Valkyria Chronicles II, the follow-up to 2008's well-received military-themed role-playing game, has only just landed in the West, but a sequel is already well in the works for the East. Early feline escapees tipped fans off that a new game was on the way, and TGS 2010 gave us not only our first look at the title, but the chance to grab hold of the PlayStation Portable and tool around with some new toys and some old mechanics.
Our guide explained that Sega is keeping the game’s exact story details on the down low for the moment, partly because it's cognisant of not wanting to spoil the experience before it goes on sale, and because the title is still very much in a state of flux. What we do know so far is that the game takes place during 1935 in the nation of Gallia. Two factions clash as their armies wrestle at the meeting point halfway between Ghirlandio and Bruhl. Valkyria Chronicles III will be set during the same war as its predecessors in the series but will introduce entirely new characters. The side you play is made up of members of the 442 unit, currently referred to as "The Nameless," and after some crisis of conscience, the group goes into battle rather than hand over victory.
Our squad was led by a shocktrooper, and as the voiced introductions continued to roll in Japanese, we were told the squad discussed the need to battle a nearby Calamity Raven--a huge tank currently possessed by our rivals. There was no real setup as we were thrust into our first combat mission. Our squad--made up of a sniper, a tank, a machine gunner, and a rocketeer--needed to wipe out our opponents. Like in previous games in the series, you select your units from a top-down command mode before piloting them around the battlefield in a third-person action mode as determined by the number of action points available. Each character can fire only a single shot per turn, but there's no need to cycle through the rest of your squad before you can reengage the services of your spent unit, spending another turn to finish off an already injured target without switching troops.
The biggest changes we observed during our play were two new specialisation skills. The first allows you to temporarily evolve a character into a Valkyrie, making you all but invulnerable for the duration of your turn, and dealing large gobs of damage to anything stupid enough to put itself between you and your objective. The second new skill is a double rocket shot, and by spending points and entering the first-person aim mode, we were able to paint multiple targets at once, unleashing a mighty volley of rocket fire in two directions simultaneously on a single turn. The latter was particularly useful against the Raven, where two well-armoured turrets were shelling our tank and could be taught a lesson at once without spending turns on more shots.
The game features the same hand-drawn art style made popular by its PSP and PlayStation 3 brethren, though some critics chastised Valkyria Chronicles II's somewhat lackluster visuals on Sony's handheld.
This third instalment in the Valkyria Chronicles franchise hasn't yet received a green light for Western release but will be launching in the land of the rising sun in the early part of 2011. Keep an eye on GameSpot for our ongoing coverage from TGS 2010.