Review – Ys VIII Lacrimosa of Dana

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Following the outstanding success of Tokyo Xanadu, which is largely regarded as a new IP, Falcom gets back to one of its established franchises with Ys VIII Lacrimosa of Dana. This newest episode has a particular taste since it’s likely to be Falcom’s last Vita game.

Ys VIII Adol

Already active is past Ys games, the red-headed adventurer Adol Christin is again a the center of this action-RPG. He’s travelling on board of the ship Lombardia when the latter gets attacked by a giant sea monster that sinks it without mercy. Adol wakes up in a desert island he recognizes at once : the cursed island of Seiren, well-known for causing shipwrecks. The fearless explorer has nothing more than a rusted blade to defend himself. He will thus seek help and form a small group with Laxia, an aristocratic girl good at fencing, and fisherman Sahad. Joined by the captain of the Lombardia and Adol’s old pal Dogi, they start building a small village to shelter themselves and the remaining refugees.

Ys VIII Dana 1

In his sleep, Adol will have visions of a priestress called Dana. Despite living in distant eras, Dana feels she’s linked to Adol somehow and will seek to help him by interacting from the past. Thrown into each other’s mind at night, Adol and Dana will complement each other to solve the mysteries of Seiren, a bit as if Falcom had written Your Name before Makoto Shinkai. The player follows both stories in parallel until those two scenarios connect in a beautiful way, and give a new and strong momentum by reaching superior stakes like in any good JRPG. Dana’s part was absolutely remarkable on the emotion side, with relevant narrative steps and perfect emphasis on important scenes.

Ys VIII pirate

Like a virtual Indiana Jones, you’re going to explore the numerous parts of the island one after another. Let’s stress right away that the mini-map is (finally) removable and that you can choose to experience a more old-school progression if you like, finding your way only by the general map. And you’ll need it, because Ys VIII features one of the biggest worlds ever created on PSVita. Dense forests, lots of ancient ruins, muddy field, dark caves, mountain peaks and even underwater parts! The progression constantly renews itself and is an adventure like you’ve never seen.

Ys VIII Ricotta

Despite being a bit linear (the regions of the map unlock very progressively), the game features interesting level design, it being complex terrain where you can get lost easily. Verticality is very impressive, has the game has you cross tortuous mountain paths or a large tower. It also leads to diversions given the hostile environment : the nature of Seiren will make you bite the dust, but the thrill of exploration is totally there. Sure enough, Ys VIII has some Xenoblade vibes in it. Even better, you’ll everything on a yet again splendid soundtrack. Seldom music will have enchanted the player as he runs in the wilderness. Lost in Green or You’ll See the End of the Tales come to mind, but there are many more like that.

Ys VIII discovery

The wonders of Seiren will enchant you too as Falcom borrows Zestiria’s discovery system. The exploration continues even outside the main scenario since you may come back to previously visited locations equipped with new exploration items (for example the feather allows the double jump) or new recruits in the drifting village, and thus uncover new secrets such as underground temples, etc.

Ys VIII Laxia 1

Ys VIII doesn’t forget about leisure either because the fishing mini-game will be available all game long, including dozens of species to fish.

Ys VIII Tina

To progress in the story or in subquests, you’ll need to move the rocks blocking your path here and there. You can achieve this only if the number of inhabitants in the drifting village is high enough. You therefore must search every corner of the island in order to locate the survivors. Every newcomers trigger new quests or offer new services : Alison can sew new clothes, Catherine will be your smith and Tina will establish the barter counter. Indeed, you’re in a desert island and there’s of course no currency! The inventory is managed by exchanging more or less rare natural resources, so as to gather the necessary materials for new weapons and armor.

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As always with Falcom, those secondary characters are fairly varied and deep : numerous sub-events explore the personality of each character out there, important rule in JRPGs. You also find quite some mini-stories that illustrates subquests, which makes them more enjoyable than usual. In particular, direct allies have a quite detailed personal story (a lot more than discreet Adol) and arouse empathy. Ys VIII has this particular humor of JRPGs, in which you hear the most unexpected lines in every situation. Hummel is top in that, given his seriousness in his strange “job” in the middle of the wilderness. After many hits in the field, Falcom is now at the forefront of modern JRPG, keeping that classic spirit when other threw it away for more money.

Ys VIII Laxia battle

Combat has the same action-RPG feeling as Dragon Quest Heroes : a base 3-hit combo plus a special skills to choose between four. The L/R skills are varied and pack a punch, depending on the weapon used by the six playable characters. Dana for example owns two immense chakras that she can throw or make dance in long combos. Hummel can perform numerous types of shooting with its rifle, etc. Good news for those who like their gameplay habits : all buttons can be changed at your liking.

Ys VIII dodge

If we talk battle, we need to underline the guard and dodging systems. Performing a just guard or dodging at the very last moment respectively slow down the enemy’s movements and raise your critical rate to the maximum. Both grant you a few seconds of invincibility : you’re free to beat down the opponent. You need to master that in order to win in higher difficulty modes, but the skillfulness demanded makes for delightful fights. In normal mode, like in Tokyo Xanadu, there is moderate challenge but hard more in Ys VIII is significantly more interesting : damage taken is no joke, potions very limited and status ailments unforgiving. In order to ease the pain, the game allows you to recover HP by resting on the map, this however not being possible in dungeons.

Ys VIII boss

The bestiary of Ys VIII is impressive : ferocious beasts, sea monsters, ancient golems and wild dinosaurs, combat is renewed in every place you go. Rare enough to be mentioned, you almost never see the same type of enemy twice! Further evidence of Falcom’s outstanding effort to make a rich world. Boss fights are awesome as opponents boast complex movesets and strategies. Strong and sturdy, dinosaurs will make you sweat, especially in defense missions. It so happens that fiends will regularly gather around the village and it’s up to you to repel them. Defense missions occur like a survival mode : monsters come in waves and you have to stop them from destroying the fence. Them coming from all directions, all you can do is to hit everything in sight as violently as you can. Exhilarating. You’ll also be able to build defenses, traps, barricades to withstand increasingly heated assaults.

When other choose to ditch classic JRPG, Falcom keeps the magic of the genre. With charming characters, a fantastic battle system, splendid music, multiple quests and an incredibly rich world, Ys VIII is a must-have for those who have been faithful to the genre for 15 or 20 years. Immersive and glorious in many aspects and despite very minor drawbacks, it is an amazing potion of youth.

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Enough of E3! Let’s talk about other games #2017

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Zanki Zero (PS4/PSVita)

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Survival-RPG produced by the DanganRonpa team, Zanki Zero has the most interesting concept this year. Zanki is an idiom known in shoot’em up which represents the number of starships remaining before game over. In the same logic, the 8 boys and girls of Spike Chunsoft’s devastated world will have to progress and survive until no one remains. Rather advanced in its management, Zanki Zero will ask the player to quell the stress of the characters and even take care of their natural needs.

Shin Yomawari (PS4/PSVita)

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Remarkable game of 2016 in the fear department, Yomawari obviously sold well enough to warrant a sequel because Nippon Ichi Software plans to release Shin Yomawari in very territory this year. You will this time control two girls on after another, the world will be larger, including indoor environments among new frightening spots.

Tokyo Clanpool (PSVita)

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Compile Heart is on the move on Vita with a brand-new DRPG, the heroine which is… a loli prime minister ! Along with her cabinet, Natsume tackles the exploration of a mysterious black tower that crashed on the Japanese Diet building. Openly political, Tokyo Clanpool features a support rating as central criteria.

Dragon Quest XI (PS4)

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After the moral collapse of Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest XI is one of the references JRPG fans must consider. Casino, horse racing, dragon mounting, smith… SquareEnix’s next hit underlines its rich content and classicism to better attract summer players.

The Great Ace Attorney 2 (3DS)

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Cool but significantly incomplete, Great Ace Attorney had sequel” written all over it. That’s now on rails and we’ll again have the pleasure to experience the Victorian and Meiji era with Ryunôsuke, but also from the eyes of his distant cousin Ryutarô.

Legend of Heroes Trails of Cold Steel III (PS4)

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Falcom likes to play with fans’ feelings with its first PS4 exclusive. Trails of Cold Steel III reshuffles the roles and calls back popular characters from older episodes. Unexpectedly, Aurelia becomes headmistress of Thors Academy, Tio makes a noticeable entrance and eccentric Dubally will once more stand on your way along with the threatening secret society she belongs to. Meanwhile, no word on your former comrades from Trails of Cold Steel II… Falcom or the master of suspense.

Nights of Azure 2 (PS4/PSVita/Switch)

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Obsequious to Nintendo’s orders in exchange for a juicy part of profits in the Fire Emblem Warriors project, KoeiTecmo had left Nights of Azure in the dark the time the were preparing the Switch version. Having recently reappeared in the press, Gust’s action-RPG showed its final casting of Ashule’s partners and detailed the swimsuits offered as an apology for the long delay.

Moero Castle Panzers (PS4)

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Compile Heart had a clear purpose when choosing PS4 as the only platform for Moero Castle Panzers. The company intends to offer the usual Moero experience (touching the girls’ body) in the best 3D they can deliver. In terms of battle, we’re now looking to tactical-RPG featuring various jobs depending on the equipped underwear (!).

Review – Tokyo Xanadu

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In the long list of Falcom’s action-RPGs since the 80’s, I find names like Ys, Brandish, and the more discreet Xanadu. Distant successor, Tokyo Xanadu drops the heroic-fantasy of its ancestor to deal with urban legends in more contemporaneous anime style.

Tokyo Xanadu story

Kô is your average high schooler, spending his time between school and part-time jobs. Not very passionate about anything, he lives with the memory of the giant earthquake that shook Tokyo 10 years before. This very day, he and his childhood friend Shiori saw large red mark in the sky. This trauma will soon haunt him again as one day Shiori vanishes in another dimension. From there, a mysterious girl called Asuka appears before him and reveals the existence of a menace from a parallel universe. The disaster 10 years ago was no quake, and Asuka urges Kô to help her prevent it from happening again.

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Tokyo Xanadu has a Persona-like progression system. The game is strictly divided into different phases coming on a regular basis : main story, main dungeon and free time for preparation and distraction. Falcom has put efforts in the narrative and it makes significant progress : every chapter introduces a character and goes in depth about his background and personality, exactly what you’d see in a good anime series. Thanks to this rigorous story-telling, all characters have equal importance and there’s no shallow or underrated character. Every one of them has a clear role, a real importance in the narrative as a whole and all get their time to shine.

Tokyo Xanadu side

All the side narratives have some meaning in them, sometimes very strong and emotional : Rion’s past brought me to tears. On the other hand, Sora’s troubles for example felt a bit flat. But anyway, the title is packed with emotions and should captivate you increasingly more as you progress. Lots of side quests are also touching, many of them referring family as a general theme in a very mature way. The end the main narrative is truly tragic, unless you manage to get the true end. In short, Tokyo Xanadu is simply humane, beautifully.

Tokyo Xanadu leisure a

Leisure parts allow you to wander in an imaginary Tachikawa, deepen your relations with other characters or dive into annex dungeons in order to collect materials. You’ll even go at the butcher’s or the greengrocer’s to buy ingredients, because cooking exist in Tokyo Xanadu just like in Trails of Cold Steel II. Like the latter, each character has his/her favorite meals and you’ll have to choose your cook accordingly. The game also includes several mini-games like fishing or the card game here again from Legend of Heroes. Falcom adds a sort of dexterity game based on Alisa (from Trails of Cold Steel again) disguised as a magical girl.

Tokyo Xanadu battle xa

Battles look like a standard action-RPG like Kingdom Hearts or Final Fantasy Type-0. There’s a base combo on square, a charged blow on triangle and a long distance attack on circle. You can bring up to 3 characters in a dungeon, the basic principle being to swap between them in order to strike enemies on their weak element, or to let one recover HP. That’s for theory. Actually, the game is a little too easy : the greeds (that’s how you call monsters in this game) neither are very solid, very fast, nor are there a lot of them, so Tokyo Xanadu doesn’t provide that exhilarating feeling that action-RPGs should. The slowness of enemies is especially to blame : you can chain an entire combo between the moment they announce their attack and when they actually strike! Besides, Sora’s charged attack can OHKO most monsters. Is that because Trails of Cold Steel II was felt too hard? In any case, Falcom considerably diminished the challenge for this one.

Tokyo Xanadu Mitsuki

The 8 characters have their own fighting style and a personal Soul Device (how you call weapons in this game), which guarantees a nice variety of gameplay. Asuka si your classic JRPG swordswoman, nimble and forceful. Kô stands out with his whip sword of good reach. Sora excels in power and speed, while Shio moves more slowly but can cover a larger area. Those two should really have got a nerf because they can crush everything on their path without problem. The most technical character remains Mitsuki : the head of the student council can deploy a shield that can protect her and at the same time damage opponents. She can thus block hostiles but also deal a decisive blow when activated at the right time.

Tokyo Xanadu boss

Like often, boss battles are the most exciting. In difficult mode, dungeons are still piece of cake but bosses become more dangerous. Let’s stress that you can tweak difficulty any time form easy to difficult, another gesture from the developer to non-experts. A Nightmare mode exists but it cannot be modified afterwards. Your risk. Either way, in high difficulty later Elder Greeds are really unpredictable and require skillfulness, which makes extremely enjoyable fights, all the more intense that they weigh heavily in the story.

Tokyo Xanadu Mitsuki menu

Like in Trails of Cold Steel II, you’ll spend a lot of time strengthening your Soul Devices. Tokyo Xanadu borrows the quartz system from Falcom’s other franchise, so it’s definitely convenient for Falcom fans. Those little spheres are to be placed on the grid symbolizing the Soul Device in order to boost HP, strength, defense, etc, and S-Rare quartz grant special effects like absorbing HP or increasing damage when your HP are full (absolutely devastating when used on Sora).

Tokyo Xanadu dungeon a

You can change the Master Quartz of any Soul Device in order to modify its natural element and its specialization (physical or magical). This is especially important since enemies and their characteristics are announced before starting a dungeon : you need to gather a team that can strike every weakness. Kô, as he’s locked in the team for most part, will have access to any element. Also, you’ll be able to improve the grid itself so as to unlock passive skills : resist KO, support an ally or chaining X-Strikes.

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Technically, the developer delivers quite a good work with Tokyo Xanadu. The 3D engine is very similar to Legend of Heroes on the same system, but we you look at it well, it has been improved because the modeling appears sharper. More than that, animation is impressive as it runs perfectly without any frame-rate drop, something difficult to achieve on a handheld. Falcom doesn’t forget to make it spectacular, with lavish X-Strikes and a diverse, immersive and stirring. Dungeons, however, did look very average.

Climax of Falcom’s efforts to make story-telling a great part of the experience, Tokyo Xanadu is a fine JRPG in all aspects. The flawless balance in its scenario and characters bring variety in entertainment, key part of a great JRPG. Its only mistake, in the end, is to fail to provide sufficient challenge. Big mistake or not? Everyone will have his opinion on that.

Most anticipated games for 2017

Valkyria Azure Revolution (PSVita)

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I’ve been waiting for it a lot more politely” since the horrendous Autumn demo. The Action-RPG focus that has been reconfirmed doesn’t fit with Valkyria’s universe, and the battle system itself is fishy at best. Yet the prologue on PSVita was a little more satisfying, so maybe we can end up with a decent RPG of cool design.

Cyberdimension Neptune (PS4)

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The moment of truth for the Neptunia IP. Compile Heart took more than 1 year to think, work and offer us a game powered by Unreal Engine 4, which is a visual revolution. Still, little is known is this Action-RPG taking place in a MMORPG itself. We don’t know how the developers have calibrated fan-service and innovation, two key-elements to drive the series forward. The producers made very clear promises not to disappoint fans, so they better stick to it and avoid bland compromises this time.

NieR Automata (PS4)

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The demo was exactly what I expect from this game : precise and rich gameplay, Platinum touch in the camera work, an attractive main character, a intriguing world… March can’t come soon enough.

Nights of Azure 2 (PS4)

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Not especially a high priority until a few weeks ago, Gust’s next game suddenly made itself indispensable by its latest video. The least you could say is that there’s quite some “movement” here… Gameplay also looks like to benefit from dramatic improvements as the tag battle system seems quite lively with lots of charming allies. The developer was undoubtely right to postpone it.

Musô Stars (PSVita/PS4)

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How not to be excited when the spiritual successor to the excellent Orochi Warriors 3 Ultimate is almost within reach? For the first time, KoeiTecmo picks characters in all their IPs for a single action game. We’re therefore gonna be able to ease our stress on dozens of ennemies with unexpected dream teams involving Plachta, Oka, Kasumi or Marie-Rose to cite a few.

Senran Kagura Peach Beach Splash (PS4)

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Already called Splatoon PEGI18 by some, the sequel to Senran Kagura Estival Versus trades ninja weapons for water guns, in which you have fancy models like snipers. Takaki-san likes it wet (well, wet cute girls at least) and promise to deliver aquatic entertainment with a few surprises here and there.

Gun Gun Pixies (PSVita)

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While the general feeling of Cyberdimension Neptune remains shrouded in mystery, Compile Heart’s new PSVita exclusive is very clear from the start. Part of all the nice projects lately, Kochiwa producer presents a game close to action Netpunia U, with some novelty in the plot. You play as two very tiny alien girls whose mission is to infiltrate a girls’ domitory, which means a lot of private life scenes.

Blue Reflection (PS4)

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Boasting Gust’s most advanced 3D engine to date, Blue Reflection comes at us as a turn-based RPG featuring magical girls fighting dark demons. Like Persona 5, there will be lot of emphasis on spending time with classmates (including a clone of Hifumi, in a somewhat younger self).

Dungeon Travelers 2-2 (PSVita)

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Only game that ever had me shut down a handheld system in a hurry while I was commuting, Dungeon Travelers 2 had to reconfirm its direct sequel. It’s now official and the base scenario should keep providing juicy situations : the main character of the first game, Freid, has lot to the final boss and was turned into a insolent young boy. All the girls of the previous game have turned into demonic women. Let your imagination do the rest.

Wipeout Omega Collection (PS4)

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Quite nostalgic of the legendary futuristic racing game, the reveal of this ultimate collection at Playstation Experience was pure delight. I can’t wait to compete again on board those distinguished little ships for more speed, violent weapons and cool techno music.

Legend of Heroes Sen no Kiseki III (PS4)

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Falcom will need to be particularly clever if they want to justify Legend of Heroes Trails of Cold Steel III as a PS4 exclusive. Graphics are barely sharper so no one will believe that a Vita version wasn’t possible at this point. Despite Altina’s already confirmed return, believe me that I’ll be extra harsh on this.

Final Fantasy XV (PS4)

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Yes, I’m still waiting for Final Fantasy XV. The game released end of November isn’t FFXV, because it fails to comply with basic rules of FF. No choice but to wait until Hajime Tabata fixes his mess by eventually offering a more compelling experience, with an enhanced narrative and more playable characters.

Dragon Quest XI (PS4)

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While FFXV has seen rampant westernization, Dragon Quest XI is so faithful to its roots that I’d want to hug it. Here’s what I call a JRPG cast with varied styles of characters, and the first trailer clearly shows it will remain true to its genre.

I’m also eager for Ni no Kuni Revenant Kingdom (PS4), Gran Turismo Sport (PS4), Itadaki Street (PSVita), Tekken 7 (PS4), Gravity Daze 2 (PS4), Happy Manager (PS4), Final Fantasy VII Remake (PS4).

Review – Legend of Heroes Trails of Cold Steel II

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/!\ WARNING /!\ This article contains spoilers on Trails of Cold Steel 1! Do NOT read further if you haven’t finished the first episode.

Despite my (relative) disappointment with the first Sen no Kiseki, all the new stuff announced for this sequel had me excited nonetheless. And indeed, the game I had in hand had been enriched in many ways.

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Legend of Heroes Trails of Cold Steel II starts when Trails of Cold Steel ended (so far so good). Rean is alone with being Valimar, his newly acquired mecha, and Celine the Cat. He will therefore start looking for his comrades throughout the Elbonian Empire. Unfortunately, after the surprise attack launched by the aristocrats’ faction, the latter control most of the country. Class VII and the other members of Thors Academy scattered and organised themselves into small resistance groups to reclaim the land. 

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The general narrative of Legend of Heroes Trails of Cold Steel II does have a very good feeling. The politics/military aspect takes shape in a wonderful way in this sequel. The different stages of the reconquest are well detailed and will please Valkyria Chronicles fans as it’s pretty munch the same spirit. While the first Trails of Cold Steel was a accurate metaphor of the 30’s, Legend of Heroes Trails of Cold Steel II establishes clever parallelism with the beginning of the 2nd World War, particularly the interim government set by young princess Alfin. The very idea of progressively meet back your allies is also very clever and reminds us this great moment of Final Fantasy VI. It really helps the narrative as the game takes ample time to explain the stakes for every region and every character : lots of key elements will be revealed and the story will go much deeper in their personalities. If you liked them in Trails of Cold Steel, you will adore them here. Although the beginning and the end are once more significantly more intense than the center of the narrative, there’s no denying that Falcom found the right tone and structure to tell its stories.

Dubally

No JRPG becomes great without great villains. Legend of Heroes Trails of Cold Steel II does an impressive job on the matter by introducing a group of formidable mercenaries, all of them having different personalities and motives. Adding the unscrupulous aristocratic leaders, Falcom’s new adventure boasts a large and diverse cast of opponents. Each one will see substantial character development, so much that you might come to like them as much (if not more) as the main cast. This goes without saying, but the fights against those powerful and sometimes funny opponents make a unforgettable RPG experience, directly inheriting the greatness of JRPGs of the former decade. I must also stress the astonishing epilogue that completely reverses the story’s perspective and features an awesome final” boss like you’d never expect.

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Whilst Legend of Heroes Trails of Cold Steel was sadly very linear, this sequel offers a lot more freedom and content. First thing, you’re now in command of the stylish airship Courageous, and can visit the places you’ve taken back as you wish! The player is therefore free to tackle secondary objectives or look for other classmates hidden in the various regions. The students you’ve welcomed on board will offer some services like establishing a shop or a training center, which will help your party quite a lot. You’ve also got a shiny side-car to travel through the roads opened between the towns.

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This gives another dimension to sidequests, but the mini-games also evolve in a positive way because they’re better integrated into the story. You’ll for example enter a fishing contest following some curious encounter. The card game, cooking and fishing get more interesting in this sequel, especially the fishing because you can now actually go back to every river, pond, etc. to complete your collection and become the best fisherman. You also have new ones like the lottery or the snowboarding challenge. Probably also a reminiscence of some Final Fantasy… Legend of Heroes Trails of Cold Steel II doesn’t lack distractions and validate another good point of a great JRPG.

Elise

Another fantastic add of Trails of Cold Steel II, several secondary characters of the first one become playable. No less than 8 characters are added to the existing 10! For example, Elise, Claire and Sarah among others can be played on a large part of the game and in the last maze. Not only have you the immense pleasure to play characters you hadn’t before, but the new cast also add new strategic possibilities since they have a fighting style of their own.

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Battles don’t change from the turn-based of the first one. Your characters still move freely around the battlefield and their position will be as crucial as usual : numerous spells and skills can target a wide area, might it be for attacking, healing or boosting status. Those capacities consume CPs or MPs. But the CP skills remains the most important ones because they don’t need cast time. I do lament that Trails of Cold Steel II wouldn’t fix the gameplay issues I had seen in the first game. On the contrary, because it amplifies them. It’s still not possible to hide objectives on the map, which hinders the exploration aspect (even though it’s a lot more interesting than before).

Legend of Heroes Trails of Cold Steel 2 Laura s1

The most serious issues still lie in the combat system, because a KO character STILL LOSES ALL HIS FU** CPs! CPs being used for everything from attacking to healing and reinforcing, it’s pretty harsh if your several characters are down. Even if you revive them, they’re thrown back so far in the turns order that it’s difficult to maintain them alive. Also, the whole battle system stil relies a lot too much on S-Breaks, the ultimate attacks of each character which consume all your CPs. S-Breaks are so effective that it makes combat a bit repetitive, as you’ll want to use them as fast as possible.

Legend of Heroes Trails of Cold Steel 2 Sarah quartz

It’s a little too bad, because Legend of Heroes Trails of Cold Steel II benefits from the complex customization system inherited from the prequel. Quartz (which work like materias) provide a large array of elemental spells, support spells and passive skills such as inflicting abnormal status, lowering stats or reducing cast time. In this sequel more than before, you can improve those quartw in the (rare) workshops designed for that. This is absolutely addictive and you can spend hours merging quartz to get more powerful ones, and thus comfortable stat boost. You can make your characters even stronger by looking for S-rare quartz that grant very special benefits. The climax remains the quest for the Lost Arts, magic so devastating that you’re allowed to use it only once per battle. Master Quartz still decide the specialization of your character (healing, attack, defense, etc.) so you must set them in accordance with your general strategy or play style. A thoughtfully good system that’s been greatly enhanced in this sequel.

Legend of Heroes Trails of Cold Steel 2 over rise

In battle, once again you can connect” two characters so as to they support each other, like for example in adding an additional blow following a critical hit. The weaknesses of the enemies still depend on the type of weapon you use, so like before the point will be to use the right character at the right time. Legend of Heroes Trails of Cold Steel II adds an option called Over-Rise : under certain conditions, two characters will be able to unite their strengh for three turns while being healed, stronger and regaining some precious CPs. This new capability gives a nice advantage in tricky battles, and it’s consequently more than welcome.

Legend of Heroes Trails of Cold Steel 2 link

Link Abilities are much more spontaneous now : linked characters will automatically react to each other more often, for example in healing their partner or getting stronger to avenge them. Last but not least, the sequel give one additional S-Break to each character, some of them, like Laura’s (see above) being really impressive and immensely powerful.

Legend of Heroes Trails of Cold Steel 2 Valimar

The biggest novelty is the battle between mechs. Those are very special fights but there are quite a lot of them, which is pretty nice. You play as Valimar, itself assisted by another character you can freely choose. Valimar has far less moves than a traditional character, mainly a few skills, 2 magic spells depending on the support character (Alisa provides fire magic for example), and its own S-Break. Those fights are a matter of observation since you’ll have to aim for the right part of the enemy mech to actually deal significant damage. If you attack the wrong part, you can be heavily countered. You do have to monitor your HP, MP and CP, because being one turn late can bring defeat. That said, those battle quickly become some kind of routine because of Valimar’s own counterattack, which grants enormous tactical advantage.

Legend of Heroes Trails of Cold Steel 2 boss

Still, the big problem of Legend of Heroes Trails of Cold Steel II is its punitive level of difficulty. I can count the number of boss I beat at first try on my right hand. I PERMANENTLY needed to retry by lowering the bosses’ stats (-10% each time), sometimes twice or thrice! Bosses in this game are abnormally strong, not to mention they heal themselves frequently and keep calling powerful reinforcements while increasing their own stats. Main bosses have their own S-Break, likely to destroy your entire team in a flash and very tricky to counter. Being taken by surprise leads to unavoidable defeat. You take so much damage that it’s impossible to survive in default settings, healing just cannot keep up. It’s a game made for the elite of the elite of JRPG players, because you need to master every strategic possibility the gameplay has to offer in order to secure swift victories. I do appreciate this retry system since I could finish the game thanks to it, but after being slaughtered countless times, the pleasure of fighting had waned dramatically. There is a difficult mode, there are also harder modes above, so I do expect to have a normal challenge when I set the game in normal.

Legend of Heroes Trails of Cold Steel 2 battle q2

Graphics and animation haven’t changed much compared to the first one, the same 3D engine being used. Towns, countryside and dungeon do look nice for the Vita, but the modeling of some characters feel a bit old. New characters like Altina feel a lot sharper for example. Overall, Legend of Heroes Trails of Cold Steel II still is quite above your average PSVita visually speaking, especially for having such great richness, colors and animation in battle. We lament some serious framerate drops here and there, though.

Legend of Heroes Trails of Cold Steel 2 title

Aside pure technical aspects, it’s Falcom’s art that makes Falcom’s games so appealing. From the title screen to the crazy Lost Arts and S-Breaks, not forgetting the fine character design, Legend of Heroes Trails of Cold Steel II is as classy as you can get. The OST takes it full part in this, because it’s loaded of beautiful melodies during the 100 hours this giant RPG lasted. Battle themes are seriously good, especially the rocky Severe Blow, or the epic Blue Destination. Yumir no Keiyokudô as well as Shizuka na Ketsui are super powerful emotionally speaking.

Legend of Heroes Trails of Cold Steel 2 Altina Towa

Let’s have the final word about the final update of Legend of Heroes Trails of Cold Steel II, which happended 3 months after release in Japan. It added five playable characters (via skins) : Aflin and Towa, as well 3 of the «bad guys». That was only in the last dungeon of the game, but that was nevertheless a fu** immense pleasure. For many a dream coming true. I really want to stress this because as an update, it’s totally free of charge. In today’s gaming world where DLC prices are hiking like mad, Falcom’s initiative deserves praise.

Considerably enhanced compared to the first one by its improved narrative, its compelling game system, its higher degree of freedom and its numerous lovable characters, Legend of Heroes Trails of Cold Steel II is a great JRPG that just failed in reforming itself enough in gameplay. It’s a tough game that can become frustrating, but yet should be experienced for its artistic qualities and rich universe.

Review – Legend of Heroes Sen no Kiseki

SnK b

I’m completely new to Legend of Heroes, so I’ll be reviewing Sen No Kiseki (SnK) more as an outsider. This episode is the first on PSVita, and the first to be in 3D.

tank

From what I know, Legend of Heroes has always been about war and politics, a bit like Final Fantasy Type-0. It’s clearly the case here : Young student of Thors Military Academy, Rean is chosen to be part of the elite class. Composed of students of different background, «Class 7» will be sent against all odds in missions of National Security, and face ancient dark magic.

Alisa sports

Well, that’s in theory. The actual flow of events is not really dynamic. The story alternates between life at the Academy and field training. I found the school part was pretty cool, as the quests are varied and quite fun. But the best thing about it is the general atmosphere of the academy : there are dozens of NPCs, every one of them with their own background and personality. To make a comparison, it feels exactly like Harry Potter.

sarah

Let’s go into into the field trips now… Those are very very veeeeeery long sequences, because the story takes an eternity to accelerate a bit. Until the very end of the secnario, the stakes are kinda low and there’s a great deal of small talk which I can’t see as an added value (and in ultra-hard Japanese on the top of that, just imagine the suffering). The game hints at a lot a geopolitical issues (tax, arms race, aristocrats & commoners…) and the world inspired by the 30s is quite fascinating, but the big chunk of the story, the really exhilirating stuff is only in the last stages of the narrative. I’m sure you could cut something like 40% without hurting the understanding of the story, and the flow of the game would be improved. The scenario is not bad in a whole, it does have some good ideas, impressive scenes and plot twists, but those should really have better spread whithin the length of the game (70/80 hours). In those sequences, quests are virtually always the same : I have no problem in looking for lost cats and replacing bulbs. But PLEASE, NOT FOR 50 HOURS!

test

Fortunately, the game includes a few mini-games to help you unwind a bit : cards, a long fishing sidequest, a theme park or actual school tests about what’s in the library files. It’s cool but the impact on the gameplay in general is nil.

Laura d

Let’s talk game system now. A lot of objectives will have you look for objects and persons. But all those are marked on your map and it can’t be deactivated. So you spend most of your time going from A to B. That annoys me… let me search, for sh** sake, I WANT TO SEARCH! Add fairly linear FFXIII-like paths and no possibility to visit towns again at the end of the game, and you have a rather old-school progression system.

Alisa d (2)

Battles are already a lot better and it’s definitely one of the major enjoyments of SnK. Combat is extremely strategic and you’ll need your brains to prevail. Even though it’s turn-based, your characters can move freely around the battlefield, and like the Hyperdimension Neptune series, positioning the group wisely is crucial for attack/support. Actions are divided between attack, skill and magic that offer extremely varied effects and possibilities, with a great emphasis on identifying the weaknesses of the enemy. Elemental weaknesses of course, but also a sensitivity more or less acute to certain types of weapons.

link

If you strike with the right weapon, you have a chance that your partner will deal an additional blow. Like in Fire Emblem Awakening, it grows more efficient and gives more options when the friend level between the characters increases. The battle system is thus excellent, all the more interesting that enemies and bosses have very different behaviors, making every confrontation different from the others. To add even more depth in the battle system, the magic is organised by equipping quartz that have various effects : some just add spells, while others add status effects to normal attacks (instant death, freezing, etc) or status points (HP, DEF, etc). Finally, the turn column on the left add some bonuses such as critical attack or zero MP consumption, or even penalties in hazardous dungeons. It’s kind of a Russian roulette, since friends like foes can evenly benefit/suffer from those.

Ema c

There are two things that bug me though : WHY, WHY IN THE HELL DOES MY SKILL JAUGE FALL TO ZERO WHEN K.O.? For starters, there is no logic in this, because the magic points are kept. But it’s ultra-annoying since skills are WAY more important than magic to win (special attacks, which are crucial in boss battles, consumes all your skill points). Second thing is that even in normal mode the level of difficulty is punitively high. Bosses inflicts abnormal status all the time, launch powerful zone attacks, are seconded by ever-respawing monsters and your characters hardly have enough turns to heal and counterattack. Fortunately, SnK gives the player a very clever option : when you lose, you can restart with the enemy’s stats reduced by 10%. So it’s generally achievable at the 2nd retry. But still, it hurts… 

Alisa

From a technical point of view, it’s good but not outstanding. While SnK is rather correct for Vita generally speaking, the character modeling is of unequal quality. Alisa is not really satisfying (which bothers me a lot, I would have expected extra care for her), but most of the other characters look quite fine (especially Sarah and Laura).

countryside

On the other hand, monsters are surprisingly incredibly detailed and their looks is quite stunning most of the time. Cities and countryside show some great care, there are few examples of recent handheld RPGs that have those kind of environments. I still do lament some stupid little graphical bugs and an agonizing framerate in some towns. Although I really love the art direction & character design, I was disappointed to realize it didn’t get any push in the game, the few artworks not even being in full color.

I’m frustrated by Sen no Kiseki of which I expected a lot. I nearly threw the Vita by the window quite a few times but I still liked it in the end. I enjoyed combat a lot, I like the characters, the atmosphere of the game is really cool when something actually happens and the very end blew me away. However, there are too many hiccups here and there to make SnK the reference I thought it could become. We’ll see next September if Falcom fixes the problems and makes Sen no Kiseki 2 a perfect title.