PC players got their first chance to play the Trails of Cold Steel sub-series of the larger The Legend of Heroes series last year when XSEED Games ported the original PS3/Vita title over to the platform. Now, they’re following up with that game’s sequel — The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II. Does it retain the excellent porting quality of the prior release?
If you haven’t already guessed, it’s expected by the game that you’ve played the original and remember its events, which was released in Western territories about a year ago. Some other RPG sequels might aim to expand their base with their new entry, Cold Steel II on the other hand acts as if you continued right where you left off. There is some summary data and other help material to help bring you back up to speed if you might have forgotten things over the year, but it isn’t meant as a encyclopedia for newcomers to brush themselves up on. I’d strongly suggest playing the first game if you wandered into this review and haven’t played the original, of which our review can be found here.
The interesting twist to Cold Steel II due to this continuation aspect is that because the characters and the world in the game are already well-defined by this point, the developers were allowed to venture out into a more wider expanse thematically. The first game was defined by its school events and dungeons, whereas the sequel due to the events of the first game is more open and has you exploring more areas and even some that you encountered in the original entry but with some differences.
A change from the original which some players may enjoy is that, due to the shift in narrative, there’s far more action and suspense built into it than what players may be used to coming off of the original. And instead of each character being gradually rolled into the narrative, the developers used each of them to play their own part as necessary where they fit in best. It matches well against the warring political climate found in the game, but there’s some characters who are used slightly more aptly than others inherently due to this kind of implementation.
The gameplay as a whole is pretty similar to what you remember from the original, with some minor changes and additions made here and there as necessary. There’s a new combat mechanic that allows characters to chain multiple attacks together in a single turn, which is useful in certain battles. You also earn experience faster, which makes leveling up Master Orbments quicker. These new combat abilities do make the game slightly easier, but the developers did bump up the enemy HP in correspondence to make up for this.
In terms of non-combat additions in Cold Steel II, Falcom added a mode that allows you to delegate duties and quests to various people from your school, similar to a person management system you may have seen in other games such as Metal Gear Solid’s Mother Base mechanic. It’s a nice side-diversion for those who want to get into it and was nice to pop into now and again during the meaty length of the campaign.
Like the first entry, PC owners have a plethora of configuration options available to them via the game’s configuration menu. The game’s resolution, shadow rendering options, display mode and antialiasing are available as graphical options. The number of auto-saves is configurable here as well, alongside the ability to choose the speed of the game’s “Turbo Mode” option, the latter of which smartly speeds up things without making the music and dialogue chipmunk-like. XSEED even made sure the Burst & Link mechanic in battle slow down enough so you can properly input the necessary button presses.
And if the default button look isn’t to your liking, you can even change the button prompts. One nice touch is that the graphical options generally show you a small preview of how changing them affects the game, so you don’t have to boot, check then exit to confirm if you want to stick with that choice.
On my PC, the game performed as expected without much issue at all, although I did run into a one-time crash and had to resume from an autosave, losing 10-15m of playtime. This was the only time this happened, however.
In terms of the localization, if you disliked the lack of a Japanese vocal track in the original game you’ll be disappointed as it’s English-only again in the sequel. Like my thoughts on the original entry, XSEED Games did a fine job with this entry’s localization in both English text and voiceovers. An addition new to the PC version is the addition of more voice lines, compared to the PS3/Vita versions, something which was also present in the first Cold Steel entry.
Trails of Cold Steel II isn’t your typical JRPG sequel in the sense that it follows very closely after its predecessor in both gameplay and narrative, but in practice that isn’t really a negative as it plays well to the game’s strengths as the core focus is excellent. There’s some aspects that are a bit dated, such as the graphics, but overall the package shines quite brightly. The PS4 may be the new star on the block, but if you haven’t touched your PS3 in a while you should give it another play again with this title.The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II (PC) was reviewed using a PC Digital Copy provided by XSEED. You can find additional information about Gaming Union's ethics policy here.
|Since the world and characters were already introduced in the original game, the developers could build things up more thematically. What worked in the original is retained here, with new changes and features added to enhance the player’s experience.|
|There’s some nice new additions, both in combat and out of combat. An standout PC port, just like the prior PC release.|
|For Japanese voice track fans, it’s a dub-only release again like the first game.|
|For some, the fact that it follows so closely to its predecessor in gameplay might be a turn-off, from what they usually expect in a JRPG sequel.|