Have you played the original The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel? If not, I’d recommend going through it before you even consider thinking about playing the sequel, with The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel 2 not only following on with the narrative directly but also feeling VERY similar from a gameplay perspective. Fortunately, it does enough that it still manages to feel like a fresh experience when compared to the first game, whilst it also maintains the quality that helped make it stand out so much to fans of RPGs to begin with – you just need to have played the first game in order to really appreciate it.
I’m going to try and explain the story without giving away too many details from the first game, so I do apologise for how cryptic it is…
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel 2 takes place directly after the events of the ending of the first game, with your country and friends betrayed and protagonist Rean left separated from his team mates from the academy. With the enemy in control of your home, you work to find your allies from Class VII and figure out how you can take the fight to your rivals. With a new threat in place in the way of the Divine Knights though, it’s not going to be easy.
Much like the first game, the narrative is one of the stand out features of The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel 2 with it offering a very fleshed out tale that doesn’t spare any detail. You’ll learn plenty about the world, its characters, and the events that are taking place, but it doesn’t ever feel too overwhelming – in fact, it’s so well presented that you’ll simply want to find out more.
The story is actually presented at a better pace this time around thanks to the fact that you’re not returning to the academy time and time again. With the story constantly moving forward and the heroes heading to new locations in action-orientated scenarios, you’ll always feel like you’re seeing something new rather than repeating the process of having to report back. It’s not actually something I didn’t like in the first game, but it did help The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel 2 stand out as its own entity a lot more.
Gameplay-wise, it’s more of the same in The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel 2 for the most part, though there are a few refinements made here and there to make it feel a little different.
Take combat for example: it still follows the turn-based approach of the first game, whilst you’ll still utilise Crafts and Arts as you line up attacks. Your character’s equipment still plays a big role too, so there’re plenty of options in place for you to customise your line-up to ensure you can get them fighting in a way that suits you. Also, you’ll be linking up attacks between party members, so there’s still the aspect of teamwork where you can really take advantage of certain character’s abilities when working together. It’s just more of the same, but it’s fun and makes for some enjoyable tactical showdowns with your foes.
There are a few new additions to combat though, with the ‘Overdrive’ proving the most significant. As you battle you’ll fill up your Overdrive meter, which can then be spent to give your party a variety of boosts in combat. It could boost your attack power, make a skill more powerful, heal your party – whatever you choose, it gives you an extra trick up your sleeve to get out of some tricky situations. What I liked the most about it was that it’s streamlined into combat nicely, so it won’t disrupt gameplay for anyone who’s come straight over from the previous game.
One thing that I think needs mentioning is the fact that you start at a high level in The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel 2. It has bugged me in sequels to games in the past where you lose all your skills and abilities following your first adventure, so to have battle-hardened characters here makes sense when you consider it’s a direct follow-up. I wouldn’t say it necessarily makes the game more difficult, but those who spent more time learning the ins-and-outs of combat the first time around will probably find it a whole lot easier than other players.
Another change to the gameplay comes with the fact that The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel 2 feels like more of a direct adventure, with the player given a lot more control of their party and freedom when it comes to exploring. In the last game you’d have to constantly return to your home base after missions, but this time around you’re constantly moving forward and heading to new locations with nothing really breaking the pace. It makes the game feel significantly different but without changing up anything vital, which is pretty nice. Plus, with all the extra exploration you get to do (it’s the best way to uncover treasures and side quests) you can really take advantage of the Orbal Motorcycle, which proves to be an undeniably cool way to get around.
Like the first game, The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel 2 is a port of a PlayStation Vita title with a few extras thrown in for good measure. It means that it’s not necessarily going to be the best looking RPG you’ve played, with both the in-game textures and character animations sometimes proving a little sketchy. I’d certainly say that it looks better than the first game, whilst the creative environments and character designs do help the game stand out – it’s not up there with the more modern RPGs available on the PlayStation 4 right now though. It does manage to run at a consistent 60fps mind, so at least the action in-game is smooth throughout.
The best way to describe The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel 2 is as more of the same, but that is by no means a bad thing given how good the original game was. It does make enough improvements to see it just creep ahead in quality though, with the new ‘Overdrive’ mechanic and the stronger focus on exploration making the sequel feel like a more interesting experience overall.
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again though: don’t bother with The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel 2 if you didn’t play the first game. If you did play it though, you won’t want to miss out on this top quality RPG.
Developer: Nihon Falcom
Publisher: Marevelous Europe
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), PlayStation Vita, PC