Valkyria Chronicles was an unappreciated gem from 2008 on the PS3. Its most prominent gameplay feature was combinations of turn based battles and third person combat. It featured a gorgeous painted art style, great characters, and an engaging story that dealt with the horrors of war such as atrocities, and achieving victory at the cost of your own humanity. Valkyria Chronicles 2 takes place in a high school and was on the PSP.

From a gameplay perspective VC 2 is just as good if not better than its console predecessor and its distinctive art style helps it stand out even on the severely downgraded capabilities of the PSP. You have a big cast of heavily customizable units that are split among five classes, these in turn promote into four distinct units. For example, a scout promotes into a veteran scout or a sniper. That sniper can then be promoted to an anti-tank sniper or a regular human head exploding one. You also have an incredibly malleable tank that which can become anything from an armored car, heavy tank and everything in between.

The main gameplay consists of a series of missions where you take turns with the enemy.The number of command points (CP) you have determines how many moves you can make. You can reuse the same unit several times although each time decreases how much you can move your unit. More than one unit of CP will be used for units like the tank or for enacting special commands to give a status boost to your units.

From these battles you gain materials and blueprints which are used to make improved equipment and special weapons as well as allowing you to promote your units to their special ranks. Rarer materials are found in harder missions which can unfortunately lead to tedious grinding as you repeat the same mission over and over to get a special type of metal but it just wont give it to you. However, this tedious process is helped by the fact that completing a mission is the equivalent of a day, which will cause a random story event to happen on campus. Usually its just characters gossiping or commenting on story events but these small tidbits help develop characters and make them more interesting and entertaining. Sadly this high school gossip is more engaging than the main story.

The main plot involves a civil war in the main characters home of Gallia forcing the government to utilized cadets still in military training. The main trio of characters consist of Avan your stereotypical redheaded, hotheaded “loveable” imbecile whose enthusiasm and natural talent lets him overcome his incompetence. Zeri the blue haired, colder analytical Darcsen (fantasy Jew) constantly annoyed at his compatriots actions, and Cossette the klutzy blonde with the secret dark back story.

The civil war aspect is mainly background noise with the emotional core being Avan’s search for his supposedly dead brother Leon who is most definitely not the mysterious Darth Vader rip-off character working for the bad guys. This does lead to a decent twist that shows that things at the military academy aren’t what they seem but the immensely annoying main character can make it difficult to get there. Fortunately there are the side characters.

This is the only area of the story that this game exceeds the first. In the first game each unit had their own back story and had a variety of likes and dislikes that could affect gameplay. One character could be a neat freak and get lower stats in the dirt, another could be a ladies man so he likes being around women, while others hate the Darcens and get lower stats when near them. However, of the massive cast only a few actually got missions that developed their characters or that were actually made specifically for them. However, in VC II each character has their own missions that develop them and improve their abilities. But these can only be unlocked if said units fight in battles.

This encourages you to test out each character, experiment with combinations of characters that help each others stats, and just generally play around with your band of weirdos. These include an exchange student from the Empire (fantasy Nazis), a feral child who becomes an engineer for no explained reason, a potential serial killer whose murderous potential is offset by his pettiness and obsession with high school nonsense, a butler, a priestess who may or may not be psychic and so much more.

Despite the annoying main character and bleh main story, the amount of entertaining and interesting side characters help offset this and honestly Avan does get better as the game goes on. Furthermore, the excellently crafted gameplay and multitude of unlockables make the potential grinding a bit more tolerable if not somewhat addicting leading to a game that can last you anywhere from thirty to one hundred hours. And despite the PSP’s limited capabilities the distinct watercolor art style help make the game stand out. The first game is available on Steam but both this game and the first one are available on the Playstation Network. If you’re a fan of the first one you have to get this one, if only because you have no other options for VC goodness. If you haven’t played the first one you can still enjoy this one, but you should also buy the first one so Japan will eventually start sending us the amazing sequels they’re holding hostage.