The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel saga is a substantial one. People need to go through four games to get the full story. But, Trails of Cold Steel II is in an interesting position. It takes place very shortly after the events of the first game, helps tie up some lose ends from there, while also setting up the third game. Yet, because the third game does take place almost two years after the second game, it also had to be the sort of game that could satisfy people while they waited for that next installment. (Especially since the second game appeared outside of Japan for the first time in 2016, and we are looking at a 2019 release window for the third.) Every part of its structure is about bringing people back up to speed after a gap, providing them with even more looks at people’s relationships, and helping show how the events of the first game prepared the Class VII members to help handle a civil war.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II is important for establishing Rean as a character. The original game introduced us to him and established his unique position. Class VII was made up of people who were both commoners and nobles. But, no one really knows who he is. We watch as he rises up by his own merits and helps act as the glue that holds the class together. Because of his unique nature, he is able to associate relatively easy with everyone. (Especially Fie, who is in a similar position as him.) While we get to see him gain access to a great strength in the original Trails of Cold Steel, it feels like Trails of Cold Steel II is him starting to learn how to use it and what being a real leader means. It brings up the tough decisions that could mean allies going down different paths or perhaps not making the decision that causes him to, well, set himself on fire to keep someone else warm.
This means we also get to see how other people have grown. People have been separated after the events of the first game. We find people like Elliot, Fie, and Machias are in the same area, while eventually you come across Alisa, Millium, and Gaius too. Eventually Emma, Jusis, and Laura return too. We see how bonds pull them back together, even if people find that they felt irrevocably tied to the Imperial Army or Noble Alliance. For example, people will see a moment where Rean and Jusis must recognize each other. We learn more about these people we thought we knew, such as information about their heritage. It is heartwarming and moving.
It also helps further the notion of Class VII being different. They were an experiment. When they were at Thors Military Academy, it was a chance to do something different and see what would come from bringing all of these people from different backgrounds together. And here, in The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II, we see the culmination of that. What happens when people join together and consider everyone? How can such a group of highly trained individuals who care about, respect, and trust one another change the course of a country’s history? This game lets us see that.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II is in a unique position. You need to have played the previous game to appreciate everything that has happened. So much has been set up for it. It helps us appreciate the bonds these classmates made in that installment, and how their relationships bring them back together and put them in a position where they could be the ones to stop a civil war. But, it can also act as a bit of a stopping point. While ideally, someone should play all four games, the structure puts people in a position where this does offer a lot of closure after its events conclude. It absolutely leaves things in a great position for Trails of Cold Steel III, which picks up after a bit of a time-skip, but people could be content with where things lie for a while.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II will come to the PlayStation 4 in North America on June 4, 2019 and in Europe on June 7, 2019. It is immediately available on the PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, and PC.