The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II

Videogame localization company XSEED Games has prided itself upon translating niche roleplaying games that would otherwise not see the light of day outside Japan given more mainstream companies’ focus on translating titles their parental Japanese studios create. Among the aforementioned franchises is The Legend of Heroes, with the publisher translating the first installment of the Trails in the Sky trilogy and, after a protracted localization effort, the second, with the concluding title still forthcoming. To fill in the gap between these releases, XSEED translated the first two installments of one of the Trails trilogy’s sequel series, the second of which is The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II, providing an experience pretty much on par with its predecessor.

With negligible exceptions, combat in the sequel is nearly identical to that in its predecessor, with visible enemies on fields and in dungeons, and the type of contact between the player’s visible character and these foes determinant of which side gets the advantages in the subsequent battle. As in the first game, the player can exploit this system, with enemies initially charging the active character, but then stopping and turning around, allowing for an opportunity to strike the enemy and possibly daze or paralyze it, allowing the player a liberal amount of extra turns before the antagonist party takes theirs, the same going for enemies if they catch the player off guard.

As with before, fights are turn-based, with the player’s characters and enemies taking their turns determined by agility, with commands such as physical attacks executed right away, although some such as magic require a charge time before execution. The ability to skip battle animations with the start button is a definite godsend, although an option to make skipping automatic would have definitely been welcome, given the heavy amount of button-mashing as a result of the system, and aside from this, combat definitely works well, with defeat in a fight allowing players to restart with weakened foes, sparing players from excessive grinding and making high difficulty levels more bearable.

One cannot say the same about the game’s control scheme, which inherits many of its flaws from the first game, such as the lack of names and inability to access the main menus during instances such as selecting characters for a party (with this reviewer, for instance, wanting to know the link levels of specific character combinations but being unable to do so then), and the sometimes poor direction on how to advance the main storyline that drove him to reference a guide. The menus themselves aren’t too bad, although the developers could have definitely rectified some of the mentioned issues.

Cold Steel II picks up story-wise where its predecessor left off, and somewhat weaves an engaging yarn, although this reviewer largely lost interest in the plotline when characters referenced the War of the Lions, and the characters aren’t terribly memorable, in some instances interchangeable. The translation is definitely serviceable, although the localization team could have certainly picked an alternative name for the mentioned backstory conflict, and there seems no reason why anyone would think it natural for characters to apologize right before their deaths in combat, or use the word “scarcely” when “hardly” or simply “I don’t believe it” would have sufficed.

The audio is largely solid, with great music and voicework, although the aforementioned apology of characters when dying in battle is somewhat annoying.

The graphics also look nice, in spite of occasional imperfections such as blurry, pixilated texturing when the camera is close to things such as the ground.

Finally, the sequel is somewhat shorter than its predecessor, one to two days total in length, and things such as the post-game content can easily extend this intervention.

Overall, The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II is for the most part a solid sequel that hits many of the right notes with regards to elements such as its enjoyable tactical combat, the decent plot and localization, the solid audio, the nice graphics, and sizeable post-game content, although it does leave room for improvement regarding things such as the incessant button-pressing necessary to speed up battles, the occasional terrible direction on how to advance the primary plotline, other interface problems, the large and unmemorable cast, and a few visual impurities. Even so, those who enjoyed the first game will very likely enjoy the second, and fans can look forward to an eventual third entry.

The Good:
+Solid tactical combat system.
+Decent story and translation.
+Nice audio.
+Good graphics.
+Great post-game content.

The Bad:
-Constant button-mashing to skip battle animations.
-Sometimes terrible direction on how to advance.
-A few other interface issues.
-Characters and plot aren’t terribly memorable.
-Some graphical imperfections.

The Bottom Line:
A great sequel.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Game Mechanics: 9/10
Controls: 6/10
Story: 7/10
Localization: 8/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 8/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Adjustable
Playing Time: 1-2 Days

Overall: 8.5/10

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