Ever since playing the first title in the "Legend of Heroes" series all the way back in 2011, other traditional RPGs have been ruined for me in more than a couple of ways. Starting with The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky, developer Nihon-Falcom has crafted a shared universe of games that contains more depth to its world than practically any other RPG I've played. Throughout seven titles (eight, counting one spin-off that takes place many, many years after the events of the primary series) the company has crafted an inter-connected story, where events from every title has either a subtle or not-so-subtle impact on the politics of the Zemurian continent - the series' world.
I could go on and on about the various plot points and subplot points that have persisted through the franchise's various entries, but doing so would probably take longer to describe than how long it would take for me to actually finish playing the latest localized title in the series - The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II - for review.
Trails of Cold Steel II - or just Cold Steel II, as I'll refer to it by - is (naturally) the sequel to last year's release, The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel. It was the start of the story arc that encompasses "The Legend of Heroes VIII", and is the 3rd arc in the "Trails" series of Legend of Heroes titles. Much like I discussed with localization specialist Brittany Avery (otherwise known as "Hatsuu" online), any of the Trails' series three arcs can be a starting point for the players jumping in, although once someone has started an arc, it's highly recommended to play their chosen arc's titles in order of release.
It might seem like I'm taking a while to getting to talk about the actual title, but what I just said is very important. Although The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II includes a small summary of the events in Trails of Cold Steel, it's very highly recommended that players play through the first title before even thinking of touching this one. For one, the first ten seconds of Trails of Cold Steel II spoils the ending to Trails of Cold Steel, meaning that if you did decide to play in the wrong order, the emotional impact of the first title's ending will be lost. Second, you'll end up incredibly confused regarding some of the things that characters already expect you to know. It's bad enough that this game's plot constantly brings up events from a Japanese-exclusive "drama CD" that was included with the first game in Japan. Thankfully, XSEED has text translation for that CD's contents uploaded to the game's website.
As hard as I'm trying to think of some way to explain Cold Steel II's story without spoiling the first title, I'm fairly certain it's an exercise in futility. For players that have already played the first title, you probably already know you'll want to check Cold Steel II out. For them, all I can say is that it doesn't seem to disappoint, as far as I've managed to play. Much like the jump from The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky to Trails in the Sky Second Chapter, the game expects you to have played the first title, and as such, the game's difficulty starts at a higher level than in Trails of Cold Steel.
A few new toys are at players disposal - you can upgrade your Orbments slots, and players now have access to the "Overdrive" feature, which allows players to attack three times in a row, while healing/recharging their paired characters. Additionally, remember that last battle in Trails of Cold Steel, that I'm trying really hard not to spoil? You know, the one with "C"? Those battles return with a bunch more depth to them, too. A variety of characters from the first game get their chance to be playable for the first time, leaving players with not only many different options for combat but also a variety of different reactions that players might notice between characters throughout the story. Again, it's really hard to explain without spoiling the heck out of something, which would be horrible for a series that is so well known for its overarching story.
There are a bunch of new features here, both small and large. The game seems to be the overall follow-up that players expected after finishing their first trek in Erebonia last year. For those of you that haven't tried Trails of Cold Steel yet, if you're up for a text-heavy JRPG, definitely try and pick it up. For players that have already anticipated the continuation of their adventure as Class VII, rest assured that the title will live up to your hopes. Look forward to our full review for the title, coming soon.