The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II (PS4) Review

A few weeks ago I finally got around to completing my second playthrough, and review, for The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel on the PS4 – one of the best JRPGs I’ve played in a while on the system. Eager to continue the story and find our what happens to Class VII post-events within that game, I immediately booted up The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II and continued my adventure. Whereas I spent over 130 hours on the original game, the sequel only took me just shy of 90 hours in order to complete two playthroughs and obtain all but two trophies, with a third (and final) playthrough currently in progress for completion.

For those new to the series, I’d recommend picking up the first game and playing it before this one, but for those who like to be unconventional and do things out of order, the game has an extensive catch-up section on the main menu which will update you on everything that happened in the previous game. From here on, I’ll presume you know about the first game and have seen the ending – if you haven’t, skip the next block of text until we get to the ‘Gameplay’ section as there will be spoilers…

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Why am I waking up next to a small child?

The story continues directly from the events we saw in The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel, Class VII have jumped in to help you out during the final fight and Valimar has flown away with Rean still inside in an effort to protect him from being fatally injured. After a short period of amnesia (thank god it’s a short-term thing as I honestly thought the game was going to be based around you recovering your memory), you realise that you’ve been transported to your home town of Ymir. After catching up with a few familiar faces from the first game, a tragedy occurs which changes Reans world – a surprise attack and kidnapping. Fueled by anger and revenge, Rean is determined to seek out those responsible and bring them to justice, but he can’t do this on his own…

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It’s been a few months since Thors Military Academy was overrun by the Nobles during the final events of the first game, and your fellow classmates have somehow managed to escape the town and scattered themselves throughout the land in hopes of finding Rean and resolving the war between the factions. By utilising Valimars teleportation ability, you must now set out on an action-packed adventure to reunite not only the students from Class VII but also various supporters and colleagues, such as Sara and Towa, in hopes of working together to bring peace to the land once more. 

Keeping things nice and simple, The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II is presented in only two main chapters – chapter one is all about reuniting with the others whilst resolving their personal agendas as you go, and the second chapter is all about tracking down those responsible for the opening events and finding those who were kidnapped. However, despite the game being shorter than the first game (taking me around half the time as the first one did to complete), The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II actually seems bigger in terms of locations and gameplay mechanics – so don’t let the length put you off, there’s still plenty of content to sink your teeth into!

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A Map! With returnable locations!

Gameplay
As you’d expect, the vast majority of the game is almost identical to the original The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel, so for an overview of the basic mechanics, I’d recommend you check out my previous in-depth review HERE. We see the return of the ATB-style combat, the Friend, Combat and Recipe lists, Bonding events (which are limited and alter the ending), and other various core-mechanics. You even unlock new events and receive bonus items if you import a ‘completed’ save file from the first game, what you receive is based upon how well you performed in the first title. However, there are a few changes and new additions for you to experience in this superior sequel; let’s start with the world…

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The World
Just like last time, Nihon Falcom has created a beautiful world for us to play in, albeit full of destruction and pain. What I loved was the nostalgic feelings and sense of deja vu I had whilst playing through the game as the vast majority of the places you visit are taken directly from the first game. I don’t mean copied or remade, I mean they are literally the same models but imported into this second game – as such, I knew exactly where everything was as I began exploring the world. As well as all of the key locations returning, we also get access to a bunch of new locations and a wide variety of brand new creatures to slaughter.

One massive change within The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II has to be the way the game progresses. There’s still a daily countdown, ala Persona style, but you’re not spending your day in the Academy helping out the Student Council or off on Field Trips helping out the locals, you’re moving from location to location searching for your team whilst performing tasks in a similar way we did in the previous Field Trips. As such, the game begins in a liner format during its first chapter, yet it opens up into a Final Fantasy VII-style open world once you enter the second. You can easily travel to any of the available cities, highways, buildings, and waypoints, with more being unlocked as you progress through the sub-chapters of the main chapter. 

This ultimately means the tedious task of ensuring you have collected all of the treasure chests in a single playthrough for the trophy is much less of one, as you can now return to the majority of places you’ve visited – unlike the first game. As such, I managed to actually get this trophy on my second playthrough with no issues at all. Also, there is a new set of chests for you to collect – bonding chests. If you have the required members with you (you can now easily swap between active members this time around) then you can engage in special chest-monster battles in order to increase your bond and learn new a new ‘Overdrive’ ability where you and your partner attack three times with no interruptions. 

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Just your usual giant rodent with a massive apple…

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Combat
Things have ramped up since the previous release, with the first difference being your starting level. As the game is a direct sequel it does something clever – instead of making all your characters drop to level 1, your initial characters begin at level 40 and subsequent people you pick up are all scaled accordingly at higher levels based upon where you’re at in the story. This may only seem like a small change but it made the transition from one game to the next feel a lot more natural and realistic. The S-attacks and Combat Arts you gain within this game are also more advanced than we saw previously, with a secondary S-Attack becoming available to you once you’ve levelled up enough.

A big new addition to the combat comes in the form of Valimar. Sure, we had control of this giant robotic knight for a few battles in the first game, but in The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II we get to use him a lot of times in various fights – kinda like the Power Rangers and their Megazord. Every now and again you’ll summon him and engage in a giant game of Rock Paper Scissors as you aim for the head, body or arms of the enemy based upon their stance. You can also swap the companion you have helping you out while within this mode, changing what attacks and support you have when you reach 100cp. A welcome addition is the ability to summon him during normal fights, ala a final fantasy summon. He’ll only last for three rounds, but having him take over is a useful mechanic.

Finally, whereas the original game had you restricted to the students of Class VII and a few other guests at key points in the story, The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II goes all ‘Super Smash Bros Ultimate’ with its roster. Everyone is here! I think there were around 18 characters you could pick between as they alternated based on where you are within the story – until the final portion of the game where you have access to every single character you’ve ever worked alongside. Not only that, you can ‘purchase’ five extra characters to control via buying an accessory with in-game credits and giving it to a male or female character. This gives you control over an enemy as a companion, along with all their Arts and Skills.

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Cool Boarders…

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Shall we play a game?
Just like every other Nihon Falcom game, there are mini-games for you to get involved with if you wish to increase your bonds with various people or obtain rare gems. The first of which is a return of a game I praised in both my previous review and my Tokyo Xanadu eX+ review – Blade. Whereas this was freely available in the arcade in Tokyo Xanadu eX+, it was only playable at certain points in The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel. However, in The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II you can go to the ‘Games room’ aboard your ship at any point in the second chapter and play it as much as you want. Sure, you only get experience the first five times you play it, but that’s not the point – you can play it as much as you want now! I spent a very long time in this room…

The fishing has returned as well, performing exactly the same as it did previously. 

A new addition to the mini-game family is Snowboarding. It’s basically the Skateboarding mini-game from Tokyo Xanadu eX+ but you’re going down ice instead of around a track. It also reminded me a lot of the same game within Final Fantasy VII. You have to try to get to the finish line within a set time whilst also collecting a certain number of flags in order to win the item or gem reward. However, should you suck at the game, or you just want the reward without trying too hard, you can turn on easy mode and remove the time limit and lower the required number of flags. I’m not going to lie – I had to do this a few times as it was frustrating me. 

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Join us…

The Remaster
The work performed on this remaster is almost identical to the previous game (as you’ll see a lot of similarities below). The main issue I had was with the performance. For a remaster of a PS3/Vita game, I wasn’t expecting any performance issues yet smoke-filled areas hit my PS4 Pro hard as frames were being dropped and slowdown began. Thankfully there are only a few areas where this happened, and they aren’t too long, but it’s something to be aware of.

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Also, I was slightly disappointed that the first game had no new content or epilogue story (although it made sense to not have one), but The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II actually does have a prologue which lasts around five hours or so, introducing us to new characters and possibly a setup for the next game. However, this wasn’t added for the remaster, it was also present in the PS3 and Vita versions – which is why all these games can still share the same save file. 

These are the obvious enhancements:
• The PS4 Pro runs at 4k and the PS4 runs at 1080p.
• Both versions run at 60fps now – Although there are some performance issues in areas with smoke as my Pro suffered a number of frame drops.
• There’s a new ‘turbo mode’ which allows you to speed up time both in and out of battles (this is an amazing feature!)
• PS3 and PS Vita Cross-Save. That’s right, you can actually import the save files from these two consoles and continue playing on your PS4. The downside – there’s no new trophy list. So, you can’t import and then play through for a new platinum, you’ll just be working towards the same one you had previously. Thus, if you’ve already got the platinum, you’ll be unlocking no new trophies – as we saw with Dragon’s Crown Pro. Although, there is a separate list for both EU and NA – so you could double up, triple if you include the Japanese version!
• Over 100 pieces of DLC are included within the base game. These are mostly cosmetic.
• You can import your cleared save file from the first game in order to obtain some bonuses.
• As well as the obvious texture upgrades for the higher resolutions, it appears some of the other visual effects, such as draw distances and LoDs, may have also been enhanced.
• Dual Audio – you can swap between the English dub or Japanese original at any point – with the English dialogue containing over 5,000 additional lines

Basically, the game is identical on all three formats (bar the DLC which you had to pay for previously) as if it wasn’t, Cross-Saves wouldn’t work. Personally, I would have loved it if the game didn’t support Cross-Saves and instead, had new additional content and a new platinum – as I would have bought both the PS4 and the last-gen versions. However, the publisher and developer decided not to do that this time. 

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Cheer up? How? I’m feeling a little clown…

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The Grind
Unlike the first game, The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II isn’t that bad in terms of aiming for the platinum. Sure, we have grindy trophies for scanning every single enemy, opening all the chests on one playthrough, making all the food, performing a certain number of combo attacks, and completing the infamous friendship diary, but this time it felt easier to complete. As such, I actually completed everything on my second playthrough, having to only resort to a guide to ensure I got all the friendship notes due to their limited window of opportunity. 

There’s still no counter on the number of chests you’ve opened (which I hope the third game actually has), but with the ability to go back and forth to places you’ve visited previously, I didn’t have an issue ensuring I opened everything this time around. 

There are a number of trophies which all relate to the various endings you can achieve within the game, as usual, but these were much easier to obtain than the previous game as well. The criteria was much easier to meet and there was only one character ending I missed, due to only having control of them for a short period, so I’m 100% sure I’ll grab it on my third – and final – playthrough. 

I personally enjoyed playing this game more than the first one thanks to the more compressed and action-packed story along with the advanced and evolved mechanics over the previous game. At around 90 hours to finish my second playthrough, I’d say the grind isn’t really here, it was enjoyable and it never felt like a chore. I was having fun all the way up until the second time I saw the credits.

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Official Trailer:

Final Conclusion:
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II is the perfect way to deliver a sequel to an amazing game, it takes what was great about the first title and expands various aspects whilst adding in new mechanics in order to further enhance your experience. It has an extensive explanation on what happened in the first game but I’d highly recommend you play that first and then this one in order to get the full story and live the journey for yourself. From the addition of new attacks, giant mech battles within Valimar, a map-based exploration system, and evolved skills, everything is what you’d expect from a Nihon Falcom JRPG – it’s an amazing game and stands up today despite the fact it originated as a last-gen title. 

I stated in my last review that The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel was one of my favourite JRPGs on the PlayStation 4. It still is but its sequel had me hooked quicker and left me wishing it was September so I could continue the story! Once again, fans of Persona, Tokyo Xanadu eX+, Ys VIII or any other modern traditional JRPG, need to pick up both The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II and its prequel and add them to their collection today.

I’ve also reviewed the incredible Trails of Cold Steel III HERE.

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A copy of the game was kindly provided for review purposes

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II

£34.99
9.2

Final Score

9.2/10

The Good:

  • - Great voice acting and music throughout
  • - A more compressed story but full of action and adventure
  • - Lets you travel to most previously visited locations in the latter half of the game
  • - Lots of side missions and hidden quests to find and work through
  • - Very interesting new mechanics and abilities to play with

The Bad:

  • - Framerate and performance issues when in smoke-heavy locations
  • - No new features or gameplay over the original versions of the game
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