It pains me to be writing such heresy but Trails of Cold Steel 2 is not a very good game. It’s certainly the weakest of 6 Kiseki games I’ve played and unlikely I’ll want to give it another shot any time soon. The pacing, plot, dialogues — sadly everything is below average.
A regular reminder that I’m a pervert and have been playing this saga out of order. Soo… the way Cold Steel II is structured is immediately recognizable by anyone who played the last game of the arc. First we’re looking for friends and allies, then there’s a huge “open-world”-like chapter with a ship as the home base. I didn’t especially enjoy this structure when I was playing CS IV, so take a guess what I was thinking during my CS II playthrough, considering that the last game, being the same under the hood, improved on a lot of things. CS II doesn’t have anything close to the night before the final battle in Mishelam Wonderland, it doesn’t have insane Rean, even the liberation of Trista, which was supposed to be a powerful and inspirational moment doesn’t live up to the scene in CS IV when we get to see Leeves again. Even the most boring Trails games still have moments I’m going to remember for a long time but I have virtually nothing after having finished this one. Oh well, at least Altina is as cute as ever.
Not only the structure and pacing are meh, the plot is not aiming for the stars either. The Chancellor is “dead”, the Noble Alliance and the Imperial Army are at war, Elise and Alfin are kidnapped and Rean with his friends basically go on one very long rescue mission, simultaneously crashing those pesky nobles. Yah, Class VII is declaring every 20 minutes that they’re going to be neutral, that they’re going to be the third force, only to side with Osborne on every step. So much for being an additional side in the conflict. I have to admit though that the epilogue is really, really good. Rean, who’s become The Ashen Chevalier, finally has to participate in actual military operations and what can be more depressing than basically work for people you hate? Then there’s a brief, a little awkward but heartful, reunion with his classmates and, finally, they have to say goodbye to each other, walking away from Thors and trying to find their own paths in life. The ending felt bittersweet, honey and clover-ish, despite the fact that I knew that they all would meet again in CS III =)
However, the epilogue is probably the only things about Cold Steel II story I genuinely enjoyed. Continuing the whipping of the game I have to say that even the dialogues, something that I’d never thought Falcom could fuck up, were bad. Few conversations were interesting to follow, few comments were smart, half of the time I had to read various inspirational speeches about friendship, comradery and that people could be an unstoppable force if they’re working together. “We can do it as Class VII!” The same goes to character development or, I should say, the lack of thereof. This is definitely not the biggest issue because the characters themselves are fine the way they are, but it would be nice if they matured a bit throughout the game. There’s one annoying moment regarding one specific character though. We’re supposed to care about Crow, his death should be another punch in the nuts for Rean — but c’mon! He was someone I never even thought of spending time with in CS I, the backstory about his granddad, explaining how Crow came to hate the Chancellor, belongs to “oh, interesting. Anyway, speaking about Altina…” category and considering that I had already known the “unexpected” twist with his death and resurrection in the next game — it’s easy to see why I had to sign every time another character would start mumbling something about missing “our friend and classmate”. Crow wasn’t a good playable character and he definitely is not a great antagonist.
Again and again I have to praise the decision to begin my Erebonian journey with CS III. CS II is a pretty average JRPG with great combat system (which Trails game doesn’t have it?) but lacking in all other departments. It’s totally possible that I would’ve stopped playing this series after this disappointment and, thus, missed out on the next, brilliant, chapter of the saga. Now it seems that I’m taking a break from Kiseki games until Trails from Zero, which is coming out this fall. I am genuinely looking forward to playing it — I already have a couple of characters I like there (Tio and Randy) and will be more than happy to spend another hundred or two hours with them =)