Ben's Top Mecha - Day 2: Trails of Cold Steel II

The Legend of Heroes "Trails" series is something I've brought up multiple times on this blog (don't worry, I won't be recounting the same old story again). It's easily one of my favorite JRPG series, and over the years it's become somewhat of my "go to" series. Instead of rushing through each entry as they come out, I take it nice and slow, and try to enjoy it's world to the fullest. It's just one of those "relaxing" games I'll pick up from time to time when the mood strikes me, and because of that I've invested MANY years of my life into this series. Heck, if you scroll through my list of save files for each title, you'll see multiple major holidays as the save date, and you can physically see the years pass by. I can't stress enough how much time I've actually spent playing these games, and it's something I continue to do as the years go on. Trails of Cold Steel IV will be releasing later this year, and until then Cold Steel III will remain my current "go to" game. But that's not what I'm here to talk about today -- instead I want to take a look at one of my favorite games in the entire series: Trails of Cold Steel II. The game that marks the switch from standard "middle age RPG," to a sci-fi mecha adventure.

The thing that makes the Trails world so interesting, is just how much detail is actually put into it's characters and world building, and the unique state of the world. While the first game, Sky FC, starts out as your standard middle ages style JRPG, the existence of objects known as "orbments" are causing a major change in the times. Technology is advancing at a a crazy fast pace thanks to orbal technology, which in return is making the world advance in different ways than our real world. Cars are brand new to the Trails world, but Air Ships are a bit more common place. Motorcycles aren't invented until Trails of Cold Steel, and basic mobile phones have entered the picture as well. It's not too long after that "Smart Phones" enter the mix, and it's only a matter of time before TV and the Internet becomes wide spread as well. So it's only natural that this world too would eventually discover the wonders of robotics.

(Spoilers Ahead, You've Been Warned)

While machines did play a role in earlier titles of the series, it's not until Trails of Cold Steel II that the major shift happens. In the original Trails of Cold Steel, we get to see our young hero Rean attend his military academy, meet new friends, and overcome multiple challenges with his class as they venture out into the real world for themselves. The country he lives in is currently unstable, and it becomes painfully obvious that they currently stand on the tipping point between war and peace. Needless to say, things don't go that well.

Trails of Cold Steel I is what you would consider the "good old days" for Rean and his friends. It's back when they only had to worry about school and their studies. Back when they could take everything for granted, and not have to fear the future. Cold Steel II however is the point of no return. The country is thrown into war, and Rean finds himself being caught up in the whole thing. It's a world of death and destruction, and he has no choice but to face his new reality head on. Thankfully he isn't alone.

Joining Rean on his adventure is a talking cat (and co-pilot), and the massive giant mechanical being known as "Valimar." Valimar serves as Rean's main mech throughout the entirety of Cold Steel II, and becomes a major part of the core gameplay. At this point "standard" mechs are now common use in the military, and Valimar is Rean's only defense against these new giant threats. While most of the game still has you playing as Rean on foot, exploring towns, and fighting monsters and human soldiers, mechs do become a major focus point of the series. Valimar himself can be upgraded over time, and there are multiple full on mech battles spread out across the game;  however Valimar's involvement actually doesn't stop there. At some point Rean does eventually gain the ability to summon Valimar to his side in normal battles, and to help against challenging boss fights as well. He becomes another tool at Rean's disposal, and he becomes key to surviving some of the more challenging fights of the game. Overall it's a nice addition to the game's battle system, but it's only one of the main improvements Cold Steel II made overall.

One thing that makes CS2 stand out compared to other mecha series, is the fact that the pilots are still soldiers outside of their mechs. Just because Rean can now pilot Valimar, it doesn't mean he's given up fighting the normal way as well. Again this is still a JRPG like previous entries in the series, and adding controllable mechs to it doesn't change what the game already was -- it just expands it. It's still a lot of fun exploring this world as Rean himself, and getting to experience his story as it unfolds. By this point players are already invested in Rean's life, and him now being able to pilot a mech is just another plus. It's also something that will continue to be a main part of Trails' storyline, with Cold Steel III further expanding on the concept. Mech warfare is now common place in this world, and by the time CS3 rolls around it becomes a requirement for all soldiers. While not all fans will be happy with the change, I personally love it, and am excited to see the concept get expanded upon even more as time goes on. Again, the mecha genre is one of my all time favorites, and seeing one of my favorite series of all time transform into one is like a dream come true.

Of course there's a lot more I can say about this title, but I'd rather wait till my full on review. In the mean time, feel free to check out my review of Trails of Cold Steel I if CS2 sounds interesting to you, and you are new to the series. It's really worth checking out -- specially if you're a fan of classic turn based JRPGs.

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