I played Valkyria Chronicles II back at TGS 2009, and when I played it there it was a matter of discerning what was noticeably and markedly different from the original game. Some fans cried out in dismay at the changes made to make the game work on the PSP, and those cries of horror were amplified when the third entry in the series was announced and also turned out to be for PSP.
Going hands-on with Valkyria Chronicles III at TGS this year wasn't so full of differences, though, as the third entry in the series seems to be remarkably similar to the second, as the first screenshots indicated.
That all makes a lot of sense, though; The second game did quite well here in Japan, where the PSP is hugely popular, and while the choice for format may have seemed strange and disappointing to fans in the West, here Valkyria Chronicles fit into the PSP library quite well. It also reviewed here on RPG Site quite well.
Because of that, this sequel maintains most of the elements from the second game that flicked over. The more anime-inspired coloring style is back, for instance, as is the way battlefields were managed, classes and seemingly the smaller squad numbers all return from the second game.
The Blitz battle system is still there, and I was able to jump right in without any need to check the controls thanks to the fact that they're identical to Valkryia Chronicles II. The presentation is improved across the board, but the gameplay is strikingly similar - just improved.
The main difference in Valkyria Chronicles seems to be one more in the atmosphere and style of the game than the gameplay. The story seems more serious, and the high school setting of the second game is gone, swapped out for the war-torn world depicted in the first game.
The story focuses on a Gallian squad of troops who are known as "The Nameless" at around the same time as the first game. It's possible, then, that this could help to bridge the kind of disparate worlds shown in the first and second games a little better.
It's worth saying that everything still feels full of the old-fashioned, familiar cliches of anime and Japanese pop culture in general, yet at the same time everything feels a little more mature, serious, and measured, something which I personally prefer.
In terms of gameplay changes, you can now take a character into "Valkyria Mode" at the cost of a Command Point and a "Special Point" - which, of course, makes characters hugely powerful and resistant to damage. To coin a term from other RPGs, it's a Overdrive or "Limit Break" of sorts, and while I was able to use it a couple of times in the demo it seems the number of Special Points will be controlled to ensure that players don't just abuse the Valkyria Mode system.
The battle I fought presented the same kind of challenge strategically that I've come to expect from the Valkyria Chronicles games, but I was able to solidly handle my objective, and that was in part thanks to this new Valkyria Mode system.
While playing, other improvements became apparent - the AI seems a little smarter, the UI interface a little friendlier and prettier - all things you'd expect from a straight-up sequel.
Valkyria Chronicles III seems to be a direct sequel to the ideas and style introduced in Valkyria Chronicles II in terms of gameplay, but what's most interesting is the fact that Sega have chosen to do away with the anime school setting and replace it with one of the most beloved aspects of the first game, the darker setting.
Hopefully with that setting the same atmosphere that punctuated the first game will follow. We'll find out soon enough, as Japan will get the full version of the game on January 27th next year. Stick with us at RPG Site for our thoughts and impressions on the final version!
Contributed to RPG Site by John Davison. Published by Alex Donaldson.