The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II Review

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Game Title: The Legend of Heroes Trails of Cold Steel II
Developer: Falcom, XSEED
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Game Type: Vita
Download: 3.1 GB
NA Availability: Retail | Digital Download
EU Availability: Retail | Digital Download

The Legend of Heroes series is something PS Vita gamers have been looking at a lot these days. Trails of Cold Steel has gotten a lot of reputation since its western release and as such, its sequel has received a lot of hype and interest as well. The lengthy journey of Cold Steel is continuing in the west soon, and many are both looking forward to it and asking the question of whether or not the sequel lives up to the original.

Past all of this hype and “God status” some people may have placed upon the series, Cold Steel II is now out for PlayStation gamers to get into and enjoy. I’ve been working tirelessly since I received my copy to be able to review it for you on release day. So, here it is. After having beaten the final boss just last night, here’s my review of the Vita version of The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II!

Story

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1 month after the events of Trails of Cold Steel, Class VII is scattered throughout Erebonia and the country is in the middle of an intense civil war. Rean, the main character of the first game, finds himself in a mountain range in the aftermath of the final battle. Upon recovering, he then vows not only to reunite with his fellow classmates, but also do what he can to find his place in the world and in the war.

The story really makes the game feel more like a continuation than a brand new game. Everything proceeds as if it were just a part of the first game, coming in right where it was left off. Even many parts of the game help give it this feel.

As far as starting the series with 2, it is possible. In the main menu of Cold Steel II, there is a rather extensive and lengthy “Backstory” section which goes into great detail on the events of the first game. So, if you don’t wanna play the 50-60 hour journey that is CS1 before playing this game, you very much can.

Gameplay

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Like its predecessor, Trails of Cold Steel II is a turn-based RPG with a variety of other elements thrown into the mix. For the majority of the game, you’ll be exploring towns and dungeons, fighting off enemies and bosses, and developing bonds with other characters on off days. So, it’s pretty much the same kind of game as the first Cold Steel.

Among the changes between the first and this game is the fact that this isn’t a school simulation style of RPG. Rather than going through classes each chapter, you will be exploring various towns and dungeons across the world like many traditional RPGs do. You’ll still have days to spend bonding points on developing relationships with other characters, but that’s the only thing reminiscent of that school life. It feels much more like a traditional RPG.

The other major addition to the game, outside of balancing and vehicles that you can use in dungeons, are mech battles. In many sections of the game, you’ll have to fight by controlling a giant robot fighting other giant robots. This feels like a completely different game since it plays out very different from normal fights. It’s still turn-based, but focuses more on finding weak points and managing energy than normal JRPG battles.

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There is also the ability to customize your mech, both with weapons as you progress through the game as well as creating equipment that will increase its stats.  This is something crucial towards the end of the game, but something you’ll be using for a good amount of it.

With all of this in mind, the game progresses in three parts. Two of those parts are heavily story-led while the middle section gives you a lot more freedom to go where you choose, do side-quests, recruit allies to enhance your base of operations, and the like. While the series is known for the linear story progression, this is a nice way to mix things up.

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Combat, itself, isn’t much different from before. Most of the changes here are balancing and a couple extra features, like obtaining new S-Break Ultimate Attacks and a couple story-involved abilities for Rean which I am unable to talk about in this review. The playable character count has been upped, though. While you’ll mostly be using Class VII in your party, there will be a lot of temporary party members, bringing the total up around 20 different characters.

One thing that has changed is the length. If you recall, Cold Steel was about 50-60 hours long. Those looking for a super-long RPG won’t find it in Cold Steel II. While it is a long game and has a ton happening across its story, it only took me around 30-35 hours to finish Cold Steel II, not counting the side story chapter after the main story (which is more tying in with another Legend of Heroes game). Granted, that’s still long for an RPG, but not nearly as long as the first game was.

Controls

Not really a whole lot to say about the controls. But, Cold Steel II is compatible with the PlayStation TV. Unlike the first game, you will not have to update the game with a patch to get it working. It will work fine right out of the box.

Pretty much the same controls as before. Left analog moves your character and Right analog moves the camera. D-Pad is used for menus and zooming in and out while in the field. The L and R buttons are used in battle for Linking with other characters or swapping out party members. Then the X button is used for selecting commands, Square for looking at enemy information, Triangle for opening the menu, and Circle for cancelling options in menus.

Presentation

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This is pretty much the same song and dance as the first game. There’s a lot of detail and the visual presentation is very pretty. There are a couple jagged edges here and there, but all in all, the game is really well done in terms of graphical presentation.

The biggest technical mishap from the first game is the fact that a lot of cutscenes had lag and frame dips. This still happens in some scenes, but is overall better than the first game. There are still big frame drops in cutscenes, but there aren’t nearly as many scenes that do that here than in the original Cold Steel. No frame drops in actual gameplay, which means they won’t affect how the game is played.

Summary

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II is one of the most anticipated Vita games of 2016. While there are still frame drops in some cutscenes, the game has a compelling story for fans and enough of a mix of changed and new gameplay systems to not feel like they’re playing the first game all over again with a different setting.

9/10

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