Move Forward, Relentlessly
The direct sequel to The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel, the second game in the Cold Steel Arc picks up right where the first ended.
Coming out in 2013 for the PlayStation 3 and doomed Vita handheld, Trails of Cold Steel 2 maintains the look and feel of a game straddling two generations as well as one that is optimized for two formats. However, while this maintains the somewhat dated graphics, this is a series you definitely do not want to sleep on.
As a full disclaimer, you definitely wont have a full appreciation for this game and the story without playing the first Trails of Cold Steel. Being a direct sequel, that’s not surprising but it is still somewhat unfriendly to players who haven’t had the chance to experience the first title. Judging the story without reference to the first game is difficult. However (spoiler) you should still play this game and the rest of the series as it is, in my opinion, a masterpiece.
If there is any single element of the game that does a great job of making you want to care about the lore, it is the gameplay itself. This is good old fashioned JRPG fun and it never stops from beginning until the very end. Turn-based battles aren’t the sexiest thing around nor are they anything new to the scene, but they’re so well done here that it bears repeating that Trails of Cold Steel 2 knows what the hardcore want and it delivers – in spades. Re-iterating the first point here, this series does an amazing job of developing both the character and game world itself, so much so that I didn’t want to put down the controller.
Trails of Cold Steel 2 lets you explore the world, fighting along the way. It’s not an open-world game by any stretch but the abolition of the class schedule and need to maintain the life of a student opens up the game and allows it to focus on other aspects to shine through.
Outside of core features like combat mechanics and story, Trails of Cold Steel II ticks all of the right boxes when it comes to quality of presentation. The score here is appropriately epic and even whimsical at moments. I felt like the music really helped push the action forward at points and it was not only perfect for the theme but also somewhat of a standout in a genre filled with excellent OSTs.
As previously mentioned, Trails 2 straddles a world that is both last gen and portable. The graphics show this more than anything. There’s nothing to complain about here but it does look like a game that was optimized for the PS3 and Vita. Whether that matters or not is largely up to the idiosyncrasies of the individual gamer.
It didn’t bother me one bit. What I did like about this double life for Trails of Cold Steel 2 is that it is conducive to pick-up-and-play gaming styles as well as long sessions. This is probably because it was developed with the portable iteration in mind somewhat.
To conclude, while we definitely recommend you start with the first game before picking this up, if you do decide to play through Trails of Cold Steel 2 offers you one of the most compelling experiences available from a JRPG. I know it isn’t the best verdict to say you should consider playing a game after you’ve played the first title, but that seems largely appropriate where this JRPG is concerned.