By: Brian Gunn
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II is the direct sequel to the first Cold Steel game. Made by storied developer Falcom; could they have another well-developed RPG world in their library of the seemingly never-ending Legend of Heroes series, or is this one worth forgetting?
The controls in Cold Steel II are pretty much unchanged from its predecessor. It’s a menu-heavy JRPG with some light third-person exploration, and you have the ability to strike monsters on the field map in order to gain an advantage in the turn-based combat phase.
There’s a slight shakeup in battles that sees you piloting what basically amounts to a Gundam mech in certain battles, which was briefly introduced in the first game. It has wisely been revamped this time around with superior mechanics.
Similarly, there is not much of a visual upgrade in this sequel, which is no surprise as they were developed back to back. There’s still going to be towns and vistas that tank the frame rate, particularly on the Vita version.
That said; for the most part it has an appealing, if basic, PS3 JRPG style that is only let down by some bland environments. And speaking of those, more than a few assets are recycled here, but it makes sense given the story and development time.
The soundtrack is pretty great, featuring many old tunes from the series as well as some great new ones. Voice acting is good. A few characters that feel stiff and broad, but overall they’re fairly serviceable. The odd practice of some conversations having partially non-voiced dialogue is still here too, though given the sheer length of the story it’s not surprising.
Trails of Cold Steel II takes place only a couple of months after the previous game. That title ended with the main cast suffering a devastating betrayal and protagonist Rean Scwharzer being separated from everyone else after being forced to flee against his will. As soon as Rean recovers, he sets off to recover the friends he has lost.
The first game focused a lot on the school life aspect that has been absolutely saturating JRPGs these days, and it was often a big pacing killer. Thankfully this time around, the school life aspects play far less of a role. You’ll still get chances to befriend the various high schoolers if that’s your thing, but those out there that got put off by it might have more incentive to revisit the series.
Cold Steel II’s battle system remains mostly unchanged, with just a few quality of life improvements and balance tweaks. Characters can cast magical attacks or special physical ones, as well some extra powerful abilities that depend on dealing or taking damage to charge.
Its turn-based system lays out the turn order and offers many ways to tweak it like interrupting or speeding up an ally, as well as some turns offering bonuses like guaranteed critical hits or free mana regeneration. This makes for fairly actively involved fights, but toward the end they’re easy to exploit. You’ll eventually gain gear that makes it so you defeat foes before they even have a chance to move.
On the story front, it is a lot more interesting this time around. In the previous game, Rean and company faced adversaries and problems that were often too mysterious to get invested in. This time around a bloody civil war has erupted with clear battle lines and antagonists with clearer conflicts.
There’s also quite a bit more of them too, with a varied group of wackos to put down. Similarly, the party member cast balloons a bit, sometimes to the detriment of the game. The first had problems with a few characters seeming extraneous, and the same issue arises here.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II is a good game and one of the better recent JRPGs. It doesn’t really offer anything to anyone that hasn’t played the first game, however, and mechanically the slight improvements are unlikely to attract those put off by the occasionally dull battle system.