Fuga: Melodies of Steel 2 once again offers precise, challenging tactical combat and an endless barrage of emotional gut-punches. The child protagonists of the first game may have found peace at the end of their first journey, but cruel events lead them back to yet another monstrous tank they can use to battle some new enemies. As you guide them in that fight, you’ll have to weigh every decision with care once more. A single misstep can still mean ruin. Maybe not at first, and maybe not until the very end of the game, but your every single action is vital if you want to help these children survive yet another ruthless war.
The children who survived the relentless battles of the first Fuga have been called to help with an investigation of the battle tank they used throughout the first game, the Taranis. This goes as poorly as possible when several of the group of friends get trapped inside the Taranis as it goes haywire. The remaining playable characters hop in the Tarascus, the enemy tank from the last game, and give chase. This leads them through a conflict that will be fraught with danger and loss, once more asking how much these children can take.
It’ll likely leave you wondering how much you can endure, too, as you battle cunning enemies in your tank. Fuga: Melodies of Steel 2 has a turn-based combat system where you’ll be running three separate firearms on the tank. Each gun can be piloted by up to two children, with the first kid dictating the weapon type and the second adding some sort of useful bonus. It feels exactly the same as the first game, but with some tweaks to the abilities and powers of each position that make things a little bit easier. Well, a teensy tiny bit easier.
Before I get into that, I want to talk about the general flow of combat. You have three types of firearms: cannons, grenade launchers, and machine guns. These are ordered from least accurate/highest damage to most accurate/lowest damage. Not only this, but they are color-coded, as you can delay an enemy unit’s turn by shooting it with the right-colored weapon. Slowing enemy turns is crucial as you can get ripped to shreds with only a handful of mistakes, so paying attention to the color weaknesses is integral to getting anywhere.
With combat being as hard as it is, it’s nice to have some new helpful elements. One of those came from the Judgment System in Fuga: Melodies of Steel 2. This ties into a narrative mechanic where decisions you make throughout the game will unlock abilities in combat. You can choose between Empathy or Resolution in the various decisions you make throughout the game’s story, and these will reflect in certain plot moments automatically later on. They’re not good or bad decisions, but more reflective of being focused and cold versus showing a strong sense of kindness and compassion. At any rate, these unlock abilities that will randomly make you take extra turns, make enemies miss, and more. Which ones you get depend on the kind of person you are throughout the game.
The game also has a Hero Mode where characters will unlock temporary special powers that last five turns. These are incredible, letting you blow through enemy armor (some enemies have armor stacks you normally have to use special powers to eliminate one by one, but this removes armor in one shot), double heal, get free attacks after using skill powers, and more. These powers become available based on each kid’s mood, which you can improve during intermission moments between battles, and can also increase during the fight itself. They really feel like they turn the tide, and it adds so much excitement to a fight when the ability activates right when you need it. Better be sure you treat the kids well between battles.
Intermissions happen while you move through the various maps in the game. As you explore the world, you’ll move through simple maps that have a variety of nodes. These contain battles against unknown foes (these indicate how many fights you need to survive, just not the combatants involved), healing points, items for pickup, story beats, and intermissions. During intermissions, you can carry out tasks around your tank that improve its capabilities, but you can also make the various child protagonists talk with one another. If you do certain things during these Intermissions, you will improve a given child’s mood, which makes it more likely they’ll activate hero mode over the next few battles.
This might sound like war is exhilarating for these kids, but it’s not. Fuga: Melodies of Steel 2 can also see the children become Depressed, which takes away their ability to use special attacks until they’ve been spoken with during intermission scenes between fights. This can cause a huge disadvantage, and this comes from regular damage and being wounded in combat. It adds some fear to taking a hit, as you might lose more than just your health if you take a few good shots in a row. As if these fights needed any more stress for your child combatants.
If you played the original game, you may remember you always had a trump card: the Soul Cannon. In a game where all of your characters were young children, you could permanently kill one of them to wipe out an enemy force and win the fight. It was extremely powerful, but as children are your gunners and combatants, it comes with a high price. That and, well, you’re killing a child to use the weapon, creating a staggering emotional cost to using the weapon. I was utterly incapable of using this weapon myself, but it was always there to give you that last resort if you desperately needed it.
Well, maybe that weighed on you a bit too much. As such, Fuga: Melodies of Steel 2 gives you the Managarm instead. If you fire this cannon, it will deal huge damage to your enemies, but you won’t gain any experience points from the fight. Also, this cannon simply incapacitates the child you load into it, and incapacitated kids can be healed during the next intermission. You might have to play through several fights in a row before you can heal this status, so it’s still a tall price. Plus, if you’re not gaining experience, then your crew is that much weaker for the next fight. You really want them constantly gaining levels, getting stronger, and improving their abilities. You’ll want to avoid this weapon if you can.
But can you avoid it? While I found this game a bit easier than the previous one, that isn’t saying it’s that much easier. Your enemies have many highly damaging abilities. If you’re not constantly delaying their turns and taking them out, you can get wiped out fast. I found I would be coasting along and feeling like a genius commander, but one or two bad calls would see my health getting chewed apart. Kids would be getting injured and taken out of the fight. If you like demanding strategic combat, this game has that.
Also, if you start to screw up really bad, the Soul Cannon is still there. This time, though, it arms itself without your input. If your health gets below a certain threshold in Fuga: Melodies of Steel 2, a child will be chosen at random and loaded into the Soul Cannon. If you don’t want them to die, you HAVE to finish the fight in a set number of turns before it fires. You’ll win the fight, but at the permanent cost of a character if it goes off.
This weapon made me sick to my stomach in the first game, so I chose not to use it. Here it will be forced on you. A random child will be picked. Now, simply getting to low health is cause for alarm, as the game will just kill one of your kids and MAKE you use it if you do poorly. Watching the icon randomly selecting from your crew of kids is genuinely heartbreaking to watch, and gives you an incredible drive to keep the weapon from firing. Even so, your stomach will be churning as you watch that countdown. It’s so unbelievably stressful during these moments, and as enemies get tougher, it starts to happen a lot.
I’m not just being soft-hearted because they’re children, though. Fuga: Melodies of Steel 2 puts a focus on character connections with its story, really delving into what the various kids mean to each other. During intermission moments, you can have the kids talk with one another. You can choose which kids talk to what ones, slowly building bonds between them. These unlock valuable combat abilities like Hero Mode, as well as gaining experience to gain levels and get new powers , so even if you don’t care for the story, you’ll want to do this. If you DO care, though, you’ll find yourself getting to know and love these kids.
Their innocent talks, private confessions, stolen moments of fun, and tearful conversations will create a powerful connection between you and the cast. The game really dives into the complex feelings these children would be going through in wartime, and continues to dive deep into their feelings around the upsetting storyline for this game. It feels touching and believable to sit in on these conversations, and makes you feel connected to the kids’ survival. Which makes the Soul Cannon that much more sinister when it comes into play. You really don’t want to see these children get harmed.
The artwork, like the first game, strengthens that bond between you and the cast. The game features a cute art style that makes the kids feel really endearing. Their world seems so cheery and bright, and you feel like it’s your duty to make the world a better place for your protagonists. However, that art style can also be a real gut punch. After a loss in battle, various visual effects will cover the normally-happy scenes and images of the characters. Dead children will be scratched out of cutscenes, providing a constant, brutal reminder of your failure.
You can try to take your mind off things with some of the other new elements in Fuga: Melodies of Steel 2. You can go on dungeon expeditions to delve into puzzle-like catacombs that contain valuable stuff. Being able to gather these items will be vital to keeping yourself fueled and armed, which goes a long way in keeping everyone alive. You can also try harder to make the kids happy with the in-game notebook that pops up during intermissions between fights. This notebook tells you things you can do for the kids to make them happy, which helps them in combat and just feels good to do given the circumstances. These make huge strides to unlocking the various Hero Modes, so be sure to do what you can to get your kids smiling.
Keeping folks happy isn’t easy, though, as you only have a limited number of things you can do in an intermission. You have twenty points to spend during an intermission. Talking costs a point per chat, typically, and it takes several talks to improve the bond between a single character set. Also, upgrading your tank has to be done during these sequences. Healing Depression has to be done here. Feeding the gang for bonuses is done during intermission. You gain materials at these times. There’s a lot to do and never enough time to do it.
Even your downtime needs you to make smart decisions in Fuga: Melodies of Steel 2. This is what I meant when I said that you always had to be making good calls. If you screw up in combat, people will die. If you waste time during intermissions, though, you might not be strong enough or have bonded with the right characters. You can still hamstring your mission just from who you decide to talk with, or by not doing some seemingly-unimportant task. It’s wild that so much stuff can tie in to how well you do over the course of the game.
While there weren’t many great changes to the formula, the game feels like it is honing its core elements to perfection. The challenge is still great, but with some additional details that tie the story and your decisions in battle even further with the Judgment System. Hero Mode can really turn things around in a fight. The Managarm means I won’t be choosing to KILL CHILDREN, but the automatic Soul Cannon still keeps that pressure up as lives are permanently on the line.
That said, I feel like you won’t quite get as much out of this game if you haven’t played the original. This title does a fantastic job of connecting you with the kids, don’t get me wrong. That bond will just be a bit stronger if you played the first game. This one doesn’t do a great job of summing up the original, either, but it’s the bonds with the kids that are important. Talking with them and going through their stories is how the first game really affects you, and I don’t feel you can get that sensation from a summary. If you only play this game you’ll still form a tight bond with your kids, but it is definitely better if you play the first game beforehand.
Fuga: Melodies of Steel 2 is an impressive achievement, building in some nice new elements on top of the solid foundation set by the first game. It only makes some minor tweaks, but these add some fun new elements, useful tools, and great tension, all while letting you deepen your bond with this lovable crew. Just prepare to have your heart broken unless you’re an incredible tactician.
Fuga: Melodies of Steel 2 is available now on the Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.