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While the original Valkyria Chronicles might very well deserve a space in this feature because of its unfortunately low sales, its sequel, Valkyria Chronicles II, deserves it even more. This unfortunate sequel was heavily maligned for both being released on the PSP and being set in a school, and sold poorly enough to essentially doom the series in the West. This was certainly a tragedy for those hoping that Valkyria Chronicles III would be released here, but it is also a shame because this game simply deserved better.

Valkyria Chronicles II undeniably has its faults. Both the main story and a lot of content are paced out rather badly and the game suffers a bit as a result. Too many sub-systems of the game require grinding to get the most out of them, and the different credits and parts you need to acquire are poorly distributed. The story also relies a little too heavily on Japanese high school clichés. Still, these problems are little more than distractions from the fact that Valkyria Chronicles II is a very fun game that surpasses its predecessor in many respects.

One of the most notable things Valkyria Chronicles II accomplishes is improving upon the original game's excellent battle system. Combat in Valkyria Chornicles has a great balance between strategic turn-based planning and exciting real-time action, and its sequel holds on to all of those strengths. However, with the addition of multiple sub-areas within each map and the removal of the delay in calling in reinforcements, battle in II is more dynamic and complex. While battles in the original favored using the same team for the duration of a fight and only calling in reinforcements where it is strictly necessary, battles in the sequel favor constantly changing your party to adapt to changing battle conditions.

The dynamic nature of battles in Valkyria Chronicles II works in no small part because it overhauls the series' class system. It implements a branching class system that broadens out the five starting classes into twenty different high-tier classes. With the much larger number of classes, there is a lot more room for specialized units such as Fencers, Gunners, and Anti-Tank Snipers. These classes open up all kinds of fun tactics that would have been impossible in the original game. The tank in this game is also fully customizable, and can be turned into anything from an APC to a massive artillery piece. The variety of classes also benefits the enemies, and enemy forces are also bolstered by some powerful new additions like Cannon Towers and the "V2" units, which add a lot of interesting complications to battles.

While most of the game's strengths lie in its gameplay, its story still has several good points. The civil war within Gallia has some interesting twists, and while its majot dramatic moments are somewhat few and far between, they are quite nice when they come. More importantly, the game has a very large cast of likable and eccentric characters, and, in a big improvement over the previous game, they appear frequently in scenes throughout the game and each usable character has his or her own sidestory and associated optional mission. Getting to know these characters and helping them grow from being a band of total misfits into a valiant team of skilled soldiers really is the heart of the game, and where it shines the most.

Valkyria Chronicles II has many flaws that pull it a step behind its PS3 predecessor, but it ultimately carries the series two steps forward and greatly builds upon the foundation laid by the first game.

Nathan Schlothan

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