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Eiyuu Densetsu: Sen no Kiseki II (The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II) (2014)

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The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II (2014) - recenzja gry - rascal.pl - Recenzja Gry - rascal.pl
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II (2014)

As a result of the Noble Alliance seizing Heimdallr, civil war erupted in Erebonia. The provincial armies, loyal to the aristocracy and the Four Great Houses, captured many major cities of the nation on behalf of the Noble Alliance. The Imperial Army has only just begun its counteroffensive.

After Rean managed to escape from Trista with Celine and Valimar, he awakens in the mountains near his hometown, uncertain of the fate of his friends who bravely put themselves in danger to allow his escape. Despite adversity and an incredibly difficult geopolitical situation, Rean decides to reunite Class VII and other students of Thors Military Academy once again.

Introduction

Firstly, I’d like to emphasize that I always use the original voices in foreign media. This holds true in this case as well. Whenever I mention voices and characterizations, I’m referring to the authentic Japanese voice, not some subpar English dubbing. The first thing I did right after starting the game was to dive into the options and tweak something that should have been set by default.

Eiyuu Densetsu: Sen no Kiseki, known in the West as The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel. That’s how I’ll refer to this game in the text (I’m a proponent of using original titles, but I’ve decided to use the Western title mainly for SEO purposes).

I’d like to point out that this is not a full review of the game. The vast majority of mechanics and characters remain the same as in the previous installment, so before reading this text, I suggest familiarizing yourself with the review of the first part. Here, I’ll focus almost exclusively on changes, improvements, and new mechanics, lightly touching on character development and world-building as well.

I’ll also mention that unlike most other JRPG game series where each subsequent installment is a separate story, in this case, it’s absolutely necessary to be familiar with previous parts, at least within one cycle. The Eiyuu Densetsu universe is not only Sen no Kiseki / Cold Steel.

The second installment allows for loading a save file from the previous game. However, this is only for receiving bonus items.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II (2014) - recenzja gry - rascal.pl - Recenzja Gry - rascal.pl

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II – Audiovisual Design

Video

In terms of visuals, there are practically no changes compared to the previous installment. After all, it’s the same engine that was optimized to run properly on the PS Vita, as both parts were originally developed for this console. It wasn’t until a few years later that versions for other devices were released.

The fact that Trails of Cold Steel II should run smoothly even on very old computers can be a significant advantage for some. However, it’s worth mentioning that the game still manages to be visually appealing in many aspects. The attack animations are executed phenomenally, with all the effects, flashes, and other tricks adding real dynamism that holds up even today. Similarly to the first part, though, facial expressions are somewhat lacking. However, one can get used to this fairly quickly.

Audio

In terms of voice acting, there haven’t been significant changes either. Unfortunately, most dialogues still lack voiceovers. However, those that do (key story scenes) more than compensate for the gaps. It’s worth noting a very subtle change – almost all characters sound a bit more mature. This is particularly noticeable in the voice of the main character. It’s a small detail, but it’s nice to see that even in such matters, the sense of the passage of time has been appropriately addressed.

My favorite character (Alisa Reinford) is voiced by a true legend – Horie Yui (by the way, one of my favorite voice actresses). Of course, the list doesn’t end there – the cast is truly stellar. Emma Millstein is voiced by Hayami Saori (another one of my favorite seiyuu). Misty is Tamura Yukari (yet another one). Towa Herschel is Ise Mariya (another veteran). Fie Claussell is Kanemoto Hisako (yet another one). Sharon Kruger is Yukana (yet another one). Millium Orion is Koiwai Kotori (yet another one). In fact, every name among the voice actors could be on someone’s list of favorites. I only mentioned the most important ones to me. It’s a brilliant cast.

The same goes for the soundtrack. Many motifs have changed, and a lot of new tracks have been added. However, some have been reused. The soundtrack undoubtedly remains a phenomenal aspect of this series. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to all the battle themes as well as many others.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II – Translation

For the translation of the second part of the game, XSEED was once again responsible. It’s certainly not their worst translation (many other translations under their wing, especially those released later, were simply awful). However, I wouldn’t be able to call it a good translation either. I’ve written more about this in the review of the first part. Unfortunately, the real atrocity begins with Trails of Cold Steel III, where the baton is passed to NISA. That’s why I’m seriously considering setting the subtitles to Japanese (although the scale of the world, the richness of the lore, and the entire topic of politics somewhat intimidates me). However, that’s not the topic of this post.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II – Plot and Characters

Introduction

The main difference between the first part and the sequel lies in a slight shift in narrative approach. In the first part, the emphasis was placed on maximizing acquaintance with the characters, their stories, issues, and backgrounds. Additionally, there was a relatively brief overview of the scale with which the entire world of the series was created. This built a strong foundation for the entire story and, above all, allowed for a strong bond with the characters. So much so that I simply couldn’t envision any other option than delving into the next part.

Setting and plot progression scheme of The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II

The beginning of Trails of Cold Steel II introduces a scene where Rean wakes up in the northern Eisengard mountain range, near his hometown. Valimar and Celine are by his side. From Celine, he learns that he was unconscious for over a month. Concerned about his friends, Rean decides to find his way home to contemplate his next steps. At the same time, Toval, accompanied by Rean’s younger sister, Elise, and Princess Alfin, set out to help him. Together, they escort him back to Ymir, his hometown, where they, along with his adopted parents, Teo and Lucia, brief him on the situation.

While Rean, Elise, and Toval check on Valimar’s condition in the canyon, they notice a hologram of the witch Vita Clotilde. They also hear gunfire coming from Ymir. Upon their return, they find mercenaries hired by Prince Albarea attacking the village. Rean witnesses one of the mercenaries fatally injuring his father, triggering a surge of power within him. Additionally, Altina Orion appears, kidnapping Elise and Alfin.

Celine reassures Rean, informing him that his friends are still alive but have been separated into three different groups. One is in Celdic, another in the Northern Highlands, and yet another near Legram. Rean decides to head to Celdic first, accompanied by Toval. Upon arrival, they find Machias, Elliot, and Fie there. Together, they set off towards the ruins of Garrelia Fortress.

Worldbuilding

Trails of Cold Steel II continues to develop the relationships between the characters, with many of them undergoing significant growth and a long journey of character development. Additionally, a considerable portion of the storyline focuses on elucidating the geopolitical situation. There’s also a strong emphasis on thoroughly understanding the game world. In contrast to its predecessor, where we explored individual cities, villages, and settlements as part of school field trips, here, at a certain point, we’re given the opportunity for almost unrestricted exploration.

We revisit familiar places but also venture into new locations. The change in how we navigate through the Erebonian Empire (which is only a fragment of the world of Eiyuu Densetsu) allows for a better grasp of the world’s scale. Personally, I haven’t fully connected all the dots yet. The entire lore and world crafted by the folks at Nihon Falcom may at times feel overwhelming, but it also instills a tremendous sense of admiration. My utmost respect to the creators.

Trails of Cold Steel II – Characters

Most of the characters we’ve undoubtedly already met in the first part (even if we didn’t do any side quests), at least the most important ones. Some of the supporting characters now play crucial roles in the storyline, such as Vita and Altina. It’s challenging to discuss character relationships and their roles in the plot without delving into unnecessary spoilers. Characterization is the most crucial aspect of Cold Steel (and most JRPGs), so it’s best experienced firsthand. I’ll just mention that several times, the creators surprised me so much that I was literally left speechless. Some cliffhangers (especially those at the end of the game) caught me completely off guard. Almost all the events we experienced in both parts were brilliantly concluded.

Combat system, gameplay mechanics of The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II

Wstęp

The gameplay has been subtly diversified in many areas with new mechanics and movement possibilities. However, most mechanics have remained largely unchanged from the first part of the game.

Courageous

One of the most significant changes is undoubtedly the addition of subtle nonlinearity. This was achieved by introducing the airship Courageous into the main storyline. It’s a cruiser developed under the supervision of Olivert Reise Arnor, inspired by and based on the Arseille belonging to the Royal Guard of Liberl. The Courageous is assigned to Class VII and other students from the Thors Military Academy. Towa Herschel is appointed as its captain. Once unlocked, it allows us to reach most places in Erebonia.

The ship is massive, to the extent that it’s divided into several floors. The topmost, the fifth floor, houses the captain’s bridge. This is the main control center, where the storyline is often pushed forward at crucial moments. Apart from the captain (Towa), there’s also a computer terminal for reporting progress in side quests and receiving other information.

The fourth floor features conference rooms and training facilities. Additionally, access can be gained to the royal suite, where Princess Alfin resides.

The third floor serves as a trading area, including a resting room where we can recuperate, replenishing our health and magic points.

On the second floor, there’s a mess hall with a kitchen, a clinic, a game room (where we can play Blade with other characters, deepening our relationships), a computer room, and a fortune-teller booth, with none other than the head of the school’s paranormal club, Beryl, in charge.

The ground floor provides access to the technical area, mainly overseen by George.

Battle Mechanics

Despite almost all combat mechanics being very similar, the entire system has been enriched with several functionalities, giving it a bit more depth and strategic planning possibilities. So, one could say we’re dealing with a subtle evolution here.

Quartz

Now players can upgrade Quartz to level 2. This mechanic doesn’t really enrich anything; it simply requires sacrificing Sepith to be able to use higher-level Quartz. I get the impression that this option was added just to show that there are some changes introduced in this area. However, an important and positive change is the addition of Lost Arts. They are contained within Quartz obtained by defeating mythical beasts (referred to as cryptids in English translation).

Lost Arts consist of spells cast using specific Quartz created during the Dark Ages, which are composed of many septium gems. Their immense power combines the strength of three different elements. Due to similarities in orbal wavelength, Lost Arts can be cast by inserting the corresponding Quartz into the ARCUS system. They are incredibly powerful, and using them often can tip the scales of victory. However, we can’t use them as we please. They consume tremendous amounts of energy, which in most cases means they can only be used once per battle. Additionally, they have an incredibly long casting time, extending up to 3 turns.

In this system, there’s also been some diversification. Now Combat Links aren’t just dependent on the level of friendship between characters and buffs. The option of Overdrive has been added. Anyone can activate it if they’re linked with Rean. The ability to activate it among the other students is unlocked only after opening blue chests on the map. These chests are unique because opening them initiates a battle, winning which adds a lot of points to the friendship between the characters (link). To make it not so easy, each chest we find can only be opened by specific characters that are together in the active party.

When the player and their partner are in Overdrive mode, they gain a significant advantage. Arts casting occurs instantly. This also applies to the aforementioned Lost Arts. Additionally, activation results in regaining some health points, energy points (EP), and skill points (CP). Overdrive lasts for 3 turns. Proper utilization of this mechanic is absolutely crucial in tougher battles, especially on higher difficulty levels.

Deus-Excellion

Also known by the unfortunately changed name in the Western version as Divine Knights, these are combat mechs known from the ancient legends of Erebonia. They were briefly introduced in the previous installment. Towards the end of the game, we even had the opportunity to engage in several battles with Rean as the pilot of Valimar. However, it’s only in the second part that they play an integral role in the combat system.

This happens in two ways. During battles, we have the option to summon Valimar (once per battle). The cost of this operation is 500 EP points, which is quite a lot. However, sometimes using this mechanic is crucial to winning a particular battle. Upon summoning, we gain control of Valimar, with access to two types of attacks: a regular strike and skills that utilize CP. Therefore, it’s worthwhile to have the CP gauge filled to an appropriate level before summoning our mech.

The second type of combat using Valimar is strictly defined battles related to the main storyline. In these cases, we can unleash the full potential of Deus-Excellion, exactly following the rules of engagement as seen at the end of the first part.

Other things

At the end of the game, the developers treated us to a rather short chapter as part of the epilogue, where we take control of a pair from the Crossbell resistance movement, consisting of the beautiful Rixia Mao and her partner Lloyd. I’m not sure of the specific purpose of showcasing these characters and giving us control over them (Rixia was introduced in Zero no Kiseki, known in the West as Trails from Zero, which of course belongs to the world of Eiyuu Densetsu). In any case, Rixia displayed her charms, so there’s nothing to complain about. Especially since this short dungeon, which presents the interior of the Geofront, is quite interesting.

Similarly to the previous installment, we have the opportunity to develop a romance with the heroines. However, there comes a moment when we must clearly define who will be our chosen one (this is also conditioned by the level of relationship). My choice consistently fell on Alisa.

Evaluation and Summary

Eiyuu Densetsu: Sen no Kiseki II, or The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II, is indeed a worthy sequel. I undeniably enjoyed the first part slightly more. Why? Because in terms of characterization, it stands as one of the most outstanding representatives of the broader concept of art I’ve encountered. However, a slight change in narration was necessary to propel the story forward and acquaint players with the region and issues of the Erebonian Kingdom.

In conclusion, if someone has completed the first part, they will surely reach for the subsequent installments of this series sooner or later. At this stage of the story, I consider it one of the most important JRPG series that every fan of Japanese audiovisual art should explore. The review of the next installment will be written in a similar manner. Once I complete the entire Sen no Kiseki / Trails of Cold Steel arc, I’ll definitely write a retrospective piece. I assume there will truly be much to write about. In summary, I wholeheartedly recommend it.

Finalny werdykt

Final evaluation

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