Welcome once again to my ever more untimely, not-sure-when-its-going-to-end, series of posts about my games of 2010. These are not the best games of last year, or even the most notable, they are the games that made an impact on me during an emotional period of my life and that will forever be linked with those memories.
Valkyria Chronicles 2 on PSP was the follow up to Sega’s 2007 Valkyria Chronicles. Blending turn-based strategy with real time combat the original certainly stood apart from its competition, but it was the sketched comic book style that made headlines. Moving to the PSP saw much of visual flare needing to be muted (with in-engine cut scenes needing to be replaced by comic book stills) but the game play remained intact with only a few concessions being made to the smaller devices limited memory.
If I had a complaint about Valkyria Chronicles’s series it would be the too overly- verbose saccharine anime. Unfortunately for me the series is now dependent on this, with the brand carried on an anime series and a selection of ill-clad toys. This dependence on pandering to the male anime fan will probably stop the franchise ever revisiting its more serious faux WW2 topics but does at least ensure continued titles in this unique series.Valkyria Chronicles 2 would have rubbed salt into this anime reality. Setting itself a military academy that is essentially a typical Japanese pulp fiction high school with love triangles, childish drama, the shy one, the studious one, the cool one… you get the idea. Thankfully however my Japanese was nowhere near good enough to follow the reams of text that made up the story, sparing me from hours of frustrating reading I would have felt compelled to do and just letting me jump straight into the action.
I actually received my PSP (as a Christmas present, thank you Miki) for the express purpose of playing Valkyria Chronicles 2 and quickly discovered that even without the story (or maybe because of no story) my expectations were exceeded. With just the missions to hook me I sank in hours daily on my commutes. Maps made up of several small areas (rather than the original’s single large maps) lead to new grab and dash attacks that changed up the tactics in a number of interesting ways. The academy setting also acted here as an excuse to reuse many of these small areas as training grounds, which did bore at times, but at least each new visit introduced new elements.
Revisiting the familiar areas did allow me to practice the newly introduced character customisation with it’s branching skill trees. Where the first game saw whole classes and weapons being upgraded on mass, Valkyria 2 saw each squad member able to specialise within their class. This meant while at the start of play only four unit types were available by the end there could be upwards of sixteen slightly different designations, all with the option of slightly tailored weapons.
I must have put over thirty hours in before it, and my PSP, were stolen. (Yes, I am sure some regular readers were wondering when I would get to my overly depressing point). One day I went drinking with a bag stuffed full of sentimental items and had it nicked from under my nose (well table in truth but close enough). The theft itself was a blow, with the loss of some treasured possessions, but the gaming implication is what I am remembering here. I was so close to the end of the game I knew I would probably never return to it.
The revelation that I didn’t really want to go through it all again left me questioning of how much I had really enjoyed Valkyria Chronicles 2. If I liked it as much as I thought surely playing through again would be a pleasure not a chore. I contemplated this and found that while it was fun, my real pleasure was derived from the satisfaction of progress. Climbing a mountain is fun, but not if just before you reach the peak you are sent back to the bottom. Experiencing the same obstacles again would not result in the same challenge, or satisfaction. Now I simply can’t return to challenges I have already conquered, so despite a desire to see the peak, the climb is not longer worth it. But at least soon I will have a new mountain in the soon-to-be-released Valkyria Chronicles 3, which looks like it may even have a good story.