The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II (PS4) Review
Release Date: 6/4/2019
Publisher/Developer: Xseed Games/Nihon Falcom
Platform: PlayStation 4
Price: $49.99 "Relentless" physical edition, digital also available (will update price)
The Legend of Heroes has been a popular series for a long time, with Trails of Cold Steel taking off on the Vita and PS3. With the Vita sadly entering (or well into) it's twilight years, the Trails series is heading to PS4 with entries 3 and 4. In order to keep everyone up to date, Trails 1 and 2 have been rereleased on PS4. Will you be able to get through two super long epic RPGs before the third releases in November?
Much like Trails of Cold Steel 1, a physical release with a ton of goodies is available at $49.99. If the first release is anything like this, you'll be able to get the core digital game for about $10 less. These upgrades offer full 4K/60fps support, Japanese dual audio, and an additional 50% more added to the English voiceovers. Gamers will be able to use the Turbo mode as well, an excellent feature that doubles the speed on maps and can increase battle speed by a factor of four. Since the original release, games have focused less on that additional flair, and huge expanses of maze-like maps with the occasional enemy can be tedious. The Turbo Mode allows new and experienced gamers the chance to play the series at the speed they feel comfortable with. These remasters also come equipped with all of the DLC from the original editions.
ToCS2 again allows players to import previous saves from ToCS 1 or 2 via Cross-Save from Vita or PS3 (as well as direct import from ToCS 1's new edition of course). For those unfamiliar, ToCS is an absolutely direct series, with a story that picks up a month or so after the climactic events of ToCS 1. If you didn't finish the first game you will likely be confused as our hero is now lost and alone, frantically searching for the friends gained along the way in ToCS 1. Gamers who import a completed file from ToCS 1 will find a more personalized game, wherein characters remember your interactions and will tailor their conversations accordingly. This game can technically be played by itself, but you really need to know the story of ToCS 1 to appreciate it. Luckily, there is a backstory option in the menu that gives you a rundown on what happened previously. It takes about a half hour to get through and is well curated, but it isn't a replacement for playing number 1. I'm sure this mentality will stretch to ToCS 3 and 4 when they come out, so it's time to power through! At $39.99 these remasters are value priced and easily picked up for anyone who really wants to try out this excellent series.
Mild spoilers ahead for ToCS 1: Rean Schwarzer and his "Class VII" at Thors Military Academy were on the verge of victory after Rean bonded with a special mecha to fight someone he once thought his friend. For the most part, he fails and crash-lands in the mountains near his hometown without any idea of where his classmates are. The villains, old and new, aren't done yet, and have plans to continue their domination. Gameplay is pretty evenly split between well-done storyline/towns/cutscenes and battlefields. Battles play out similar to Final Fantasy X with a turn-based line. Powerful spells and abilities take time to charge and will effect the battle order. You also have to position your units and plan ahead for area affects or "link attacks" that allow particular characters to dole out a powerful team based attack.
Upgrades from ToCS 1 include the ability to augment equipment, orbment (think materia) and accessories with items found in battles. If you are stuck, you can not only level up in general, but collect items to make your equipment more powerful. It's a natural progression and feels right at home if you are coming from Trails 1.
Complaints in this game are very similar to Trails 1, in how your save gets stuck in the PS4 edition with no turning back to the Vita edition for travel, how it can be trope-y at times, and how (depending on how you look at it being a pro or con) you really have another game to play prior to this one to fully enjoy it. This really is a definitive edition of a classic series, and I'm looking forward to November when Trails 3 comes out and I can see what this series can really do when it's officially designed for a modern system.
-Everything from my ToCS 1 review: updated audio, turbo mode, and varied characters allowing for different battle styles
-New upgrade options make you really feel as if you are crafting your own characters and team
-A great combination of familiar characters and areas with fresh new faces and places
-Linking to your Trails of Cold Steel 1 save file allows characters to "remember" interactions
-Same as before: tropey at times and inability to take it with you on Vita if you have the previous version
-Of course, the Giant Robot you gain control of at the end of 1 is relegated to the back burner for the start of 2!
-This time I'll put it as a full "con:" the story is directly linked to the first game, so you will miss out if you don't play #1
Again, special thanks to XSeed and Nihon Falcom for providing a code for review! Here's to November and Trails of Cold Steel 3!