Reporter Pascal Tekaia had an opportunity to check out The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II over at XSEED's booth. In this detailed impression, he shares his findings.
Where should one start when talking about Trails of Cold Steel II? Simple, actually: One should start with the original Trails of Cold Steel! I use the term "original" loosely; after all, ToCS itself was far from the beginning of the series, and simply the start of an a new sub-series. ToCS II, is a direct sequel, picking up shortly after its predecessor ended, and the two games absolutely require being played in successive order. Clearly, the developers expect this, as within the first few minutes of starting Trails of Cold Steel II, the ending for the first part is thoroughly spoiled. After a long conversation with Brittany Avery, the game's North American Localization Producer, in which she did her best to bring me up to speed with the world of Trails, I finally walked away with a good sense of what players can expect from this upcoming RPG.
Though we're knee-deep in a new console generation, only the PlayStation 3 and Vita will be receiving this sequel, which will feature cross-save capability. This will be important for those players that have kept their save data, as tons of events big and small in the sequel can and will be directly affected by the choices made in the previous game. The story takes place in the country of Erebonia, which went through class-based political upheaval in the first game, to full-blown civil war in this installment. Players will still control the students of Class VII, a group of youngsters thrown together from all levels of society who stand against their nation's rampant class discrimination. The first game's cast returns, with some new (or at least newly playable) characters as well. Those familiar with the series' roots will already know about the turn-based combat, the Orbment system that lets you equip items called quartz to take advantage of stat boosts and special effects, and the game's fanatical attention to detail and lore — all of which I'm assured will continue to be present throughout the new game.
Changes and improvements players can look forward to primarily focus around the combat system. Over the course of the games (including the first one), pairs of characters can develop and strengthen a bond with one another. This pays off in combat, if they're linked together. The Link system lets characters perform special attacks, at times attacking in tandem, depending on how strong their bond with each other is. Stronger bonds lead to more powerful cooperative abilities. There's also the Overdrive system, which must be charged during battle prior to use. Once activated, it immediately gives the current character and the one they're linked with the next three attacks, including arts that would otherwise take longer to charge and cast, and restores the party's entire HP, EP, and CP pools. Quartz slots can now also be upgraded, allowing players to equip more powerful pieces of quartz into them. Finally, a selection of new, extremely powerful arts called Lost Arts will be introduced. Lost Arts not only take a full screen turn bar to charge and cast, but can only be used once per battle, to keep them from swinging the tide of battle too much in the player's favor. Casting a Lost Art also eats up the entirety of that character's EP, regardless of what their current EP is.
These changes to Trails of Cold Steel II's battle system should bring some welcome improvements to what has already proven itself to be a phenomenal predecessor. A release date has not yet been set in stone, however, so for now, we continue to play the waiting game.