Also available on PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, and PlayStation Vita
Review written by Stephen Deck; originally published 03/04/2021 on Teacher by Day, Gamer by Night
Trails in the Sky (TitS, if you will) SC is the “second chapter” of the story (hence the name) that Trails in the Sky started, and it’s…well, it’s more Trails in the Sky. Sort of like how the transition of Trails of Cold Steel to Trails of Cold Steel II was, there is very little that distinguishes this game from the first game at a glance. There are, however, some differences that you start to notice as you progress through the game.
SC picks up exactly where the first game left off. I won’t give any spoilers, but Sad Thing A happens at the end of the first game, so at the start of this one, Sad Character B decides to do Preparatory Thing C to get ready to accomplish Goal D. I think that should be vague enough not to spoil it while giving a (very, very, very) vague idea of the game’s early plot. Then Sad Character B gets further wrapped up in trying to thwart Evil Conspiracy E and teams back up with most of the characters from the first game; suddenly a lot of seemingly unrelated plot threads start to come together into a single cohesive tapestry. The first two Cold Steel games are pretty similar in that regard. As such, SC isn’t NEARLY as slow-burning a game as the first one was. I got sucked into this one significantly faster than I did with the previous game.
Visually and aurally, SC is virtually identical to its predecessor. Even mechanically, they’re almost identical. The biggest changes are the introduction of Combo Crafts which use CP (the craft points you gain by taking and dealing damage) to let two characters team up to perform a powerful attack and better orbment abilities. You get a wider variety of quartz options for your orbment thus giving you more options for strategy and the potential for greater stat effects. It also seemed like the game was significantly more generous with experience points in SC but much stingier with sepith. That may have just been how it seemed since I played SC a bit differently than I did the first game given how much more used to the basic mechanics I was, but it definitely felt like I was leveling up significantly faster while also being perpetually out of sepith and unlocking orbment slots much more slowly.
It’s not just the positives and neutrals from the first that were largely carried over into SC; the negatives also carried over for the most part. The pacing didn’t feel as slow, and I didn’t find myself getting bored quite as often in the early parts of the game, but they seemingly doubled down on the bugs related to Turbo; I had to reload my most recent save file on four separate occasions during my playthrough of SC whereas I only had to do that once in the first game, and I finished SC faster. It wasn’t the end of the world since I learned my lesson about not saving frequently in the last game, but it was definitely an annoyance; if you’re going to add a feature into the game, make sure it works. This is especially true for a game that’s been out for over half a decade. The game released on PC worldwide in late 2015 (and in early 2006 in Japan); it’s now early 2021. That’s plenty of time for bug fixes. Fortunately, however, that was the only bug issue that I noticed during my playthrough. Everything else worked well and ran smoothly.
Trails in the Sky didn’t blow me away given its extremely dated presentation and visual style, but it’s definitely a fun game with a good story and a fantastic cast of characters. I definitely enjoyed my time with SC more than I did my time with the first Trails in the Sky, but that’s not to say that it didn’t have its slow points. Still, all things considered, I can readily recommend this to any JRPG fan with a PSP or PC (or a PS3 or PS Vita for those who speak and read Japanese). It doesn’t look great by today’s standards, and some of the gameplay elements feel a bit dated as well, but that doesn’t detract from enjoyment in the slightest. It would be great to get a remaster or even full remake of this game and its predecessor, but until that happens (in the extremely unlikely event that it does), this game is a fantastic way to spend 50 hours.