Yes, I’m as amazed as you are: today we’re reviewing a PlayStation 3 game. Like the PS2 before it, ol’ Spider-Man Font just can’t be kept down. Solid games like last year’s The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel have kept it chugging along despite its ever-increasing age. It’s only appropriate, then, that we take a look at The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel 2, a direct sequel to the previous game that relies strongly on familiarity with the series.
Cold Steel 2’s gameplay hasn’t changed all that much from the original. You’re still throwing out Arts and Crafts like a summer camp counselor, so that should feel pretty familiar. Positioning is still important, though less so in this game where wide area-effect skills are more readily available early on than in the original Cold Steel. Much like the original game, you’re also not likely to be playing this one strictly for the combat or gameplay aspects anyway, so battle might end up feeling like a bit of a chore before too long. At no point does the game become especially difficult, though, so RPG vets shouldn’t have too many issues continuing through the story; this is a slight contrast from the first game, which had the odd difficulty spike here and there.
As for that story, we once again follow Rean and his Class VII classmates from Thors Military Academy as they’re enmeshed in the political turmoil of the Empire of Erebonia. While the original game owed a lot to the PS2-era Persona series, particularly its focus on life sim elements, this one is closer to something like Final Fantasy Type-Zero. Like that game, there’s more of a big-picture focus on the political and military conflicts that frame the story. You’ve also got a few new characters to use in battle, including the playable debut of class president and fan favorite Towa, so Cold Steel 2 certainly feels like a progression in many ways even if the gameplay hasn’t been changed up much.
Along with playing a lot like the first game, Cold Steel 2 looks and sounds a lot like it as well. That’s certainly not a complaint; the anime style continues to look great even though the games are running on less powerful hardware. One thing worth noting is that I played both games on PS3 where the game’s performance was generally pretty solid, but I’ve seen reports that the Vita versions have framerate issues, so keep that in mind when you’re considering which one to pick up.
To summarize, well, I’m left feeling like a review for this one is almost unnecessary. It’s like Tales of Xillia 2 or Final Fantasy XIII’s sequels: if you’ve played the original games and enjoyed them, then direct sequels like this are absolutely a must buy. This is certainly true for Trails of Cold Steel 2, since chances are you fell in love with the characters and world-building and would love to see more.
As for everyone else, well, it must be said: if you haven’t played the first game then you probably shouldn’t touch The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel 2. Aside from spoiling significant portions of Cold Steel 1 early on, 2 encourages a sense of familiarity with the characters and setting that you just won’t have if you’re new to the series. Diehard fans will probably consider this an Editor’s Choice, though first-time players should definitely find time for the first before heading into battle here.