The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II review for PS Vita, PS3

Platform: PS Vita
Also On: PS3
Publisher: XSEED Games
Developer: Falcom
Medium: Digital/Disc/Vita Card
Players: 1
Online: No

It’s not uncommon for sequels to simply seem like expanded versions of their predecessors. There’s a certain kind of sense to the process that leads to same-feeling sequels, too: after all, if it worked the first time, why mess with success?

It’s clear right from the get-go that The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II doesn’t quite see things that way. It’s a JRPG like the first Trails of Cold Steel, true, but that’s where the similarities end. Trails of Cold Steel II is a much more ambitious game: whereas the first mostly concerned itself with the day-to-day rhythms of a group of kids in school, and only opened up its scope near the end, this time out the game finds those same protagonists scattered around the country, dealing with the impacts of war and industrialization (and, of course, giant robots). Given those parameters, it would seem like a step back for the game to deliver more of the same, and thankfully, developers Falcom realized that.

With a larger scale, of course, there’s also the danger of bloat — but I’m happy to report that Trails of Cold Steel II doesn’t suffer from that. Or, at least, it doesn’t suffer from that any more than your typical JRPG. There are still lots of long-winded, exposition-heavy conversations, but given the genre’s conventions and the fact there’s a lot of information to convey — particularly in the early going — it’s hard to begrudge the game too much for that.

(Wisely, the game also offers players the option of reviewing a recap of the first game’s events. It’s undeniably lengthy, but it goes a long way towards ensuring that not having played the first game is no barrier to entry here.)

It helps that the action is pretty enjoyable. The first game knew how to mix its battles up and make it so that you got a decent amount of variety in both your enemies and your party’s fighting styles, and Trails of Cold Steel II doesn’t stray too far from this formula. You still have plenty of enemies, and you still have a nice diversity of combat options within your party, and much like the first game, the turn-based battles here still run pretty smoothly.

Credit to Falcom, then, for knowing what to keep from the first Trails of Cold Steel. Even more credit, though, for delivering Trails of Cold Steel II: a sequel that actually feels necessary, and one that expands on the first game in all the right ways.

Grade: A