The start of each round presents players with an overview of the area. Enemies are denoted by red symbols (matching their class type), whilst allies are shown in blue. Selecting a character will prompt the camera to zoom down onto the battlefield, where it'll proceed to hang over that particular person's shoulder. From here, players can directly control that character, moving them about the 3D environment as they see fit. They can only move a certain distance, however, and once their movement gauge has been depleted, players will be forced to execute an action, or end their turn. Based on how many command points you have (a resource that determines how many moves you can make on your round), you could choose to move the same troop again, but his movement will be restricted due to fatigue.
The scope for strategy is increased tenfold by the host of new features this sequel brings to the table. While it plays out very similarly to the first game, the master tactician will revel in the new battle plans they can implement. Perhaps the biggest change is that captured enemy bases can now be used as waypoints between two areas. Some maps might consist of two or three different areas, but these can only be accessed once the enemy base associated with it is captured. Also, if your own base is captured, it's game over - so an awareness of your surroundings and a solid defence is crucial for victory.
Despite the overall improvements to battle, a lack of mission variety manages to hold Valkyria Chronicles II back from greatness. You'll find yourself playing the same maps multiple times before things start to get interesting, and nine times out of ten the mission will simply be to capture the enemy's base camp. The first game did a fantastic job of marrying narrative with gameplay, which made each mission unique and different. VCII mostly takes place in and around Lanseal, and the variety of gameplay and mission structures feels limited.
The jump from PS3 to PSP brings with it a range of ad-hoc multiplayer options, allowing players to team up co-operatively to take down the enemy, or exchange bullets with each other for a more competitive experience. As with other PSP games of this nature (Monster Hunter, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker), these features will go largely wasted on the Western audience, but for those with a like-minded bunch of friends (and those that live in Japan), the inclusion of multiplayer can only be considered a good thing.
The PSP is a great platform for the SRPG genre, with games such as Final Fantasy: War of the Lions and the Disgaea series being shining examples. Valkyria Chronicles II is - dare I say it - the best of the bunch, and a truly fantastic PSP game in its own right. The multiplayer features might be wasted over here in the UK, but the plethora of other improvements and new features are more than enough to compensate. Those who have played the original won't need me to justify dropping the cash on it, but for those that haven't and are looking for a stylish, intellectually stimulating strategy game, Valkyria Chronicles II won't disappoint.