until you coincidentally have all of the credits you need. Neither is a really attractive option. That said, I like that VC2 gives us a bit more meat in that department than the first game, even if it is slightly poor in its execution.
  • Some of the classes are ultimately useless (e.g. Anthem Corps). Can’t disagree with you there. The Anthem Corps even sound useless from their description. Besides, you can’t even get them unless you’re deploying your engineers a lot but a bunch of what engineers were really useful for got moved to the new armor techs class. VC2’s engineers are pretty much heal bitches, so if you never do poorly enough in a mission to need to heal troops and repair your vehicle, you have little use for engineers.
  • There’s no option for Japanese audio. Valkyria Chronicles does give you this option, but it’s absent in Valkyria Chronicles 2. That being said, most games don’t give you this option anyway. It actually says something about the amount of game content in Valkyria Chronicles that they could still fit the Japanese audio track on the disc. I might’ve preferred that they used that space to add in more game instead (I touch on this below).

But here are the things I dislike about the first Valkyria Chronicles game that were much improved in the sequel:

  • Hold right to level up. Unnecessarily tedious. Assigning only some of the XP needed to level up a class earns you absolutely nothing, so why give me the choice? VC2 instead allows you to gain multiple levels in multiple classes at once, and doesn’t require you to hold down a button to do so. Just press right and left to adjust the XP distribution by adding levels or retracting them again until you get what you want and press X to confirm. This is so much better.
  • The tank grid system. Totally unnecessary and another instance of making it more complicated than it needs to be. VC2 instead turns it into a linear thing: each part takes up a number of units in your total capacity. It accomplishes roughly the same thing but makes it easier to conceptualize.
  • One group, one tank. If you want to adjust for a particular mission, you have to go swap people out, put people in, change your tank setup, and then go to the mission. VC2 allows you to save multiple groups and configurations. You can have one team for missions that require speed, one team for missions in the jungle, one team for missions in snow, each with their own vehicle configuration. Choose your mission, choose your pre-built group, and deploy. Again, so much better.
  • Are you sure you want to see this cutscene? Yes, I’m sure! It’s not like I get to proceed to the next mission until I watch it! Oh, this one’s over, better go click on the next one. Oh, still two more to go until I get to actually play. Again, this is unnecessarily tedious. VC2 greatly improves on this by not asking you whether you’re sure you want to see an event when you click on it, by making less of the events mandatory, and by giving you more than enough missions that if you’re sick of the story, you can go and play a couple and come back to the story when you feel like it.
  • Do I get to play now? An extension of the above, I found myself wishing many times that Valkyria Chronicles would let me play it more. I love the story, but the game doesn’t offer nearly enough missions. Not only that, but story missions can’t be repeated, so only the “skirmish” missions that are unlocked every so often (which look suspiciously like the story missions) can be played for XP and better rankings. By contrast, VC2 offers about 200 missions or so, only a fraction of which are required to advance the story, and you can play all of them at any time. That’s much more game to play.

So while I agree that Valkyria Chronicles 2 doesn’t have the same feel as the first game, I think it’s important to note that it has made some serious improvements to the formula as well, many of which will carry over into the third game, which also seems to promise more improvements of its own.

Fans, it only gets better from here. But I’m also hopeful that after all of this experimentation and improvement on the portable system that we’ll see at least one more Valkyria Chronicles game for the PS3.