The Legend of Heroes Trails of Cold Steel II starts off right where it left you in the first game. You’ve taken a month long nap in some mountain in the middle of nowhere with only a talking humanoid mech and a cat to keep you company. Sounds fun doesn’t it? So while some sequels doesn’t bare any correlation to their predecessors, Trails of Cold Steel II is not that kind of game. It’s a massive game with week long hours just to set it to a close and its first bares the same fangs that may turn off gamers from dedicating the time to it when there’s a boat load of games waiting to be bought or played. It does provides backstories should you not feel like playing the first beforehand but it doesn’t have the same feel at experiencing it firsthand.
“Out of the classroom and into the warzone.”
The adventure begins when Rean Schwarzer makes the trip down the cold snowy mountain to find his bearings and of course to more hospitable surroundings, less monster infested and more of that human interaction. Because let’s face it, talking to a robot and a cat while being stranded in a mountain isn’t going to impress the ladies at the dinner parties. Soon however he finds out the whereabouts of his colleagues from Class VII after some unforeseen predicaments back in town. Then he starts off with the quest of reuniting with the rest of the class. The story progression has set itself in linearity much like the first game as you fall into a certain pattern of doing things and after a while, it becomes predictable what happens next. Or at least you think it is.
But much like its predecessor, Trails of Cold Steel II says no to chump change with its immense emphasis on story development. It takes off the hard hat of high school life and puts you right at the middle of a warzone but still having the time for some R&R and character bonding events that leads to a few first kisses and cheesy moments. With characters being relatable as they are memorable. It shapes up to an interesting experience that makes you want to see it ‘til the end despite having some really long and at times redundant dialogue when everybody likes to pinch in with some of their lines to cash in on that in-game mira the director promised at the end of the shoot.
“Shiny orbs, a woman’s best friend!”
Turn-based RPGs dates back to an older time, maybe even older than dinosaurs itself but hey, TOCS II is no lightweight when it comes to the genre. While still a familiar experience, it keeps itself fresh with mechanics that is both engaging as it is experimental. Orbments being my favorite aspect of the game, puts itself as a sort of way to experiment a character’s build and role in battle. Placing orbs that reduces the time it takes to casts arts or having effects that improves one’s parameters can lead to completely different play styles for a single character. As it is a game that still makes you go with a certain number of people with some of them being required to be brought along for the story, it makes the orbments really helpful when you need to fill certain roles when strategizing on how to beat certain bosses or push through the enemy ranks.
It still follows the similar approach of combat seen in the first. Each character having their own abilities like Crafts/S-Crafts that use the CP meter or Arts that is more of a universal magic based on equipped orbs that uses EP. The Link System which was improved upon by adding an overdrive system when the orb meter in the top right corner is filled is one way to get the advantage in battle or simply get away from sticky situations. This lets linked characters perform a total of three attacks with arts being an instant cast. Plus the mech battles that gives it more of a rock paper scissors approach which requires you to know which of the three parts to attack based on the enemy mech’s stance to unbalance it for a follow up similar to how normal battles work when a linked character follows up another attack.
While its predecessor only lets you be on certain areas at specific points of the story, touring Erebonia now is a bit more flexible in which you now have access to an airship to jump straight to other explorable areas while finding quests or recruiting other Thor’s Military Academy students to fly the ship or be tasked at manning the stores and other facilities. Because flying an airship without a license is still legal and so is driving an orbal bike in the outskirts of town which is honestly one of the more interesting points for travel other than galloping in the wind with your trusty steed of course.
Visually, it’s still a generation-old game first developed for the Playstation 3 and Vita which makes to say that it isn’t going to be anywhere near as good looking as a game intentionally developed for next-gen consoles. But with that being said, it’s still visually appealing as it is charming to a certain degree. And with an already robust and well-written story to match with an equally engaging combat system, I say this is still an impressive game altogether not to mention including all previously released DLCs as an added bonus.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II is a masterful piece of art. It marries both the character development and the combat mechanics and mixes it as a perfect blend when developing a character to like you benefits their level of linked abilities in battle and vice versa. Whether you’re in it for the story or the engaging combat is a worthy time sink that could have you going for over forty hours or so. Just don’t leave your babies unattended as its going to be one hell of a long ride.