A costumed girl attempted to explain the game's controls to me, but I was immediately able to jump in. Veterans of the first game will find themselves at home here: the interface has remained largely unchanged from its transition from PS3 to PSP. Once again, VC2 employs the "BLITZ" battle system of the first game: a unique combination of both real-time movement and turn-based strategy. Players are given a number of Command Points (CP) which can be used to select various units: scouts, snipers, tanks, etc. Once selected, these units are manually controlled as in a third-person shooter, with players stopping to aim at enemies. Enemies can respond by firing back, but they cannot change position. Each unit is allowed only one barrage of gunfire before they must end their turn. Once players run out of CP, or manually end combat, the "enemy phase" begins, where the AI is allowed to do the same thing.
The mixture of real-time and turn-based combat proves to be an ideal handheld gaming experience, mixing the casual pace of a turn-based game with the excitement of a shooter. Valkyria Chronicles is more about tactics, less about precision aiming -- a good thing to consider when adapting a title to Sony's handheld.
The visual presentation remains attractive, with the PSP's limited graphical prowess more than able to handle the game's cel-shaded style. While it may not be in HD, it still looks great on the PSP's diminutive screen. You'll be hard-pressed to complain about the visuals of VC2.
While the gameplay and visual presentation remains faithfully reproduced on the PSP, one thing does suffer a bit: the size of levels has become notably smaller in the PSP game. Whereas a single map in the original VC could span towards the horizon, the PSP can only handle a fraction. To overcome the memory limitations of the portable, Sega has smartly divided each mission into multiple battlefronts. Happening concurrently, players must switch between multiple maps, each with their own skirmishes. Switching between fields is easy: simply press a shoulder button while in the Command Mode map. One map may feature a tank guarding the enemy base, while another map may feature an open-field skirmish. These multi-tiered battles force players to make wise decisions about who will be in which battlefield, and how many CP must be spend to effectively take on the multi-tiered battle. Sega has effectively created a system of creating the illusion of a large battle, without the need to sacrifce any details or features on the PSP.
Sure, series veterans have a lot to look forward to, but what about newcomers? The interface is intuitive as-is, but we're hoping the follow-up will feature the same steady progression the first game achieved. With the functionality of a PS3 game, and the promise of even more content, Valkyria Chronicles 2 is shaping up to be a fantastic addition to the PSP library..