The Legend of Heroes series is one of my favorite RPG series in recent years. Nihon Falcom’s attention to detail and the interweaving stories of the protagonists and NPC’s always scratches the itch for a JRPG in just the right way. With The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II, Rean Schwarzer’s journey continues, following a month after the events of Trails of Cold Steel. The country of Erebonia is embroiled in civil war, and it is up to Rean and his friends to find a way to end the conflict before it is too late.
After the Noble Faction of Erebonia (and their Provincial armies) occupied Heimdallr and seized control over much of Erebonia’s lands, Erebonia became consumed by civil war, with the Imperial army readying themselves for a counterattack. After escaping the city of Trista with the help of his friends and Class VII teammates, Rean Schwarzer awakens in the mountains and is uncertain what has become of his allies.
This begins a journey with Rean and his Divine Knight Valimar, who set out to discover what has happened and hopefully find a way to resolve the conflict before more innocent people get caught in the crossfire. The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II offers 50% more voice acted lines than its console release, as well as the ability to immediately open the game and load your most recent save. Along with other visual improvements, the game also allows you to load clear data from Trails of Cold Steel to provide bonuses as well as allowing the game to remember the bonds between Rean Schwarzer and his allies. The game also provides an opportunity for you to get caught up on what you missed in the first game, accessible from the main menu.
Those bonds not only provide more personalized dialogue but also prove important when combat comes around, as many elements from Trails of Cold Steel appear in its sequel. The ARCUS system from Trails of Cold Steel makes a return, with a few improvements and changes. One of these changes is the introduction of bravery points, which are accumulated during battle. Once you unbalance an enemy, you can then use these bravery points to issue powerful rush attacks with linked party members. Additionally, links now have “link abilities” associated with them. Certain characters may guard, heal, or provide other effects to linked allies.
Combat mainstays such as arts, craft abilities, and the unbalance mechanic return, making The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II familiar to veterans, while also adding a few gameplay mechanics to the game. Battles get even more intense with Divine Knight Battles, where Rean is able to pilot his divine knight and issue attacks against other large enemies. The combat takes on a sort of rock-paper-scissors style at this point and gives you the option of attacking the head, arms, or body. If you hit the right body part in the correct stance, you will be able to issue a follow-up attack and be able to gain CP faster, allowing you to eventually deal large amounts of damage with a powerful attack.
This is not the only new element to combat, however. Trails of Cold Steel II offers a brand new “Overdrive” system, which allows linked characters to attack up to three times in a row for even more layers to combat strategy; as you successfully complete battles, deal damage to enemies and support your allies, the overdrive bar increases, eventually allowing you to use the overdrive mode for devastating effect. Another perk of Overdrive mode is that arts cast instantly, allowing you to quickly use enemy weaknesses against them without pesky cast times.
Aside from the enhanced combat, other elements from Trails of Cold Steel return, such as quests, cooking, academic ranks, fishing, and more. All of these things contribute to a rich storyline that interweaves the stories of the Class VII students with new characters, as well as NPC’s both friend and foe.
While exploring, you may come across Blue “Trial Chests” which provide a challenge for a pair of characters. If you complete the battle with the characters required, their link will gain EXP and you will acquire treasure as a reward. This gives you the incentive to carry a diverse party, as each chest has its own character requirements.
On the topic of quests, they work in the same way as they did in the first game. Rean and his allies take on quests, which are either required for the story or are time-sensitive optional quests. All quests provide useful items and money with which you can buy supplies or equipment, so doing as many as possible is important. However, with the Academic Ranking system, your choices during each act (including your performance during quests) will affect whether your Student Ranking goes up or not. Increasing your student rank provides special perks and bonuses, so being a diligent adventurer is important.
My favorite part of the Legend of Heroes franchise is how skillfully Nihon Falcom weaves storylines together. Characters from previous games re-appear, references to past events are made, and the story unfolds in a large, interconnected way. While the flow of the game is similar to Trails of Cold Steel, The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II carries it forward, recognizing connections between characters, and giving some characters you briefly met before a more fleshed out role.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II isn’t perfect. There are a few visual glitches here and there, and as with most Legend of Heroes titles, the difficulty can spike in weird places, requiring a hefty bit of grinding if you aren’t careful and diligent about leveling your party. However, overall I think Trails of Cold Steel II does a fantastic job of carrying on the storyline from the first game, and I greatly look forward to getting my hands on Trails of Cold Steel III when it makes its way to the west.
If you like the Legend of Heroes Series already, then you will feel right at home with Trails of Cold Steel II. If you aren’t already a fan but enjoy RPG’s then you can’t go wrong picking this up as a welcome addition to your Steam Library.
A Steam Review Copy of The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II was provided by XSEED Games for the Purpose of this Review.