I haven't played the first Valkyria Chronicles (never had a PS3), so I can't tell you how the gameplay and story here stack up to it. I can tell you that the drop to the much more modest PSP hardware has required a diminishment in graphics on the battlefield, going from the fluid watercolor style of the first game to a more generic PS2 sort of look here. The game's story also plays out almost entirely in "visual novel" style cutscenes with still character portraits and dialogue, with only the occasional Animu video clip thrown in.

I have played a lot of PSP games, however, and on that basis I can tell you that Valkyria 2 suffers from Monster Hunter Syndrome. When Monster Hunter blew up in Japan, it seemed nearly every PSP game had to try to copy its "grinding" mechanics and structure, even when the nature of the game didn't really suit it and it had to be totally cobbled in (see: Peace Walker.) There's apparently a huge appetite for this shut-in bullshit in Japan, but in large part I blame this shift for the PSP kind of bombing in the West in its latter years. Anyway, whatever the case, Valkyria 2 falls into this pit.

What's the problem with Monster Hunter? It's structured so that you Grindan Forevar doing the same battles over and over and over and over, hoping for the right random drops, so that you can power up to face some ridiculously overpowered Superboss. Valkyria is a bit more sparing with the Superbosses, but they're there, and they represent chokepoints that throttle off the rest of the game until you've Grindan'd sufficiently to deal with them. And the only Grindan option is playing the same training missions over and over. And Over and Over and Over and Over and Over and Over.

Monster Hunter is also known for being nearly story-free. That's one area where I wish Valkyria 2 had copied it more closely. The game is actually very plot-heavy ... but it's generic Animu School Hijinx of the sort that has been used and abused by Japanese animation since the days of Urusei Yatsura back in the early 80s. Unfortunately, unlike Urusei Yatsura, we don't get a lovable pervert as the main character, but this walking cliche-fest:

Seriously, all he needs is the headband and he'll be BURNING TO BE NO. 1 AND FACE THE TRUE CHALLENGE!!!!! Wanker.

The setting of Valkyria is that it's basically an alternate-universe version of Europe in the 1930s, except with anime ladyboys everywhere. Instead of Germany as the Evil Empire you've got the Imperial Federation pressing up on everyone tryna jack their territory. In the first game, you were playing as a scrappy nation called Gallia trying to hold off the Imperial assault from their borders. This game is set in a military academy in Gallia, where civil war has erupted and you are set against a bunch of racist cockbags who want to usurp the Gallian throne. The story here centers around Avan - the goofball seen above - who enlists in the academy after finding out his brother has died, but the circumstances of the death are "classified." He soon gets tossed into Class G with a bunch of other misfits and slackers, and that's your squad for the game. You spend a lot of time going through various training missions, but the game contrives to throw Class G into combat constantly by claiming a shortage of troops forces them to go out and defend nearby territories.

The weak story becomes a problem, because the only way to leaven the tedium of grinding the same training missions overandoverandover is to unlock "classmate missions." Each of the squad members naturally has some big personal problems that Avan will have to meddle in, and all of which are somehow eventually resolved by going through some combat mission or another with them. Unlocking these "extra" missions is the only other thing to do (besides fighting in the training ground 1000000 times in a row) in between the relatively small handful of more interesting story-advancing missions, Unfortunately, to unlock the classmate missions, you have to sit through a whole lot of Shitty Animu Talky Talky, and listen to Avan's retarted laugh a million times while also looking at this:

Get bent Avan.

In an ideal world none of this would matter all that much, because Valkyria's twist on the staid old strategy-RPG is actually really compelling. You move your units around in turn-based style, but instead of each character getting a turn, you're given a varying amount of "command points" each turn that can be spent as you see fit (one point to move people, two to move vehicles.) You can move the same character multiple times in a turn, but they'll get more tired and be able to move less of a distance each time. Also, when you come within range and vision of an enemy, they'll freely open fire on you as you move about, so there's a bit of an FPS quality in that you have to use cover and careful approaches while moving up on doods to attack them. This goes the same for your troops when the enemy is taking its turn, however, so positioning them wisely at the end of their turns can lead to them gangbanging an onrushing enemy with their firepower. You can also freely check guys back into your base and deploy new ones in their stead, and as you move about the maps you capture new bases that you can do this from. It leads to a surprisingly complex and deep game of move-countermove and careful planning, but with just enough of a spike of action to keep you alert.

It's really a well-done formula, and the game is fun up until you run face-first into a Superboss chokepoint. Then you go online to see WTF other people did to get around it and find that they simply Grindan'd until they got levels and character classes that wouldn't be anywhere near possible through natural, non-autistic play. Then the other flaws of the engine, which were minor and easily written off before, become more glaring. The way guys can drop down and dodge point-blank attacks and your idiot machine gunner never thinks to point their gun down a few degrees at them. The way grass somehow becomes an armored bunker to regular infantry laying in it. The way everyone just stops shooting at each other as soon as someone ends their turn, or politely pause to let you aim at their heads. The fact that you can only ever deploy six guys at a time while the enemy can have 1000ty Babillion clogging up a map (with endless reinforcements spawning from their base like a Gauntlet monster generator.) The fact that you can't crouch unless there happens to be a sandbag right next to you, though the game will merrily let you crouch on the wrong side of it if you care to, nor can you lay down anywhere except in grass. And the way game rules work differently for the enemy simply because the designers couldn't sort out how to make the game challenging through good AI, so they settled for piling heaps of enemies against you but then artificially restricting them from just using all their CP to send the strongest ones to gangfuck your base right at the beginning.

A few bad maps really shouldn't be enough to ruin an otherwise fine new strat-RPG twist, but when combined with the inane shitty animu story, annoying characters and mandatory Grindan, it drags the game down considerably. I look forward to trying the original game on PS3 someday, but this entry in the series has been perma-shelved.
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