I am going to be very honest with you: I am still very new to the whole JRPG genre. I’ve been trying to get into it since I was eighteen. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started Final Fantasy VII, only to disappoint myself once again by shelving it after a few weeks. The past few years I have been attempting to play some of these key titles in gaming. I’ve been doing well in Final Fantasy II on my PSP and plan to put in many hours in The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II. I don’t know why everyone says that the PS Vita is a dying handheld; there are so many games like this that are on it and that should be played. I’m glad I got a chance to get my hands on this title. I would have missed out on a beautiful world that I really enjoy tinkering around in. Playing the first title is definitely on my list now, but it will just be weird playing the first game after the second.
What greeted me when I loaded this game up was a gorgeous opening title scene that really set the mood for the rest of game. I watched in awe the animation of the main characters and battles they were involved in. I hummed to the music that I’d never known before, but know that I must find on YouTube. I hit start and found out that a novice JRPG player like me could play on a novice level; I could pick between Easy, Normal, Hard and Nightmare. I chose Easy, seeing I wanted to enjoy this game’s story and atmosphere, not rage quit every time I hit a boss because I didn’t grind my characters up to a high enough level. Trails of Cold Steel allows beginners to enjoy the game without having to die every ten seconds in a horrible boss battle. It is also nice to be able to enjoy the story without having to worry about not being able to finish. This is part of the reason I have issues with playing JRPGs. I’m scared I’ll drop forty hours into the game only to finally meet the final boss and die over and over. With this title, that worry is all but eliminated. Now all I have to worry about is enjoying my time with the game.
This JRPG does not stray from the norm when it comes to the story. You awaken next to your Ashen Knight, Valimar, with no recollection of what has happened. A purplish cat, Celine, who is almost as annoying as Navi greets you as you open your eyes. Celine gives you some backstory as to what has happened and you, Rean Schwarzer, realize that over a month has passed since this epic battle. Of course, the epic battle takes place at the end of the last game, and if you had beaten that game on your Vita you can transfer your save to the sequel. I’ve always thought this is an insanely amazing addition to games. Mass Effect impressed me with this mechanic seeing as it was the first time I had experienced it, and I still get a kick out of it. Once you get your head straight you begin to search for Ymir, to find your family and your classmates from the first game.
After slogging through some long tutorials which tells you about Orbments, and arts and other aspects of the game, you are finally greeted with some familiar faces that help you get to Ymir. Once in town you encounter another long cutscene and then an even longer search through town. These are nice due to the fact that you learn about the world you are in and get caught up in the story. This world is very immersive. As I was looking for points of interest in town on the map I came about Annabelle who teaches you to fish. Fishing gains you Angler Points so you can purchase items from Annabelle that will help you on your way. I also happened to run into the Lead Chef in town, and he gave me a recipe book where I could jot down recipes people give me and ones that I create on my own. With all this food you can make you can feed your friends and family for days. Once you get settled in town and gather your party, you are off on a grand adventure into enemy territory to find your classmates.
This game is a typical JRPG, which makes it great and can make it seem very daunting. It really isn’t though. I thought that I would be overwhelmed after playing through several of the tutorials, but I actually wasn’t. The developers were smart enough to make the battle systems insanely simple to control but also insanely deep in the world’s lore. As I mentioned earlier about Orbments, these little items help you succeed in battle by allowing you to heal, and allowing you to use attack arts. These are the common JRPG trope of fire, and air and the like; no big change but the title. Continuing with the standard JRPG codebook, all battles are turn-based. Now, I’ve never been a fan of turn-based battles, but Trails does them very well; I never thought I was just standing there taking a beating while I recharged until I fought in my Ashen Knight. While battling, you can choose the typical attack which will take some damage from your enemy, but what really hurts them is using Arts and S-Break. With arts you can choose one that attacks the weakness of your enemies and takes them off the battlefield quicker. S-break, once it is charged from attacking, can take a huge chunk of health from boss type enemies. I would suggest saving those for the tougher fights that do come in this game. You’ll thank me later.
I’m a huge fan of mech games and mech battles and I was giddy with joy when I saw that I woke up next to a sleek looking one. As I went through the tutorials I patiently waited for my chance to drive that bad boy around. When the time finally came, I was not disappointed. The mech battles are not as awe-inspiring as Zone of the Enders, but they were a hoot. The mech battles are also turn-based you stand opposite your opponent and strike him, then patiently await his return strike. You swing at your adversary over and over until you do enough damage to one of their limbs that knocks them off balance. Once they are swaying you go in for the kill and smack them only like a robot can. Rinse and repeat until you are victorious. I wish I could say these battles were common, but I didn’t encounter many seeing as your mech was still healing from the epic battle at the end of the first game.
This was one of the most difficult games I’ve had to review, not because the game was difficult, but due to the fact there is so much to do in the game and I only have so many words to write. The game is deep, immersive and extremely fun to play. I would recommend this title to hardcore JRPG enthusiasts and to JRPG novices like myself. The difficulty setting allows gamers to enjoy the title from start to finish with no boss to rain on your parade. Trails of Cold Steel will also give the unloved Vita owner a nice long game to enjoy since the Vita’s library is thinning out like my hair. If this happens to be one of the last games on the Vita it is a very beautiful send off to the handheld. I’m really looking forward to putting countless hours into this world finding Rean’s friends and defeating the Noble Alliance forces that are overtaking this world. Pick up this Trails game and its predecessor and I guarantee you won’t regret it. Plus, you can’t go wrong when you get to fight with giant mechs!
A PS Vita Review Code for The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II was provided by XSEED for the purpose of this review
Legends of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II
- Huge world to tinker in; hours of gameplay
- Fun battle system
- I like the difficulty settings
- Mech battles!
- Should play first game first
- Long drawn out tutorials hours into the game
- With so many games out now, you really only have time to enjoy this once
- Game doesn't use touch screen controls
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