It's indicative of the PSP's robust standing in its native Japan that many companies are using it to host high-profile sequels to full-blown home console franchises.
Sega's Valkyria Chronicles is a perfect example: following on from the critically acclaimed PS3 original, this PSP-exclusive sequel attempts to cram a similar amount of intrigue, action, and drama into a diminutive UMD, whilst adding in unique multiplayer features at the same time.
Taking place shortly after the tumultuous events of the original Valkyria Chronicles, this new chapter charts the eruption of a vicious civil war which threatens to destroy the hard-won peace of the fictional European state of Gallia.
Stepping into the boots of rookie soldier Avan Hardins, your mission has a dual purpose: not only are you determined to prevent the nefarious Gallian Revolutionary Army from ripping your beloved country apart in a fit of racially-motivated rage, but you're also keen to uncover more information regarding your older brother's mysterious death, the details of which are kept secret by the Gallian military.
Orders from the top
There's much on offer here which will be familiar to veterans of the PS3 forerunner. During combat, you view the action from two perspectives.
The process of marshalling your forces takes place on a map screen, which shows the layout of the level as well as the position of both your own troops and visible enemy units.
Once you pick a unit to control – which act consumes one of your finite stock of 'command points' - the viewpoint switches to a 3D third-person perspective. Here you can move your characters around and engage the enemy in combat, actions which all slowly suck away at your unit's action gauge.
Once this is depleted that particular unit's turn is over, and you return to the map screen, ready to plan your next move. Once all of your command points are used up, control is passed to the rival faction.
Therefore, there's an unmistakable turn-based flavour to the game, but it's cannily married to a real-time mentality. As you move around the battlefield enemy units open fire, forcing you to plan your moves carefully and use available cover as effectively as possible.
At key points the action slows down, taking on a more turn-based approach. For example, tapping the targeting button halts proceedings completely, and enemy units cease firing. This gives you ample opportunity to carefully aim your weapon (shots to the head inflict more damage) and open up a barrage of bullets against your foes.
Battlefield tactics are just as complex and involving as they were in the PS3 version, if not more so. Unit class is once again a primary concern for any budding commander: standard soldiers, Shocktroopers, Lancers, Engineers and Snipers all have different strengths and weaknesses, making their deployment a matter of serious thought and consideration.
You can also call upon armoured vehicles – which can be comprehensively customised – for more strength on the battlefield.
The game is lent an additional dimension by the more open mission structure. Like Konami's portable-focused Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, it's possible to select which assignments you'd like to tackle, and you're also able to perform them in conjunction with friends over a wireless connection.
Back to school
Striking out from the Lanseal Military Academy, your team is expected to gain experience on the battlefield and deal with gruelling academic studies simultaneously.
The schooling aspect of the game arguably reduces the dramatic impact – Valkyria Chronicles II feels almost like Harry Potter with tanks – but the plot is suitably epic in scope and keeps you involved until the final shell is fired.
Visually, Valkyria Chronicles II is a noticeable step down from its home console big brother. Characters lack detail and possess a rather gangly appearance. However, it's hardly a massive issue and the inclusion of FMV sequences and static storyboards helps to keep the standard of presentation high.
Sega's strategy with this portable sequel certainly makes sense – the PSP has a massive audience in Japan and is proving to be a fertile platform for big-name releases.
The decision has resulted in some corners being cut – namely in the visual department – but like Monster Hunter and Metal Gear Solid, the multiplayer elements introduced more than make up for the shortfall.