The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II (PS Vita) Review

By Az Elias 18.11.2016

Review for The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II on PS Vita

The PlayStation Vita certainly isn't starved of great JRPGs, and The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel marked another top addition to the still ever-increasing library of Sony's handheld when it released earlier this year. It hasn't taken long at all for its sequel to arrive, though, once again hitting the PS Vita and PS3, so what can be expected of Class VII's arduous quest this time around in Trails of Cold Steel II?

Anyone thinking that they would need to play the first Trails of Cold Steel before playing this one can brush off those worries, as terrific work has been done recapping the events of all chapters of the original title through a mixture of voice work, text and a few images here and there. Even characters, whether protagonists, enemies or a few minor supporting NPCs, are given some details and backstory to fill everyone in on where the story is up to, and also acts as a good refresher for those that finished the first game. Of course, it's highly recommended to play the original before diving into this one, but great effort has been put in to ensure this remains as accessible to as many people as possible without worry of missing important parts of the story.

Screenshot for The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II on PS Vita

Cold Steel II picks up where its predecessor left off, with Rean Schwarzer having escaped the final battle in a weakened state, leaving his classmates and friends of elite military group Class VII to secure his survival and hold off the leader of the terrorist organisation, the Imperial Liberation Front. The early segments see Rean searching the land of Erebonia to reunite with his friends, whilst at the same time fighting a civil war across the country. Although some familiar places are revisited, there is the sense that the occupation of enemy forces has progressed quickly in the month following Rean's departure, which changes the atmosphere of towns previously in a freer state of mind. Now, there is anxiousness from citizens who have already felt the effects of war and don't know what will happen next.

Whilst the calendar-based daily progression system returns, the narrative moves along at a far quicker pace than that of the original, which really took its time to get going. Since there are now no day-to-day activities centred around a class schedule in school, this allows more focus to be placed on the story at hand, which makes sense given the tense war that's in full effect. There are plenty of opportunities to build relationships with characters in that recognisable Persona style, however, just like in the last game, and things open up a lot more midway through the quest, when Rean is able to access his airship, picking places to travel to from a world map, including many new locations, which also offers the chance for side-questing and grinding.

Screenshot for The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II on PS Vita

Typical of a JRPG, grinding may just be necessary at some points in the adventure, as there are some jumps in difficulty, particularly when it comes to the bosses. Difficulty settings do alleviate this, though, allowing those who want to focus on the story first and foremost to do so with relative ease, but a little levelling can't always be avoided. Character customisation and battling remains pretty much unchanged from Cold Steel, with the equipping of orbs that act as magic and stat boosters into circular slots still reminiscent of Final Fantasy VII's Materia system, and the turn-based battles where moves affect the order that each character and foe can act next echoing Final Fantasy X's Conditional Turn-Based Battle style. It's all perfectly understandable, and doesn't look to drastically alter what worked so well before, with switching in and out of party members still carrying over to keep enemy encounters flowing neatly if in need of somebody else's strengths.

More than anything, it's new special attacks that are brought into the fold that add to the already solid foundation, and it has to be said that they look pretty awesome. As before, linking two characters together to unleash a chained attack continues to deliver the same rewarding feeling, and it usually can't be helped to match two personal favourites up to give a more meaningful connotation to the twinned moves. Enemies have a linking feature of their own, though; initiating a battle with one enemy will pull in other enemies that are in close proximity on the field, causing another fight to take place directly after the first. Similar to Bravely Second, this will reward in added EXP, but cannot be abused in the same way it could in Square Enix's game. It means extra care needs to be taken when running around enemy-strewn field maps.

Screenshot for The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II on PS Vita

Perhaps the biggest new feature in Cold Steel II, though, is the introduction of mech battles. Worked into the story in the latter stages of the prequel, mechs now play a prominent role, and since they are incredibly overpowered pieces of machinery, the stats are upped and the battles play out differently to normal. These battles involve searching for weak points on the enemy, then pummelling it until it switches stance or is defeated. It's nothing radical compared to the standard battling fare, but it is a welcome mix-up to the usual formula, and the increase in hit point and damage output helps to get across that impression of superior strength that these robots possess.

Trails of Cold Steel II does so much well, whether it's the little things, such as providing a warning that areas will be inaccessible for a while or quests will be failed if advancing the plot in a certain moment, to being able to skip just about every move both players and enemies make during battle, to the terrific localisation that XSEED Games has pulled off. There are some blemishes on the product in the end, though, like single conversations featuring both voiced and text-only dialogue between multiple characters, the odd bit of pop-in and frame rate drops in specific instances, and a game that doesn't really push the boundaries with anything that isn't already pretty standard for the genre, but these aren't particularly massive issues for one of the best JRPG series to come to the West in quite some time.

Screenshot for The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II on PS Vita

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

It's definitely more "continuation" than "sequel," with Trails of Cold Steel II following on from not only the story of the prequel, but also with the already accessible (by JRPG standards) battle mechanics and character customisation features, which prove to work well to add a little strategy to the proceedings. Despite some shortcomings, there is a lot to like here, especially for Persona fans who have become so familiar with the calendar-based narrative and party member bonding sessions that affect gameplay, with a mature storyline that doesn't stray too far from its anime roots, but strikes a perfect balance with its wonderful characters.

Developer

Nihon Falcom

Publisher

NIS America

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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