Also available on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Switch, and Windows
Review written by Stephen Deck; originally published 06/20/2017 on Teacher by Day, Gamer by Night
This game is too god damn long. Like, don’t get me wrong, it was a great game, but it definitely wore out its welcome before it ended. I found myself screaming at my Vita “JUST END. STOP. STOP HAVING MORE GAME. JUST BE OVER.” Some folks may say “Just stop playing if you’re tired of the game.” Some folks have clearly never met me. It took 64 hours to finish this game. Granted, some of that was wandering around trying to find a quest person, some of that was grinding, some of that was getting lost, but still. 64 hours. That’s a long-ass game.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II is the second part of the Trails of Cold Steel tetralogy which is itself a sequel to the Trails in the Sky trilogy. Having not played Trails in the Sky yet because I’m an idiot and didn’t realize they were a thing, I’m not entirely sure how Trails of Cold Steel fits into that timeline, but the folks at Falcom do excel at world-building and establishing lore, so that trilogy is definitely on my “games to play at some point in relatively near future hopefully maybe if I’m lucky” list. Anyway, the game picks up almost exactly where Trails of Cold Steel left off. Well, where it left off from Rean’s perspective; a month has actually passed, but Rean’s been in a coma for that month, so it’s kind of a moot point.
In terms of visuals and gameplay, everything is almost exactly like the first Trails of Cold Steel. It really is a “the same but more” sequel, and that’s not really a bad thing. “The same” is fantastic; I just wish they had used a little bit less of the “and more” part. Whereas in the first game your chapters were divided up into different field study locations, this game has four main parts and a short part – “Act I,” the fairly short “Intermission,” “Act II,” “Finale,” and “We at Falcom Clearly Have No Idea What the Word ‘Finale’ Means.” Okay, so I made up the last title, but seriously, there’s an extra 10 hours of shit after the end of “Finale.” Despite the difficulties with words and the excessive length, however, the game honestly is quite good, and while the character development wasn’t quite as engaging as the first game since the characters have already been established, the actual plot itself feels much more substantial. The majority of the first game had a very “slice of life” feel up until the end in a lot of ways, but this one starts off in the middle of a civil war, so there’s a major conflict that the end of the first game gets you invested in.
One change that was made since the previous game that I did appreciate despite being a relatively minor thing is the ability about halfway through the game to use the horse or orbal bike on pretty much any highway in the game. That made traveling around a LOT faster, especially when you were backtracking for side quests. Now to balance that with a change I didn’t like so much is that it had you do a fair bit of backtracking. “Go to these towns.” A short while later, “Go to those towns again.” A bit after that, “Go back to those towns and find the nearby shrine.” “Guess where you need to again? Those towns!” Yeah, you were doing different shit, but whereas the first game had you spend a decent chunk of time in different towns, you finished that town and were done. You spend less time each visit, but they have you visiting the same places repeatedly. You probably end up spending about the same amount of time in each town as you did in the first game, but because of the way they went about structuring it, it feels a lot more repetitive than it needs to.
I know I’ve spent more time here focusing on things that irked me than things that I liked about the game, but The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II really is an exceptional JRPG and an extremely competent sequel. I don’t think it quite surpasses its predecessor, and the pacing could have used some work, but the gameplay itself is a blast, dungeons are fun to explore, and the combat system is fantastic. Truthfully, my only major complaint is the length. It’s not that 50-70 hours (depending on how much time you spend on side stuff) is too long for a game, but the game’s pacing has to keep me engaged and interested for that time, and some manage it. Unfortunately, this one lost me at about the 40-hour mark. If they’d condensed a few things, left about a few things that really didn’t need to be there and served no purpose except maybe setting up for the third game but in a way that won’t make sense until you play that game, or just kept the pacing a bit smoother and more even, the length would have been fine. It’s mainly the end, honestly; there’s an end, and then there’s a post-end chapter, and then there’s the epilogue, and then there’s the true final dungeon…It’s all good, but it just drags on and on. Even despite that, though, it’s a worthwhile game, and if you’ve played the first Trails of Cold Steel, you’re not going to be able to resist the need to play this one with how the first game ended. Trails of Cold Steel II is a good game and one that I’d recommend, but allow yourself to take breaks to keep from burning out as I did.