Thanks to XSEED GAMES for the review code
Title: Trails of Cold Steel II
System: Playstation Vita/TV
Release Date: 09/06/2016
It should go without warning that this section will pretty much spoil the ending twist of Trails of Cold Steel, mainly due to the fact that this game is meant as a part 2 to the original instead of a sequel taking place many years afterward. Skip past this section if you don’t want to spoil them for yourself, although I’ll do my best to not go into immense detail.
Taking place one month after the Noble Alliance’s successful takeover, you take control of Rean Schwarzer once again as you set out on a quest to discover the aftermath of the invasion, reunite with the rest of the class before going on a journey to win the fierce war that’s crippling the nation.
If you’re just like me and you go into this game before touching Part I for whatever reason, thankfully you can still make some sense of what’s going on via a handy recap on the title screen menu. It doesn’t cover everything from the first game, and it certainly won’t get you any of the bonuses but it still gets the job done and managed to get me up to speed on the general premise without feeling lost. Still, this game is best played once you complete Part I first, although its not impossible to enjoy the story if you choose to start here.
Just like other Falcom Vita titles such as Ys: Memories of Celceta and Ys VIII, Trails of Cold Steel II looks really sharp, with bright colors, massive areas to explore and impressive looking bosses to defeat. Unfortunately, as a side effect of being ported from the PS3 to the Vita, it seems that some of the textures in the overworld have been sacrificed, but thankfully the models, menus and most of the cutscenes look fine even when played on a Playstation TV. Overall for a handheld version, this looks stunning compared to most games I’ve reviewed for the site, especially titles from both the Playstation Vita and 3DS.
Music and Sound
By far the field that Falcom is most known for, Sound Team J.D.K does an excellent job with the music, providing a high quality soundtrack with plenty of memorable tunes! Of course being the second part to a massive game, there are a few reused themes from part one, most notably some of the town themes along with a few cutscene themes. Still, the majority of the soundtrack is brand new and fits the quality established in prior Falcom games for the most part.
Using the same engine from part one, Trails of Cold Steel is a turn based RPG with a heavy aspect on exploration. The game is split up into multiple chapters, with each chapter offering its own set of locations to explore during the course of the adventure just like part one. During the journey, you’ll be engaged in counters with enemies on the field, which can be influenced by stunning them with a weapon and beginning the encounter with them facing away from you. Likewise, if you are facing away from them and the enemy comes after you, your party will be scrambled, so its important to plan things out before making your move.
Once the battle is underway, you have a variety of options at your disposal, and just like with Trails in the Sky, the Quartz system can give you additional arts to use. Arts are your magic attacks, which can be used depending on how much EP you have, and raising enough CP from attacking enemies can let you use powerful Crafts, which are usually stronger than arts. Build up the CP gauge to 100 or 200 and you can unleash the almighty S-Craft attacks which do massive damage to enemies and can help out in tough boss fights. Thanks to no longer being on a grid, battles go by much quicker than they ever did in Trails in the Sky, and you can skip animations by pressing Start, although there’s no option to simply speed up the action, leading to a lot of fade out transitions. Still, even with the transitions it’s only a minor nitpick compared to the benefit of faster combat, which makes battling enemies strangely addicting.
Your standard monster battles aren’t the only type of fighting you can do in this game, however. The final battle of Part I shook things up with a fierce Ashen Knight battle, which is where you pilot a mecha to use stronger attacks. Trails of Cold Steel II features even more of these battles, which are a nice change of pace thanks to the ability to gain special arts from pairing certain characters up and using those attacks to focus on the multiple weak points. They don’t make up the majority of the game, but they do a good enough job of shaking things up a bit.
In conclusion, Trails of Cold Steel II surprised me with how much fun it was despite not currently owning the first part. The story is still great and relatively easy to get the general gist of, the combat is fun and fast despite some technical issues, and the game is a fairly long length with lots of things to hunt for, so you won’t be beating this game in a single weekend unless you play non-stop. The game also loves to take its time to load areas, even when running away from a battle! Apparently the PS3 version runs a bit smoother and loads a lot faster, but since I do not own a PS3 to personally confirm this I stuck to going with the PSTV/Vita version for the purposes of this review.
If you like going on sidequests or hunting for items by looking in every nook and cranny of the maps, then Trails of Cold Steel II should be a fun game for you as well, although I encourage you to pick up the first game to get even more hours of content and to have every bit of context for the story. Still, whether you’re starting from this entry or Part I, Trails of Cold Steel II is an epic adventure worth taking on. I give Trails of Cold Steel II a 9 out of 10, as I found it to be an amazing RPG with a surprising amount of content for what’s supposed to be the final act of a grand story. Falcom strikes again with yet another great RPG adventure!