The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II Articles RSS Feed | The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II RSS Feed on en Launch Media Network PlayStation Store Hosting Golden Week Big in Japan Sale Fri, 24 Apr 2020 11:40:19 -0400 Josh Broadwell

We had one PlayStation Big in Japan sale earlier this year, and we're getting a second Big in Japan sale now, coinciding with Japan's national Golden Week holiday. There's a huge list of games on sale, ranging from hits like Devil May Cry 5 and Final Fantasy 12: The Zodiac Age to more niche titles like the (very good) Atelier Dusk Trilogy and the first two Trails of Cold Steel games.

The second Big in Japan sale goes live today and runs through May 8 at 11 a.m. EST/8 a.m. PST. Here's a taste of what's on offer.

Game Sales Price Original Price
Atelier Dusk Trilogy Deluxe Pack
 $71.99 $89.99
Castlevania Anniversary Collection
 $8.99  $19.99
Catherine Full Body
 $29.99  $59.99
Danganronpa 1+2 Reload  $19.99  $39.99
Dark Souls Remastered
 $23.99  $39.99
Devil May Cry 5 Deluxe Edition
 $24.99  $49.99
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth — Hacker's Memory
 $14.99 $59.99
Dragon Quest Builders 2  $35.99  $59.99
Dragon Quest 11 — Digital Edition of Light
 $29.99  $59.99
Earth Defense Force 5
$35.99  $59.99
Final Fantasy 8 Remastered
 $9.99  $19.99
Final Fantasy 12: The Zodiac Age
 $24.99  $49.99
God Eater 3
 $23.99 $59.99
Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life Special Edition
 $7.49  $14.99
Lost Sphear
 $19.99  $49.99
Judgement $29.99  $59.99
Monster Hunter World: Iceborne Master Edition DD
 $46.89  $69.99
Okami HD
 $9.99  $19.99
Persona Dancing: Endless Night Collection
$21.99  $54.99
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy
 $14.99  $29.99
Resident Evil 2 Deluxe Edition
 $22.99  $49.99
Saga Scarlet Grace: Ambitions
 $22.49  $29.99
Star Ocean: First Departure R  $14.69  $20.99
Tales of Berseria
 $14.99 $59.99
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel
 $23.99  $39.99
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II  $27.99  $39.99
The Yakuza Remastered Collection
 $44.99  $59.99
Tokyo Xanadu eX+
 $11.99  $59.99
Valkyria Chronicles Remastered + Valkyria
Chronicles 4 bundle
 $17.99  $39.99
Yakuza Kiwami 2
 $20.09  $29.99


There's a ton more included in the latest Big in Japan sale, and you can check out the full list on the PlayStation Blog.

Meanwhile, don't forget Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection and Journey are still free to download for a little while longer, and you can round off Drake's story in Uncharted 4 with this month's free PS Plus games too.

Stay tuned to GameSkinny for more game sales and deals news as it develops.

Trails of Cold Steel Romance and Bonding Guide Sun, 31 Mar 2019 12:34:21 -0400 Josh Broadwell

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel inundates you with a lot of information in the opening hours about a variety of different gameplay systems. It offers an overview of the bonding system, but leaves the romance aspect of bonding basically untouched, to say nothing of the vagaries related to how your choices affect the sequel.

That's what this guide is for. It gives advice on how to spend Bonding Points and how those bonding points eventually lead to a romantic relationship for Rean, plus what that means for Trails of Cold Steel II.

Be aware that the guide contains some slight spoilers about characters who join your party about mid-way through the game.

If you've stumbled on this guide while looking for games with romance and aren't sure what's going on, check out our overview of the entire Trails series.

Romance in Trails of Cold Steel

Romance is tied to your link levels, which advance based on a variety of factors. The activity that increases Link experience the most is choosing to use your Bonding Points on your free days with a specific character. Bonding events for Class VII characters grant you 500 Link XP for whichever character you choose to spend time with.

Note that spending Bond Points on Towa, Instructor Sara, and — for the first few chapters — Crow is the only way to increase your Link levels with them.

However, you can also gain a bit of Link EXP for the Class VII members you take with you during your monthly explorations of the Old Schoolhouse, and everyone in your group gains Link EXP at the end of a field study.

Is There A Canon Relationship?

Unlike earlier the Trails in the Sky games and the Crossbell duology, the Cold Steel games don't have canon pairings. Alisa is pushed as Rean's main love interest, though the game allows you to ignore that if you desire.

Entering into a romantic relationship with one of Rean's classmates or a Link-able NPC (like Towa) requires maxing out their Link Level by raising it to 5. Note that the Cold Steel games treat Rean's relationships with his male classmates as close friendships, though that hasn't stopped the fan community from shipping him with, well, everyone.

Here are the characters Rean can enter into a romantic relationship with:

  • Alisa Reinford
  • Emma Millstein
  • Laura Arseid
  • Fie Claussel
  • Millium Orion
  • Towa Herschel
  • Instructor Sara Valestein

Rean's relationships with Millium and Instructor Sara don't necessarily count as romantic in the same way as the relationships with the other female classmates, given their respective ages.

Trails of Cold Steel Final Bonding Event

For the most part, maxing out a character's Link Level doesn't really change the game. You find out more about that character's past, personality, and motivations, but the big difference doesn't come until the Thors Military Academy Festival towards the end of the game.

During the Festival, Rean gets the option to spend time with his friends. Should you choose to do so with one of the love interests, it triggers a special, final bonding scene and dance with that character. You only get to choose one partner to dance with.

Rean's male classmates get a special final bonding scene as well that, while not romantic, expands their characters quite a bit.

The easiest way to trigger these scenes is, of course, to max out Link Levels. But it's not the only way

Here are the Link EXP and additional requirements for each character's final bonding scene:

Alisa, Emma, Machias, Jusis, Elliot, Laura, and Fie

  • Link EXP: 5250

Or do one of the following:

  • Spend time during Chapter 6's Free Day
  • Ask to accompany you to Heimdallr to collect the Stage Costume (Bike Ride event)
  • Use at least 2 tickets on the character during the Festival

Millium and Crow

  • Link EXP: 3500 or more

Or do one of the following:

  • Spend time during Chapter 6's Free Day
  • Ask to accompany you to Heimdallr to collect the Stage Costume (Bike Ride event). Crow will go with you if you choose to go alone
  • Use at least 2 tickets on the character during the Festival

Instructor Sara

  • Link EXP: 4400 or more

Or do one of the following:

  • Spend time with her during Free Day in Chapter 6
  • Use at least 2 tickets on Military Academy Festival Day


  • Link EXP: 2000 or more. You can't actually see your Link Level with Towa, so the other conditions might be easier to keep track of

Or do one of the following:

  • Spend time with her during Free Day in Chapter 5 (Towa isn't available during Chapter 6)
  • Use at least 2 tickets on Military Academy Festival Day

Do Bonding Levels and Romance Transfer to Cold Steel II?

The short answer to this is yes and no. Trails of Cold Steel was designed similarly to the Ys games, where the protagonist's love interests are up to the player. As such, you're free to choose a completely different romance interest in Cold Steel II.

Link Levels start at a pre-set level in Cold Steel II. However, the person you chose to dance with during the Festival does get a Link EXP boost in CSII should you transfer your save data.

The biggest carryover is at the sequel's start, though, in a series of special flashback scenes.

You get to view a special scene that is meant to have taken place at the first Cold Steel's end between Rean and one of his friends. There is some misconception around that the scene is dependent on who you choose to dance with, but that isn't true.

Instead, you see scenes between Rean and each character he could have danced with, even if he didn't. So, say you choose to dance with Emma, but could have witnessed Instructor Sara's, Alisa's, and Elliot's final scenes. You'll still see all of their flashback scenes in Trails of Cold Steel II, plus the scene with Emma.

In other words, if you want to flesh out Rean's relationships with all of his friends, it's worth focusing on bonding events with your favorite characters throughout the game, instead of just your specific romantic interest.


Romance might not be Trails of Cold Steel's strongest or most developed mechanic. However, it's a great way to learn more about Class VII and the people Rean meets at Thors Military Academy nonetheless.

An Introduction to Trails: The Best JRPG Franchise You've (Probably) Never Heard Of Fri, 29 Mar 2019 13:37:32 -0400 Josh Broadwell

The gaming universe is vast, and it's easy for games to fly under the radar, regardless of how good they are. That's certainly the case for Nihon Falcom's long-lived Trails series.

It started life as a spin-off The Legend of Heroes franchise, which is itself a sub-series of Dragon Slayer, one of the oldest CRPGs in existence, and despite developing a devoted following in Japan, the series remains relatively unknown and one of the most underrated RPG series in the West.

That might be about to change, though. Xseed has released remakes of the first two Trails of Cold Steel games, the first of which — The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel, Decisive Edition — launched this week, and NISA will be localizing and publishing the third game in the series this fall.

For newcomers to the franchise, it can seem like an impenetrable mass of names, lore, re-releases, and confusion. If you love story-based RPGs, though it's worth sorting through it all and diving into. Think of this handy piece as your one-stop intro and FAQ rolled into one.

The Basics

There are the three Trails in the Sky games, collectively referred to as the Liberl arc; there's Sky FC (first chapter), Sky SC (second chapter), and Sky the 3rd, which doesn't need much explanation.

The next games are Zero no Kiseki and Ao no Kiseki, known as the Crossbell arc and translated loosely as Trails to Zero and Trails to Azure, respectively.

Then come the four Trails of Cold Steel games that make up the Erebonia arc, two of which remain unreleased outside Japan.

The Trails games take place in the same universe over the span of roughly three or four years on the continent of Zemuria, and they’re heavily story based.

Terms and people that pop up in the first Sky game will be important later in the series, while a character who makes a minor appearance in the first Trails of Cold Steel is also a major antagonist in Ao no Kiseki and plays an important role in CSIII.

Or a new perspective will be introduced that completely changes how you view the plot so far.

And despite being nine games strong, the overall plot is only at 80% completion, according to Falcom president Toshihiro Kondo. It's the sort of depth reserved for lengthy novel series, something you rarely see in video games.

Characters and Story Structure

Like the rest of Falcom’s offerings, the Trails games don’t break the RPG mold. However, they do use it in creative ways and combine various different strands of mechanics and characterization into a high-quality, engaging package.

Most characters will, initially, resemble a trope you might have seen elsewhere — the sexy big sister with a passion for drink, the quiet young man with a past, the brash tomboy, and so on. But the character development is handled in such a way that the tropes gradually fade away until you’re left with a believable, dynamic personality.

One notable example of deeper characterization involves Estelle Bright, the protagonist of Sky FC and SC and the brash tomboy mentioned earlier.

Normally in Japanese games, you expect lots of positivity and platitudes about kindness and hope. Yet when Estelle responds to the coldest of cynicism and most brutal callousness with hope for a brighter future and redemption, you believe her, just because that’s who the character is. It takes good writing and characterization to pull that off in a genre stuffed full of tropes.

The Trails games aren’t afraid to tackle heavier subjects either, from PTSD and mass murder, to exploitation and the darkest of tragedies. These things are handled surprisingly well too, with believable outcomes and greater coherence than some other examples of RPGs that deal with more profound themes like Xenogears and Persona.

Though it isn't opposed to throwing in some humor either

The story is part of what makes the games so unique and worthwhile as well, though it might take some getting used to for some players. Each game follows a set structure, and the first game in each arc begins slowly — some more than others.

Typically, around the halfway point, the action picks up noticeably, and players get a partial idea of the larger scenario before that comfortable structure is completely shattered, and everything rises in a dramatic crescendo as you propel to the conclusion.

With the exception of Zero no Kiseki, the first game in each arc also ends with a massive cliffhanger. If you’re just joining the series now, consider yourself lucky that you can power through without waiting years in between for the next installment. For the most part.

It's difficult to go into much detail about the plots without entering spoiler territory, but here's a short overview.

The Sky games juxtapose an intimate family story with a sinister political plot that eventually gives way to something with much broader implications for Zemuria and Estelle personally.

It's also a coming of age story done well. The way information is revealed about important events and the gameworld in general, the player only realizes the full extent of people's and nations' motivations and how the world works as Estelle does, making that moment of emotional and mental maturity seem much more natural than is often the case.

The two Crossbell games expand on what the Sky games started in a vastly different setting, the urban commercial city of Crossbell. It combines personal stories with local politics, including  gang problems, woven around broader political troubles associated with the tiny country's massive, warmongering neighbors, Erebonia and Calvard.

The Cold Steel arc presents some of the same events from the Erebonian perspective and was meant to introduce new players to the series. These games include the same personal and political emphases as earlier ones, though they add even more dimensions to the political and focus on what constitutes a moral use of power and how those considerations should guide a military nation. It's also wrapped around a school story with some slice of life elements.

Useful Quests

In between progressing the main plot, you’ll take on a variety of side and main quests that help you get to know the places the game takes place in and the people who live there.

For the Sky games, you act as Bracers — a sort of NGO organization dedicated to helping civilians and maintaining peace — while Cold Steel puts you in the role of student council aid, and the main characters in Zero and Ao are part of a special police force.

Quests come in a variety of forms, from fetch quests to monster exterminations, but they're wrapped around interesting concepts. One quest might involve talking to different people to gather information, but the end goal is re-uniting an orphan with her extended family after they were separated during a war.

As you can imagine with quests like that, the NPCs are one element that makes the Trails universe unique, since their dialogue and lives tend to change with each major story beat. It sounds tame on paper (who plays a game for NPCs after all?) but experiencing it is a different matter. Along with the top-notch writing and engaging characters, it’s yet another way the games manage to immerse players in the story.

Anton's story unfolds across almost every Trails game.

Going Into It Blind

A common question is whether to use a guide for playing Trails games. Because there are easily missable hidden quests in each chapter of each game, it’s tempting to reach for a guide immediately.

But like the Persona games, it’s better to just do your best and work through the game your own way first, so you can experience everything organically, instead of just completing tasks. The games are meant to be played through more than once anyway, especially the Cold Steel games, and the second playthrough is when you can focus on full completion.

Deep Combat System

Trails games are also RPGs with innovative combat systems that each series improves on. It retains the movement-based structure of the earlier Legend of Heroes games, while adding almost endless customization options how you build your characters.

Each character wields a specific weapon type and has access to a growing range of attacks called Crafts. Crafts often have a wider range than normal attacks or cause some sort of status effect.

The other main attack type is Arts, which work basically the same as magic in other RPGs and is where Trails combat gets interesting. In the Sky games and Zero, the arts a character can use depend on what quartz you insert into a machine called a battle orbment (Trails jargon).

The quartz are created using shards of crystallized elemental energy and grant certain bonuses — increased attack or defense, shorter casing times, and such like — while having an elemental grade, so to speak; these bonuses and grades increase with higher level quartz.

For example, in Sky FC, the HP 1 quartz increases HP by 5% and has a value of 1 for water; HP 2 increases HP by 10% and has a value of 3 for water.

The arts a character can cast depend on the values of each element in their orbment, with higher level spells requiring a combination of elements at varying grades. Some characters are built to favor certain elements, with some slots in their orbment being restricted to a specific element. With the exception of a few characters, though, you’re free to focus a character primarily on Arts, on strength, or on both.

It’s also where Falcom experiments the most in terms of combat. Each Sky game adds new quartz and new Arts. Zero follows suit, but Ao no Kiseki includes Master Quartz, which level up through battle and grant different arts and stat increases depending on which Master Quartz is used. Cold Steel uses these as well, but removes the element combination component. Instead, individual quartz will grant access to specific arts.

It’s a minor touch, but it speaks to Falcom’s design philosophy: keep what works, innovate where you can, and make a game for the fans first and foremost.

Stellar Soundtracks

All the Trails games rank among the top games with the best soundtracks as well. Falcom’s in house team, the Falcom JDK Sound Team, creates the soundtracks for each. Like the games themselves, the tracks might not re-invent video game music, but they certainly get used in effective ways.

The opening tracks feature J-pop style vocals from Kanako Kotera with lyrics that (in English) set the tone for each game. For example, Ashita E No Kodou combines cheerfulness and unity with recognition of a lurking darkness, which basically describes the entirety of the first Cold Steel game, while Aoi Kiseki revolves around the themes of loss and suffering that permeate Ao no Kiseki.

Trails in the Sky the 3rd gets Cry for Me, Cry for You, a foreboding song whose significance players only understand as they begin the game’s last chapter.  Sky FC is the exception. It gets an overture-style opening and closes with Hoshi no Arika, an emotive song that matches perfectly with the somber and resigned ending players just witnessed.

Falcom also has a way of bringing in the right track at just the right moment, and in some cases, it’s the only moment you hear the track, making it even more memorable. For Sky FC and SC, that honor goes to Silver Will (with SC getting the Super Arrange version). The 3rd — which actually has one of the strongest soundtracks of the series — can boast Overdosing Heavenly Bliss, Cradle Where Feelings Rest, and Masquerade of Lies as some of its most effective pieces.

The Cold Steel games are much vaster and have too many excellent musical moments to count. Atrocious Raid, leading into Belief, is one of the most notable in the first game, with the earlier Shoshin/First Visit showcasing the OST's diversity nicely.

Keeping Things in Order

With all the names being thrown around, you might be wondering “what order should I play the Trails games in?” The answer is less definite than you may think.

The short answer to the play order question is “start with the first one in whichever arc” and “just don’t start with Zero.”  

That’s pretty easy advice to follow, since Zero and Ao haven’t been localized, and you have to jump through some hoops to legally play them and their fan translations. But the main reason is just because Zero is a direct continuation of the Sky games, and you’d greatly benefit from playing either FC and SC first or all three.

If you’re looking for an RPG that hearkens back to the glory days of yore, yet includes all the mod cons of contemporary gaming, then Trails of Cold Steel is where you should start. Falcom intentionally designed the games as newcomer friendly to help ease people into the series anyway.

You might not pick up on the same Easter eggs as players who’ve gone through the other games, but you’ll still easily understand what’s going on. Plus, it gives you a different perspective on the Sky games if you do go back and play them.

If you want to experience the story from the beginning and see the gameplay mechanics evolve, and you don’t mind slightly older mechanics, then the Sky games are the best way to go.

Regardless, just don’t try to jump into any arc mid-way, or you’ll completely spoil the story and be entirely clueless about what’s going on at the same time.

Changing Things Up

One question that floats around on the internet a fair bit is “Is Trails in the Sky the 3rd canon?” Yes, definitely.

In fact, The 3rd was created after production began on Zero. Falcom realized there needed to be some kind of tie-in between the Sky arc and the next two games for everything to make sense. Given how the Crossbell games tie in with the Cold Steel games, The 3rd also provides some insight into the Erebonia arc.

The primary story uncovers Father Kevin Graham’s, an important character from Sky SC, mysterious past, but the side stories flesh out other characters’ backgrounds, fill in the gaps between what happens at the end of SC and right before Zero starts, and provide foreshadowing for the future games.

If you enjoy the first two Sky games, you’d do yourself a disservice to skip it. That goes double if you liked the personal element of the Sky story, since Kevin’s tale even manages to eclipse that.

If you don’t want to spend the time on it but want some of the important background information, just watch gameplay videos for Star Door 8, Star Door 14, and Star Door 15.

Be warned: Star Door 15 contains disturbing (but not graphic) content explaining how a certain character you meet in Sky SC came to be the way she is.

It goes without saying that if you watch any of these without playing the first two Sky games, you’ll spoil a lot of the plot-related enjoyment.

Multiple Versions

Having gone through all of that, there's still one potentially confusing barrier left to overcome: which version of each Trails game is the best.

It depends on your needs. If you prefer portability, the PSP (or PSN for Vita) version would be your best bet. True, it’s not quite as polished as the PC version, but it’s still excellent. If not, then the PC version would likely be best. Along with the updated translation, it has sharper graphics and added quality of life features like Turbo Mode to speed things up.

If you want to legally play the Crossbell games, PC is your only real option for experiencing the main games. Falcom granted another Japanese company the rights to create updated versions of the Liberl and Crossbell arcs under the moniker EVO (evolution) that released on the PlayStation Vita, but were never localized.

The games tweaked some of the visuals (not always for the best) expanded most breasts by about ten times their original size just for the sake of it, and included voice acting, among some other changes. English patches do exist for the EVO games, but require a hacked Vita system to implement.

The portability factor is the other deciding feature for the Erebonia arc. The Vita version has longer loading times and framerate issues, while the PC version boasts improved graphics, QoL features, and more voiced lines.

Or if you have a PlayStation 4, you can do yourself a favor and pick up the Decisive Edition of the first Cold Steel and the Relentless Edition of the second when they launch at the end of March. They have even more voiced lines than the PC version, with improved graphics, and a number of other features.


With their lengthy stories and heaps of dialogue, the Trails games might not be for everyone. If you're looking for a game to settle down with for a while, you enjoy niche RPGs, and you like the idea of a video game series with a plot akin to something you'd find in a novel, any story arc of the Trails games would be well worth your time.

How to Fix Trails of Cold Steel 2 PC Crashes and Other Common Bugs Tue, 20 Feb 2018 10:36:51 -0500 Stephanie Tang

While The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II was released on console back in 2016, it only just hit PC on Valentine's Day. And despite being bigger and better than its former self, it's got a long way to go before it truly lives up to PC standards. Why? Because it's got quite a few bugs, glitches, and issues as of this writing. 

While the recently released Patch 1.1 tried to address some of the game's worst crashing issues, this guide highlights some of the biggest bugs people have come across while trying to run ToSC2 on PC. 

Ymir Hot Springs Crash/DLC Outfits Crash

This is the biggest issue that people have been experiencing, with crashes mostly happening the first time a party entered the hot springs -- although it would also happen in the spa and any other areas that required minor outfit changes. 

The main reason for this Trails of Cold Steel bug was that the game was not playing nicely with non-default and DLC outfits equipped to characters. And while Patch 1.1 was released primarily to fix this particular issue, it appears that there are still some instances in which the DLC outfits crash the game. 

If you are still running into constant crashes when you enter places like this, switch out of the DLC outfits and retry. If you are running into an eternal loop of crashing, you could revert to a previous hard save, but the game regularly performs autosaves and you might be better off reverting back to an autosave in order to lose the least amount of progress.

General Crashes/ed8.exe Crashes

This is another issue Trails of Cold Steel players have been experiencing en masse. To get around this bug, make sure your computer is updated.

To avoid this crash: 

  • Run Windows Updates
  • Check for any new Steam updates
  • Check your Steam game cache (Right click > Properties > Local Files > Verify integrity of game files)
  • Update/repair vcredist (find this in your SteamLibrary > SteamApps > common > Trails of Cold Steel II > _CommonRedist > vcredist > 2010 > run both and if they don't complete, it's already up to date - move on to the next one)
  • Update your AMD or NVIDIA graphics drivers  

If you're still having trouble, lower the game's MSAA to 2x. 

Crash on Startup 

Sometimes, Trails of Cold Steel II won't even start up. Instead, the screen goes black for a few seconds before disappearing, taking you back to the Steam screen. 

I had this problem myself, and the fixes from above didn't work (or at least the above alone). What I did do was downgrade the game's graphics quality, regardless of what I know my comp can handle. That helped. I'm running it at a weird resolution, but it runs and it's not ugly. 

Also, try running the game in full-screen mode on PC to iron things out. 

Long Load Times/Crash While Loading Into Battles

Specifically, this glitch refers to loading cinematics and cutscenes, as well as when you come in and go out of new areas and battles. Some players are getting two- to three-minute long waits for these transitions to load. Others are crashing during those load-ins.

While the game is super-sensitive about alt+tabbing while you're in game, try doing it during the fade-out sequence. When it loads back in, some players have reported it kickstarting the battle to load.

As for the wait times, try decreasing your game settings. Some players, particularly on laptop, are reporting the game using their integrated GPU instead of the one the game is supposed to be running on. Since there's no real option using the configuration tool to use specific hardware, the only easy solution at the moment is to cut down on the resources it needs. 


If you've got other issues that you can't find a fix for, leave a comment below. If you've got some fixes or better suggestions, let me know too! I'll be keeping an eye out (plus working through my own frustrations) the same as you. If you have a really good fix, we'll add it to this guide! 

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II Comes to PC -- And It Was Worth the Wait! Mon, 19 Feb 2018 17:55:23 -0500 Stephanie Tang

For fans of the The Legend of Heroes series, a second Trails of Cold Steel (or Sen No Kiseki as it's known in Japan) isn't exactly new news at all.

First released in 2014 in Japan, The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II  would wait another two years for localization studio Xseed Games to bring an English translation to North American PlayStation consoles in 2016. It's taken almost as much time for the game to make the jump to PC -- a global release finally hit the platform only a few short days ago on Valentine's Day

Xseed Games has been instrumental in bringing a ton of Nihon Fancom's games to North America, and both companies have big plans to bring the full roster of hit JRPGs to Steam, fueled by overwhelmingly positive feedback from the community. 

"I decided early on that ToCS2 should at the very least have all the PC-only features that were in ToCS1, including those which were ready for the release and also those implemented in later patches."
-- Durante

It's due in large because Peter Thoman aka Durante -- the creator of the PC down-sampling tool GeDoSaTo and the modder behind Dark Souls DSfix and Deadly Premonition's DPfix -- is basically the only reason Dark Souls is playable on PC at all.

Straddling the two occasionally frustrating realms of knowing what PC gamers want out of their PC games while also knowing the relative time and effort it takes to implement those features, Durante contributed the majority of the porting effort for the original Trails of Cold Steel, and is once again at the forefront of pushing out tons of PC-friendly features for this latest hit. 

Trails of Cold Steel 2 Overdrive in actionToCS2 introduces new ability, Overdrive

And ToCS2 is an undeniable hit -- if you give it the time it deserves. 

Set one month after the closing events of ToSC1, the game barrels the player through an introspective opening monologue by protagonist Rean and a series of flashbacks before carrying on -- never truly trying to reiterate exactly what happened before. (Let's be honest, would we really want it to?)

New entrants to the Legend of Heroes franchise might be able to jump right into playing this particular title if they really wanted to, but they probably won't get as much enjoyment out of the experience. Together, the Trails games play beautifully off one another -- alone, you'll probably find yourself missing way more than you'd like if you're looking to fully immerse yourself.

This game has also lovingly localized absolutely everything -- each and every reference to the previous games, and to other titles in the series, some of which haven't yet made it to North America.

(Note: The console version of the Trails of Cold Steel II would change some of the interactions in ToSC2 if you had a clean ToSC1 game saved. I don't own the first Trails on Steam, so I wasn't able to find out whether this is also the case with the PC version.)

Lady Schwarzer talks to two characters

Happily, while the front half of the game locks you into a somewhat linear path through the store, the latter half fans out into an open-world that allows your characters to more freely roam -- a welcome change from the structure of the school schedule from the first Trails.

The story itself drags a little in the opening half as well, but, without spoilers, evolves into a fantastic final act that sets the stage for the next chapter of the Tails series. A common theme in sequels is to keep the characters and the surroundings so much the same as to make it feel like a DLC... you never get that feeling experiencing ToSC2.

ToSC2 brings back the classic turn-based system of the first game with some new improvements like the new Overdrive ability (shown above) linking character turns together with Rean, and the addition of mecha Divine Knight battles (because Japan, of course).

But Is It a Good Game on PC?

Again, undeniably -- if you're one of the lucky ones to get through it without running into any bugs or glitches along the way. I wasn't nearly so lucky in this respect and spent about 20 minutes cursing at my computer as I went through the usual suspects (vcredist, game cache, third-party antivirus/malware software, etc.) to figure out why the game wouldn't even load up. 

I did figure it out, eventually. And having been almost strictly PC only for about two solid generations of consoles to come, stick around, and stick around some more; I'm fairly used to having this happen, to the point where trouble-shooting is par for the course. Most PC gamers tend to share this resigned view, particularly on Day One releases, maddening as it almost invariably is. 

Characters battle enemies in a snowy landscape

But the answer is -- yes, it's worth it. 

And the reason why so much of the lead-up to this article centered so squarely around Durante's involvement is because of his dedication to making the PC experience the best that it possibly can be. It shows.

In ToCS2, this includes loads of graphics options, capacity for playing at different native screen resolutions and FPS, key rebinding, controller support, high-end image quality support (a must for our elitist sensibilities, of course) and a “smart" configurable turbo mode to speed up the game however fast you want. 

(Note: Although there is supposed to be arbitrary resolution support, I didn't personally find my screen resolution while using the configuration tool - and by this point, I'd already fussed around so much in getting the game running that I pretty much left it at as is.

You will also find that while using the turbo mode, you can occasionally blitz right into a cutscene before the background music and visuals really have time to catch up properly and a scene or event will happen without its corresponding cues.)

Trails of Cold Steel 2 configuration screen

Most of the options given will also show up on the preview image so you don't have to pop in and out of game in order to play around with them. Super handy, like most of the options available through this configuration tool.

The in-game menus haven't really been touched, so you aren't able to do any key-mapping. If you didn't look over this tool too closely before jumping right into the game, you might feel a little lost -- it's set by default to Xbox controls, so the in-game tutorial prompts will all correspond to that controller map. The default WASD and mouse controls will still work, though, even if you don't set the button prompts to reflect mouse and keyboard. (You should probably swap the button prompts to the correct ones anyway...)

If you're looking for detailed graphics performance, this game also has you covered. Down-to-the-details work has been put into making realistic-looking shadow effects and fixes for shading artifacts that appeared in the original game. PC gamers with powerful PCs are able to get even more out of the game. 

Add in better 21:9 support while in-game, but also during cutscenes (no image stretching), and easy alt+tabbing in and out of game (discreet music muting while tabbed out), plus full Steam overlay support, and you've got one for the books. This is how to make a PC game blow the original completely and utterly out of the water. 

Was it worth the wait? If what you're looking for is a better-looking, much more functional, easily customizable game with 50% more English voice-acting than the original, then yes. Completely and utterly yes. I haven't actually been this excited about the efforts put into a port since the N64 Zelda games hit the 3DS. 

Where Do We Go From Here?

In Japan, Trails of Cold Steel III was released last September, and a fourth and final game, Trails of Cold Steel IV: The End of Saga, is supposed to be released later this year as well. No word yet has been announced regarding English localizations, and at this rate, we probably can't expect one for a few years yet at least. 

Considering the impressive success of Nihon Famcon's games on Steam though, and the fact that a remastered version of ToCS2 is coming out on PS4 soon as well, the future seems fairly bright. Here's hoping we can stand the wait. 

[Note: The developer provided the copy of Trails of Cold Steel II used in this review.]

Trails of Cold Steel II Guide: Finding the Optional Magic Knight Boss Sun, 04 Dec 2016 14:41:23 -0500 Kris Cornelisse (Delfeir)

While there are a handful of optional encounters scattered within Trails of Cold Steel II that you may have run into, the toughest boss in the game is hidden behind a sidequest that you can easily miss if you’re not paying attention. With that in mind, this guide will help you find all the important points to unlock this hidden encounter.

Important point: It’s only possible to find this boss on your SECOND playthrough or later, so don’t be surprised if these items don’t show up your first time around. Since it's your second time through, I assume you know the events of the game, so this guide may contain slight spoilers! If you’ve yet to reach this point, then please be advised.

Obtaining the Black Records

To access this boss, you need to find all five of the Black Records books. It’s worth noting that you’ll find these slightly out of order: This is normal, so don’t panic if you’re missing #1 for a while. These are found in the following times and locations:

  • Black Records #1 is found in the Ancient Quarry (Nord Highlands) on December 15th. It’s located at the end of the dungeon in the same spot that you fought the boss -- you’ll have to return there afterward to pick it up.

  • Black Records #2 is purchased from the Celdic Grand Market on December 1st, from Cornette’s General Goods.

  • Black Records #3 requires you to complete the hidden quest St. Veronica’s Tears on December 9th to access the Bareahard Underground Waterway. This is started by speaking to Sister Tatiana in the Cathedral. Once the quest is finished, return to the Waterway, and you’ll find the Black Records in the same spot as the boss.

  • Black Records #4 requires you to complete the optional quest Gone Air on December 23rd, which is accessed by flying the Courageous to Eisengard Range. After you complete the quest, speaking to Norton at Roer Airport will net you the book.

  • Finally, Black Records #5 is found on the floor in the southwest corner of Lohengrin Castle during the optional quest Mist Opportunities on December 27th.

Once you have all five, talk to Instructor Thomas on the Courageous (Ref Room, 2F) on December 31st. With all this done, the final triggers to access the optional boss are enabled.

Finding Glacia Shrine

After turning in the books to Instructor Thomas, fly to Ymir. Once there, talk to Rean’s parents at the Baron’s Mansion. They will mention a hidden path in Ymir Canyon 1 on the west side of the map. Once you find the path, it’s a straight shot into Glacia Shrine. The dungeon is very short and contains no enemies until the boss at the end, that being Magic Knight Isra-Zamiel.

This is definitely one of the toughest fights in the game, and this boss sports more attack and defense than the final boss, despite having less HP. It’s definitely beatable, however.

Note: If you’re having a hard time, consider stacking AT Delay effects on a character (Rean is a good candidate for this) in order minimize the number of turns Magic Knight Isra-Zamiel gets to counterattack.

Once the boss is down, you’ll receive the Ice Crown accessory, which gives +10 CP regeneration per turn and a whopping 50% crit bonus to its wearer. With that, finishing off the second playthrough shouldn’t be a challenge. You’ll also receive the Frozen Heart trophy.

Decoding the Books

While the challenge may have been bested, there’s a little more to do with this sidequest. After reaching the Epilogue, you can visit Instructor Thomas again in the Faculty Lounge on March 12th to receive the Decoding Report. Be sure to use this item from your menu before ending the day!

On the next day, once you’ve made the Reverie Corridor dungeon available, return to Instructor Thomas one last time at the Main Building Rooftop. There will be an event, and you’ll be rewarded with the Scholar of the Truth trophy… as well as some interesting hints at what may come in Cold Steel III.

And that’s about it! Congratulations, you’ve completed the most challenging sidequest in the game. From this point, wrapping up your second playthrough and potentially getting a Platinum trophy should be a breeze at this point. And if you haven't checked out the Trails of Cold Steel games yet, I highly recommend them. Happy gaming!

Got any interesting strategies for beating the boss? Be sure to leave them in the comments below!

Forget Final Fantasy XV, Here's Why You Should Play Trails of Cold Steel Instead Fri, 18 Nov 2016 05:23:56 -0500 Kris Cornelisse (Delfeir)

After a decade of development, numerous delays and who knows how many redesigns, Final Fantasy XV is due out in a matter of days. Most of the demos and previews of the game are being positively received and show a lot of promise. It could very well be a solid and enjoyable JRPG and a strong return to form for Square Enix after the less than stellar Final Fantasy XIII trilogy. There’s plenty of buzz and hype around it, and I know some people will be quick to pick it up.

Me? I have absolutely no intention of playing it for some time to come.

There are a few reasons I feel this way. Some of it is based on rumours and hearsay regarding the many delays, suggesting that the game still wasn’t fully finished as originally intended. Even if those are just rumours, there have still been some worrisome signs of FFXV’s troubled development, and it’s hard to say just how ready and complete the game will be.

This isn’t exactly being helped by the absolutely absurd DLC plans for the title. While I have no problems with things like the multiplayer co-op expansion DLC, some of the other sections suggest unfinished content being re-added. After all, the base game doesn’t let you play as anything but the lead character Noctis, and while that’s not exactly a problem… the fact that there will be DLC packages for each and every other character to be playable in their own episode seems odd to me.

Combine this with other spinoff games, the Kingsglaive movie, and the insane amount of marketing and money being thrown into this project? All in all, it feels very much like Square Enix is attempting to make a huge multimedia franchise out of FFXV. This is pretty much identical to what they were doing with FFXIII, but when that game failed to get the positive reception necessary, the spinoff games were quietly retitled to be unrelated. Need I remind you that FFXV was originally supposed to be one of those?

To me, it really just feels off. They’re throwing a massive number of eggs into this basket, but we haven’t even been able to fully see and gauge the quality of the basket itself yet. I’d rather they build a franchise out of something that’s proven to be successful already, because if for some reason FFXV doesn’t live up to expectations -- well, it could be a disaster for not just the game itself but for Square Enix's whole future.

This isn’t me trying to say that FFXV is a bad game. It's not out yet, how could I know? I’m just saying that I don’t ever believe in hype and choose not to make judgements until information and feedback is readily available to me. Otherwise, you end up in situations like people did with No Man’s Sky or Mighty No 9. For this title, I simply plan to wait and bide my time.

Besides, no matter how good Final Fantasy XV is, it’s going to be hard pressed to match a criminally overlooked JRPG that’s already out and is already fantastic.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel

Nihon Falcom games have never really made much of a splash in the West, possibly because very few of them were actually localized and released prior to more recent years. Enthusiasts may know of them for the Ys series, which are excellent (albeit challenging) action JRPGs. Just recently, another title of theirs called Xanadu Next was re-released on Steam. But to me, their most impressive success has been the long running Legend of Heroes series.

If the name sounds familiar, you might have seen a game called Trails in the Sky on Steam and PSP. Set in the same series and in the same world, Trails in the Sky feels and plays similarly to Trails of Cold Steel, and is absolutely well worth your time. With a fantastic story, brilliant characters, and a solid gameplay system, it’ll be one of the better experiences a JRPG fan can have, as is its sequel. It comes very highly recommended from your truly.

Trails of Cold Steel, however, is a more recent release and was effectively made to be a good entry point into the Legend of Heroes series. Not all the games so far have been released outside of Japan, but each arc of the story is largely self contained within different sections of the same world. Only a few subtle nods or references to other titles will be missed, as opposed to crucial plot details. As such, it’s designed so that you can jump right into Trails of Cold Steel without having to dig up other untranslated titles.

So what is Trails of Cold Steel?

Imagine the most core concepts of a JRPG, boiled down to their most pure form and then refined into a combat system and polished until it gleams. Then take just about every other JRPG combat concept and repeat the process on top of this until you have a ridiculous network of features. While there’s nothing especially new on offer, there are enough interwoven systems with plenty of complexity that requires you to play intelligently.

For example, each character has a set of unique abilities called Crafts. These require CP to use, which you get from doing other actions in combat or from buffs. Characters also can have gems equipped to them which grant them magical Arts, which use EP. These gems can also give passive effects or stat increases, so you can customize your characters to work however you want them to.

Image credit: Nihon Falcom via Steam.

But that’s not all. There are a whole variety of status effects and buffs/debuffs that you can utilise as well, all of which have a wide array of uses. Abilities also have elemental affinities, so you have to keep that in mind when selecting targets. Not only that, but character speed and action times also affects things -- faster characters get turns more often, and you can use attacks that impede or delay enemy turns to buy more time. You even have the means of interjecting a turn with a character in order to perform a Super Craft. And even the turn placements have the ability to grant passive buffs or heals just for going at the right time.

Do I have your attention yet? On the surface the system looks pretty straightforward, but there are so many working parts that it quickly becomes a theorycrafter’s dream. And I’m not even touching every element of combat and customisation here. This is easily one of the most in-depth battle systems I’ve ever come across, and even the most basic and straightforward battles can still be threatening to you if you don’t play cleverly.

What really makes the Legend of Heroes series so iconic is the overall presentation, in terms of world design, writing, sound and music.

Did I mention that there are no less than ten different playable characters in the game, each with their own unique stats and crafts? You can only use four at once, but you can quickly sub them in and out at a moment’s notice to better utilise their strengths. Plus, pairs of characters can be linked in combat to grant additional bonuses and the potential for extra attacks.

The list of features and tactics at your disposal goes on. But since it’s all introduced gradually and explained well, it never feels too overwhelming and becomes natural fairly quickly.

So the battle system is fantastic, which is the backbone of any good JRPG, but it’s not even the best part of Trails of Cold Steel. What really makes the Legend of Heroes series so iconic is the overall presentation, in terms of world design, writing, sound and music. It may not be the most graphically stunning thing you’ll ever see -- even the PS3 version is an enhanced port from the PS Vita, after all -- but everything else beyond that is immaculate.

Nihon Falcom’s sound team is arguably their strongest point, and their soundtracks are always top notch. Trails of Cold Steel is no different, with a large array of suitable tunes that always suit their situation, be they mellow exploration tones or amped up battle themes. The localization and voice work performed by XSEED is extremely high quality for an English dub, too, with almost all the characters being well acted.

And it’s a good thing too, because you’ll quickly come to love these characters for more than just their combat skillset. The writing and worldbuilding of the game is second to none, and while I’ve played many RPGs in my life, there are very few that have gotten me as invested and attached as Trails of Cold Steel.

The plot starts out sounding somewhat stereotypically anime, with the main character Rean arriving at a military academy and quickly being assigned to an experimental special unit's class. There’s a number of character archetypes quickly on display too, such as the aloof noble, the quiet rogue type, the all-too-intelligent female class president… but it only takes a short time before those archetypes are thoroughly cast aside in favor of well-developed and interesting characters.

I do mean well-developed, too. See, the game progresses in an almost Persona-esque manner of time advancing between week-to-week affairs. You’ll be balancing out your school days with field trips that, due to being a military unit in training, usually end up becoming missions as the plot continues to unfold. These field trips usually have set configurations of characters present, which allows them to have their own plot and development arcs.

Believe me when I say that they all do. Every single playable character goes through some kind of development, and throughout the several months of plot you’ll learn more about their personalities, their histories, and their goals. These are incredibly fleshed out characters that absolutely should not be judged by their cover, and the quality of writing is phenomenal.

What is truly impressive about all of this is that this writing extends to not just the playable roster, but to every single character in the game. There is an absolutely huge cast, and even the students at the academy that aren’t in your class have names, personalities, and traits that you’ll come to pick up. So do your teachers. So do the character's families. So do the minor NPCs that show up from time to time in multiple missions purely by providence or because that’s the way the world is shifting.

Trails of Cold Steel is an absolute marvel of video game writing. The plot is a massive, country-spanning set of events that unfolds over months and months of game time, and every character -- friend and foe alike -- has a part to play that you’ll be eager to learn about. There are twists and turns that you can sometimes see coming, but will still hit you hard. Characters that you write off as boring or uninteresting will grow into some of your favourite characters in video game history. It sure did with me, anyway.

So with an excellent plot, world-building that is second to none, some of the most believable characters ever written, and a fantastic battle system set to a truly inspirational musical score, Trails of Cold Steel is an experience like no other.

Well, okay, there are others; Trails of Cold Steel 2 just came out recently, which is a direct continuation of the first game’s events and is more like a second act of the same game rather than a sequel. And remember how I talked about Trails in the Sky? Well, the same glowing commentary goes for that sub-series as well, and since they’re set in the same world, the characters and events that do crossover are just as consistent and well-written as the rest.

Image credit: Nihon Falcom via Steam.

Yet sadly, I know of very few people who have been playing these games. I bought the first Cold Steel game on impulse just because I saw it in a store and vaguely recognized the series name, yet I ended up purchasing what may just be my Game of the Year. Maybe it’s because it was released for the PS3 and PS Vita, which at this point aren’t massively relevant. Whatever the reason, they’re being criminally undervalued, and I’m making it my mission to spread the word about them.

So that’s the primary reason why I’m not picking up Final Fantasy XV. No matter how good it is, it seems extremely unlikely to me that I’ll grow as attached and happy with it as I was for both Trails of Cold Steel games. I have no problem with waiting and seeing how a new release pans out when I already have near-perfection readily available.

If you’re looking for a solid JRPG experience that is guaranteed to be high quality and lives up to all expectations without requiring a DLC Season Pass, then go look up the Legend of Heroes series. I promise that you won’t regret it.

Erebonia awaits.