NIS America really treats JRPG fans in the west and PlayStation Vita owners well on a regular basis, releasing a large number niche Japanese games. Many of which are of mixed production quality levels, of which past years The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel was at the higher end, in both Vita JRPG production quality and general game quality. Now the sequel The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II has been brought to the west and while it is not quite what the first game was, it is still fantastic.
If you have not played the first Trails of Cold Steel, I highly recommend starting there. Trails of Cold Steel II has a great summary that you can read which takes you through the overarching story from the first game which actually does a great job, but does not cover the nuances in the character relationships and personalities. It makes a great refresher if it has been a while since you played the game and it is certainly much better than nothing if you want to start here.
Trails of Cold Steel II picks up pretty much straight after the final battle of the last game as Rean is recovering mentally and physically from those events. Having to ditch The Ashen Knight, Rean makes his way home to recover before soon being chased by the Magic Knight Ortheim. I do not want to spoil the story as it is a very good continuation of the first games story as the characters have left the bubble of being in a class and adjusting to the full extent of the war, setting up for what should hopefully be a fantastic third part in the trilogy.
The games style has not changed much from the first entry in the series. This is where Trials of Cold Steel II sits on a line as it looks OK for a home console game, but fantastic for a Vita game. The voice acting is solid for a JRPG and with the bulk of it being voice acted it makes for great engagement with the story.
Gameplay has not changed much either which is not a bad thing. There are classic turn based battles, links used to build up combo attacks upon random critical hits and lots of running around which gets drastically reduced when you get the ability to ride things later on. One minor gripe I have with the battles is the invisible grid. Your character needs to be within its attacks range and if not the character will move. You have the option to use moving instead of attacking in a turn and if you attack an enemy outside of the invisible movement field it will just move to the edge and do nothing. I would prefer the game advise that you cannot attack or place a circle to show your range or something. It is a minor gripe I got over, but it is there none the less.
One change are the knight mechanical fights. From the finale of the first game they have become a lot more regular in the sequel. This operates relatively the same as a normal battle but using a paper scissor rock method you need to hit the weak spots of the opposing mech.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II is a great part two in a three-part story. It does justice to the change of environment for the characters as they are outside of the classroom. At times the game felt stretched but this feed to the build-up the ending preparing for part three. If you can I highly recommend playing part one first to make elements of the story and characters relationships make sense. It is not necessary but highly recommended as this game is a treat, but should be enjoyed as the great part two it is.
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Released: November 2016
Platforms: PlayStation Vita
Developer: NIS America
Publisher: NIS America