Sunday, February 6, 2011

Valkyria Chronicles 2 - Squad G! Move Out!

So, given that I had a surplus of time on my hands between not having a computer and then not having electricity for a while (and having the ever-looming possibility of no electricity as well), I managed to get some much-needed PSP time.  After finishing one of my Gaming White Whales, Star Ocean 2 (Well, Second Evolution) for real (Minus bonus stuff since, well, no, no thanks) I went ahead and picked through my remaining PSP games that have not seen enough (if any) play yet and picked out VC2 finally.  The urge to scout rush some dudes and shock down some troops was overwhelming, and I'm glad I chose it.

Even though the changes are a little more pronounced than I anticipated.  The class system is a little more....stifling feeling(?) than I had figured it would; realizing that I need these credits and these credits to move on to a new class, or that realizing I have them, but maybe this other class will be better instills one of those "the only action I take is inaction" feelings in me.  Eyeballing the classes, seeing their stats, and realizing their varied uses just makes me think that if I pick one, I'll get to a situation and go, "Man, I wish I'd picked otherwise."  Some picks are easy; do I want a scout, or do I want a Sniper?  Well, most cases, I'll want a scout, and a better one at that, seeing as they've been a little nerfed (to say the least), but when it comes to Marina (Yes, she's back, provided you find the password for her), well....yeah, I think you know where I'll go there.  (Making her a Sniper is quite possibly one of the best decisions yet.  I never knew just how useful they could be to that point!)

The class list as it is now, and a familiar face.
Since I touched on it, the changes in classes, for the uninformed, are aplenty.  No longer is the line-up of Scouts, Shocktroopers, Lancers, Engineers, and Snipers.  And no longer is it a simple matter of the classes changing as you level them up; through a tiered system, you have slightly more control over what they will be.  The basic class starts it off, and from there is a branch; we'll use scouts as an example.  After Scout comes Scout Veteran and Sniper.  And from there is Scout Elite and Heavy Scout, and Sniper Elite and AT Sniper.  As your units participate in battles, they earn credits that you use to change their class; most of them being less than easy to gain.  Trading mobility for attack or vice-versa is a common theme among the differences; Snipers, while extremely limited to mobility when compared to Scouts, are infinitely more deadly, as a single shot to the head, which is usually an easy feat, will send most units down for the count.

The completely new class to the mix, the Armored Techs, are a mixed bag.  These are the units that you call on to disarm mines now, and they are....different, to say the least.  Armed with a Shield and "Wrench" (In most cases, it's more War Pick or Hammer than Wrench), their value is in their ability to rush in while taking little to no interception fire.  Unfortunately, they're a little less mobile than is necessary to really get them anywhere, so the most use they've seen for me is base guards; enemy units generally run up to just outside the confines of the base and stand there impotent at the sight.  Because if there's one thing ATs are good at, it's not getting shot.  The computer manages to make excellent use of them (since I expect their ATs have a little more AP, saying nothing of the Boss characters that are ATs of some sort) which means they're fearsome foes, but I can't really wrap my head around their virtues for the way I play, at the very least.

Lancers and Engineers remain largely unchanged, the biggest difference being in that Engineers now carry pistols instead of rifles.  While that might sound like they've been downgraded even more, they haven't, really.  In most instances, I've had more success with a pistol than a scout's rifle, perhaps because of the extra shot they have.  Of course, if you didn't see fit to use Engineers a lot last game, you'll likely find less reasons here as they still just repair your tank and resupply your troops if you manage to find them low on ammo somehow.  Lancers are, as far as I can tell, untouched completely.  The lances feel a little less powerful, perhaps, but they see more usage with the increase of tanks and new turrets that inexplicably have the large, glowing weak spot that is the ragnite blue radiator.

If only Scout's rifles were this good.  If only.
Shocktroopers were my favorite units last game and they remain that and more this game; the new, smaller maps make them feel more mobile than previously, even though they aren't really, which is only amplified by the hit that Scouts took to their own overall mobility.  On top of that, the characters of the Shocktrooper group are endlessly entertaining.  Marion, Annisete and Franca all have rather nice backstories (though Franca's is a bit weak, admittedly) and they're just a joy to use on the field as any negative potentials, when stacked against some of the others, are negligible at best.  (Slight accuracy hit versus suddenly being unable to complete your movement?  Yeah, I'll take the former.)

The mere vision of Audrey's tank is guaranteed to draw a cringe from anyone who has played the game.
Now, the gameplay is just as good as previously, but what about the story?  Well, it's certainly not as bad as I thought it would be.  Avan Hardins, our lovable idiot of a main character, decides to enlist in the Lanseal Military Academy after being informed that his brother, Leon who was a student there, had been killed.  When he asked how, he was informed that the answer was not one that could be released for security reasons.  Avan, understandably confused and wanting answers, decides that his only course of action is to enlist in the Academy and find out for himself just what happened.

As it turns out, Lanseal, being the most prominent military force in Southern Gallia, is actually the main defender there; which, given that there's a rebellion going on, means that they're rather important in the grand scheme of things.  While I won't go into detail of why there's rebellion afoot, since it's somewhat of a lukewarm spoiler from the first game, suffice to say that there is one, and the figureheads behind it are easy to hate, and boy, will you ever hate them.  On the field, they're absolute monsters and demand your full attention, even though they may seem unbeatable.  They're not, of course, as some missions give you the task of defeating them, which, well, just plain sucks.

Aside from all that, the main cast of characters is likeable enough and, honestly, that was half of the main draw of the first.  The characters are all fleshed out enough that they're not just a Shocktrooper, or just a Lancer, they're Marion with a deep, somewhat embarrassing secret, and Vario with a near insufferable nature that just ends up growing on you.  And even if you don't care for a character, who they are at least sticks with you, making sure that everyone is unique even though there's plenty of people to pick from.

Really, my only gripes are what I've already mentioned as far as the classes go, and the fact that some of the missions honestly seem just a little more meaty than I'd like, which, I'll admit is a little ironic.  No mission really comes easily the first time, especially past the mid-point of the game.  If you don't stop to think about what you're going to do, you'll find yourself buried in no time.  And even when you do consider things properly, sometimes mistakes just happen that you will have to learn from, or else you'll simply be doomed to suffer from them again and again.  But when everything works, it just works, and that's a feeling that other "Stategy" RPGs seem to lack, at least for me.

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