The Legend of Heroes might not be the most-known JRPG franchise, but once you’ve started with the series, you will appreciate the games’ deep and complex storylines, paired with likable characters and old-fashioned turn-based combat. Trails of Cold Steel II continues the story of The Legend of Heroes‘ latest arc’s first game, which will set the mood for the final chapter of Rean’s and his friends’ adventure.
Peace is but a memory
Trails of Cold Steel was a masterpiece. Personally, I liked it even more than Persona 4 Golden, which is regarded as the best JRPG on PlayStation Vita and also uses a similar day-by-day calendar system. From a graphical and tonally perspective, the game starts right where the last one ended, but pushes the tone in a bit more serious direction. Despite the cliffhanger ending of the first game, players who haven’t played the first game still can dive into this title’s story. Sure, you will get much more out of the narrative when you have prior knowledge, but with all the flashbacks, the developers did a pretty good job on briefing new players what happened in the last part, and also on updating those who haven’t played for a while. With tiny exceptions, the characters are as well-written as in the first game, and connecting with them is really easy. That exactly is where the game lives from – otherwise it would feel really outdated and couldn’t make me invest a hundred hours into it.
More of the same
It was hard to believe that there still wasn’t a PlayStation 4 version coming out for this title, but given the delay between Japanese and Western releases, we can at least expect the next game to be fully next-gen. On Vita, graphics aren’t that of a problem, and the subtle but neat adaptions in mechanics made the game feel relatively fresh, as opposed to giving it the feeling of being the second half of the first entry. The simple yet deep turn-based battle system stayed virtually the same, but received the expansion of a new overdrive system, which allows you to act in three consecutive turns, cast magic instantly, and restore all your health once you land enough attacks. Gameplay is spiced with bursting colours, especially when characters launch their own unique special abilities, which provides them with very distinct qualities. This helped me develop a connection to my squad even outside of the dialogue, which is rare for the majority of JRPGs I’ve played in the past.
A trilogy’s burden
Being the second part within a trilogy is never easy. You have to continue where you left off and find the right pacing to introduce new things to the story, while also preparing to end at the right moment to keep people intrigued to play the third part without giving away too much. As with the first part, writing and story-telling is excellent, but without going into detail and spoilers, the game could have ended a lot earlier. Towards the epilogue, there was a point where the story felt like it should end, but kept going for about four hours. This part could have easily been moved to the trilogy’s third game, but as I enjoyed exploring the generally less linear world of Trails of Cold Steel II, having a few extra hours wasn’t that of a problem for me.
Continuing to impress
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II develops the engaging and relatable story of the first game and again leaves you wanting more. Despite being tainted by the typical aftertaste of a trilogy’s second part, it continues the series’ approach of pairing personality and perfect characterisation with proven JRPG mechanics. While this sequel manages to overshadow any signs of age, I can’t wait to see the grand finale of the trilogy on a newer platform.
What we liked:
- Continuation of a great story
- Slightly improved gameplay mechanics
- Explore-worthy world full of lore
- Vibrant colourful special attacks
What we didn’t like:
- Signs of age
- Trilogy’s burden
This review was written using a PlayStation Vita review code provided by NIS America. How do you like the story’s progress in this continuation of the franchise? What’s your favourite character in Trails of Cold Steel? Tell us in the comments, on Facebook, or on Twitter!