The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II Review

Developed by Nihon Falcom
Published by XSEED
Reviewed on PlayStation 4 (also available on PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, and Steam)

Here is a weird thought: when you play a series that you are totally unfamiliar with, kind of fall in love with it, and suddenly realize that the first game is the same age as yourself. I actually didn’t play either of the Trails of Cold Steel games back on PlayStation 3, and man have I been missing out. Trails of Cold Steel and its sequel have been ported to the PlayStation 4 and includes a series of enhancements, an improved frame rate, a turbo mode that lets combat and exploration move at double speed, and few others changes. More on those later. What a great game Nihon Falcom has built up!

When I met the returning from the first game (II takes place a couple of months after), I realized that there has been some serious character development and world building done. Thankfully a recap of the previous game allowed me to familiarize myself with the world and characters. The sequel begins with well rounded characters and a world with a deeper conflict already in motion. It’s also surprising to see there isn’t a heavy reliance on anime tropes. Another pleasant surprise is the game’s excellent English dub.

XSEED really deserves praise for putting forth such excellent localization effort both with translation and the voice acting aspect. Nihon Falcom also proves once again that their sound team and composing are excellent. There are a bevy of great tracks both on and off the battle field. There’s an enjoyable variety of characters with a wide range of personalities and designs. I spent a good 65 hours or so playing through the game and it really flew by. I really enjoyed the story and am very excited for part III later this September! What I also immediately fell in love with rather spectacularly is the turn based combat system.

There’s two different aspects to the sequel that are both very different at first, but an understanding of the core idea will bring you success in both. When engaging in team based combat, you build a party of four very diverse characters (there are twelve characters in total), allowing for some serious powerful combinations of teams. During the opening acts you are given the ability to establish links between two party members, which grant bonus attacks and additional benefits. Each character is given a unique perk when their links reach level 3 or higher. Every one also carries a different specialty and weapon type (Sword Fighter, Gunner, Healer, Etc) so thought must be put into party composition or you’ll be wiped out if you’re not careful.

Besides having deep party composition, the overall system is quite deep for a turn based system. The amount of different elements, statuses, and damage types are all interconnected in a tight web. It’s a bit overwhelming at first but I got the hang of it after maybe 10 hours of play time. Then there are the ever awesome mech battles that take place in various parts of the story. These tend to be more intimate affairs. Instead of worrying about status ailments and team usage, you focus on exploiting your enemies weak points to unbalance them, them unleash devastating attacks.

The presentation during battles, both party and mech based, is a very flashy affair. Special moves, spells, and the more devastating S-Craft techniques are sometimes almost a minute long and shows off of Nihon Falcom’s creativity. Thankfully they can be skipped to see the result of the attack. Enemies that are considerably weaker can be killed on the field to skip battles and earn a small amount of currencies instead. Turbo mode allows the animations, results, and overworld exploration to move at double the pace. Turbo mode also allows you to skip through lengthy battles with much faster menu navigation, and makes exploration quite a bit faster.

While the exploration side of the story is not as bombastic, it is nicely made with a superbly wide variety of environments to explore and seek out monsters. The blend between combat, exploration of the overworld, and the story moments flows very well together. I found there’s very little downtime and that that game moves at a great overall pace. As my time with Trails of Cold Steel II came to an end, I had a very strong urge to seek out the original and see what led to everything.

Trails of Cold Steel II is a great game in a series that begs to be explored if you haven’t already jumped on the train. I now plan to go back and play the first game and get a better idea of of the series’ roots. I hope to be able to get into the series again when Trails of Cold Steel III comes out in September.

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