The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel 2 is a tough game to review. This is pretty much a ‘part 2’ to The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel, the game released in Europe earlier this year. The game ended on a cliff hanger and this picks up straight after. The good news with this swift release of the second is that we are now caught up, part three has yet to be released in Japan despite the first game coming out in 2013.
If you think you may be interested I’d suggest you check out our review of the first title and jump on board at the beginning because coming into this without any prior knowledge of the world or characters will leave you bewildered. There is a catch up option on the title screen but the differences between this release and the previous are so minor that I can’t recommend that you skip ahead.
If you’re already a fan of the first then get to it, this is more of the same and continues straight after the cliff hanger ending. If you do have a completed save from the first you even get some extra bonuses too which is a nice touch. If you’re still reading at this point then I’ll do my best to describe what has changed and what hasn’t without spoiling anything too major.You still play as Rean, the leader of Class VII but due to how the first game ended you are split from your classmates. Things start at a far better pace than the first game where it took a while to get going, though even when it did you’d hardly call it fast paced. That’s not to say the pacing is perfect however, with a lull coming in the middle portion of the game. Still if you have an interest in the world then you’ll get to see more of it this time around and some of the same locations again. Your classmates take a back seat but other characters are introduced and although it has its quiet periods the story is the star.
Gameplay sees some minor changes but nothing ground breaking. You still explore the world through small areas or dungeons, taking on requests for townsfolk and the like. You can equip ‘Quartz’ to allow your characters to use new skills or added stats but this time they come in different rarities which require a suitably levelled up slot to go in. Your characters still have a link level which can be improved through trials; difficult battles with just two characters, or just by hanging out.
The battle system has had a few tweaks with a new Overdrive system allowing you to take a few free turns in battle but beyond that your main focus will still be on linking characters to initiate follow up attacks and making use of ‘arts’, ‘crafts’ and positioning to give yourself the advantage.
I’d be remiss to not mention the terrible miss chance though which I don’t remember from the first game. It’s unusual to go a fight without missing, sometimes missing three attacks on the trot which both stretches out the length of fights but also allows the enemy to counter attack which causes more hassle. It seems to be to encourage the use of arts more but it just feels frustrating.
Also as with most JRPGs I review these days the boss fights are massive difficulty spikes that bring your otherwise relatively simple progress to a stand still. This promotes extra grinding, though losing a fight does simply allow you to retry, or even weaken the enemies and retry on lower difficulties. Plus you can save anywhere so you’re never losing that much progress.
One other addition worth mentioning is the inclusion of some vehicles for getting around, more specifically the airship. This gave me some Skies of Arcadia vibes as you can recruit people to serve jobs onboard to provide shops and systems. It’s not a massive mechanical change but it’s a welcome distraction during the game’s mammoth play time.
The visuals have seen the least amount of change with the Vita struggling to keep up when there’s a lot going on. Even without these technical issues although the character models look fine they animate poorly and the environments are merely okay. Sound-wise things fare better with great music and strong voice acting, though only of the English variety. It also still does the odd thing of some lines being voiced and others not in the same conversation. You’ll be doing a lot of reading regardless it’s just a little jarring.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel 2 is very much a continuation of the first in almost every regard. If you’ve played the original and loved it then you need this in your life, if you hated it then this is more of the same and if you’ve not tried the original then I recommend you give it a go if you like JRPGs as it is a great one, the type you don’t generally see any more. Unfortunately the third and final part is probably a long way off yet.
+ Adds just enough
+ One of the deeper worlds you'll find
- Pacing issues
- High miss rate and boss battles are difficulty spikes