Title (JP): Eiyuu Densetsu: Kuro no Kiseki II -CRIMSON SiN- (英雄伝説 黎の軌跡II -CRIMSON SiN-)
Platform: PS4, PS5
Developer: Nihon Falcom
Publisher: Nihon Falcom
Release date: 29 Sep 2022
Official website: https://www.falcom.co.jp/kuro2/
Check out our review of the previous game here: Kuro no Kiseki Review – A step forward, but not one without issues
Kuro no Kiseki is the twelth game in Nihon Falcom’s long-running Trails series, and the second in the new Kuro no Kiseki sub-series, which started in 2021 with the first Kuro no Kiseki.
Kuro no Kiseki II has the same setting as the previous game, taking place in the Republic of Calvard, a large country to the east of the locales previously seen in previous Trails games. Though Calvard was a monarchy up till roughly a century ago, the royal family was overthrown in a revolution lead by a Joan of Arc-like figure, and replaced with democratic rule. The country’s location and size also mean that it acts as a receptacle for immigrants and refugees from further east – namely regions themed after the Middle East and Asia.
Kuro no Kiseki II takes place only two months after the end of the events of Kuro no Kiseki: The events of the previous game ended in December, and the events of Kuro II begin in February of the following year. Most of protagonist Van’s assistants have not yet returned to the Calvard capital city of Edith in which he is based, and he has been taking it slow in the meantime. This changes when old acquaintance Elaine comes to his office seeking help on a case involving serial killings that have been going on lately, with evidence that they have been committed by what seems to be a crimson doppelganger of the Grendel; Van’s transformed alter-ego.
Unlike the first game, which sent the player all around Calvard, visiting six other areas outside of Edith, Kuro II mainly focuses on Edith, with the player only visiting two other areas, of which one is a returning locale from the previous game. Edith itself does have several new locales to visit, however, such as a central marketplace and the large tower which had been featured prominently in the previous game but was never actually visited.
Kuro II interestingly brings back the format used in Trails into Reverie: The game is still split into multiple chapters, but several are split into sub-chapters with different characters and perspectives, that they player can choose to play in any order. One sub-chapter might focus on Van as he heads to another city, while the other follows Swin and Nadia back in Edith as they investigate the serial killings.
And yes, Swin and Nadia, who first appeared in Trails into Reverie, return not just as full-fledged party members in Kuro II, but as the main characters of a significant portion of the game. Van spends some time away from Edith, during which they serve as the protagonists of the parts taking place in the city.
Another returning feature from Reverie is the existence of a dungeon that takes place outside of the main story, the Märchen Garten. The Garten is basically an Orbal Metaverse created by Marduk that has been hacked and taken over by an unknown player, and Van and company are tasked to investigate it by going through randomly-generated dungeons and defeating the enemies within.
This is functionally the same as the Infinity Corridor seen in Trails into Reverie. While the Garten is entirely optional to the main story, it allows the player to obtain large amounts of Sepith and money, obtain special materials to upgrade skills (that cannot be found elsewhere), and also get special costumes, accessories, and BGM tracks (though the BGM tracks can only be used within the Garten itself). And while the Garten has nothing to do with the main story, like the Infinity Corridor, it is tied into some postgame story content.
Märchen Garten can be accessed at almost any point in the game once unlocked shortly after the prologue, from Van’s computer or car, from special terminals found in each town area, or from certain save points within dungeons. And as all of the characters are able to access the Garten remotely, there are almost no restrictions to what party members can be used in it: Even if characters are split up between two different cities, they are able to meet up and go through the Garten’s dungeons together. The Garten also gives players access to special party members not from Van’s usual team who are almost never available otherwise, and bonus characters who only join up in the postgame.
The battle system has been heavily improved from the previous game. The realtime action and turn-based battles returns, but both have been improved: Field Battles – The Ys-like realtime action battles – Now have new features like Fields Arts (each Arts Driver now comes with a set spell that can be cast while in a Field Battle), and Cross Charge, a special attack which can be activated by performing a perfect dodge on an enemy attack and switches control to a different character at the same time. These and the addition of new characters that the player can use add more variety to the Field Battles, making them a bit less repetitive.
While Command Battles – the traditional Trails turn-based battle system – Seem mostly unchanged at first glance, there is actually a very significant change that makes battles work completely differently: In addition to requiring two S-Boost bars to go into Full Boost to use an S-Craft, a character can only use an S-Craft once per Full Boost. This means that the player can no longer chain multiple S-Crafts from the same character over and over again, which changes the dynamics of boss battles immensely: As fights can now last far longer, Shard Skills are far more important, as is finding ways to survive through some bosses’ powerful attacks. Bosses always now throw certain twists in, resulting in far more tense and exciting fights.
The balance changes do not affect battles with regular enemies, however: The player can still easily set up a character to be able to clear out every single encounter with an S-Craft at the start if they so wish to; as someone who always does this, this reviewer hopes it stays that way.
Another extremely important new feature is the EX Chain system: When an enemy’s Stun gauge is filled and it is stunned, any regular attack or Craft from a character in Boost that is in range of another party member will activate an EX Chain attack, in which the two characters each perform powerful attacks on the enemy, often resulting in damage equal to or even exceeding that from an S-Craft. This can become critical in boss fights, in which a player has to manage their Boost bars, upcoming turns, and the enemy Stun gauges so as to maximize how many EX Chains they can get in.
The AT Bar has also been fixed to be far more legible.
Compared to the first game, Kuro II runs far better. This reviewer found loadtimes to be not worthy of note, did not encounter freezing or slowdown like the previous game, and while the game did occassionally take some time to load in NPCs, it was never too long to inconvenience the player. All animations in battle can now be skipped (EX Chains were previously the sole exception, but this was patched soon after release), and the game also comes with the high-speed mode found in several previous Trails games to begin with. The high-speed mode can be activate at any time and makes the game move up to 4 times faster (the mode’s effect on the speed of the two types of battles can be changed individually).
While Kuro no Kiseki was noticeably missing minigames, Kuro II seems to try to compensate this by including a multitude: Fishing makes a return, basketball is now available as an activity in several spots, and there is a new card game in the form of UNO-like Seventh Hearts. There are also special treasure chests that can be unlocked through a hacking minigame in which the player takes control of Mare or Quatre’s drone FIO and goes through a timed puzzle maze, points in the story where the player takes control of FIO and has to go through ducts dodging lasers, trailing sequences in certain quests where the player has to follow someone and not get caught, and more.
Unfortunately, many of these minigames and activities are simply not very good. Fishing and basketball can be fun, but Seventh Hearts is an extreme disappointment, with far too much emphasis placed on luck with almost none placed on skill or any of the player’s decisions: This reviewer would have preferred that they just brought Vantage Masters or even Blade back. There are points in the story where the player can participate in various activities to raise characters’ connect points, but many of these are extremely repetitive and simply a pain to do. And the trailing sequences, which can be found in the main story, are just plain atrocious.
Kuro II also introduces a scan mode which is used in several story sequences to look for clues, but can also used to look for fishing spots and the currency used to unlock costumes and other items in Märchen Garten. The currency type typically does not respawn, meaning that the player no longer has to scan for items once clearing out a map, but the first visit to a map results in the good old dilemma of “why should the player ever not be using detective mode”. While it feels like it is intended to be an incentive to explore, it is definitely detracting to a player who intended on exploring to begin with.
The L.G.C. alignment system from the first game, in which the player’s decisions on how to resolve various situations affect an alignment gauge (Low, Gray, and Chaos), also returns, but aside from unlocking certain items it has no effect on the flow of the story at all. The game also cuts down on Connect Events, which are now only available at two points in the entire game.
Unfortunately, while the game has been improved tremendously system-wise, many fans of the series are drawn in by the story and characters, and some might feel disappointed by what Kuro no Kiseki II has to offer. Very little of the events in the game have anything to do with the series’ overarching plot, and the main antagonists are mostly very weak. The reveals of several mysterious identities feel quite silly too.
Story-wise, this is without doubt one of the weakest entries in the entire Trails series. This is not to say that it is bad, only that it is less satisfying than most of the other games. On the plus side, this game too does not end on a cliffhanger, with its self-contained story being resolved within itself. It should also be noted the game is also a bit shorter than recent ones, with this reviewer clocking in at precisely 90 hours when doing everything and including the postgame content and hours of dungeon crawling in the Märchen Garten, as opposed to most of the recent Trails games taking 100-120 hours each.
While the Trails series’ transition to its new phase had a rocky start with technical issues and balance problems in the first Kuro no Kiseki, Kuro no Kiseki II has managed to deal with the vast majority of said problems in a satisfying way. Technical issues are mostly gone, and the battle system has been massively improved. It is unfortunate that the story is a bit less interesting than usual, but the game is still a great romp nevertheless.
The Good: Kuro no Kiseki II is a massive improvement over its predecessor both gameplay and system-wise.
The Bad: The story has little to contribute to the overarching plot, with not much actually happening in the end. Some of the villains somehow manage to be even weaker than the last game’s.
Conclusion: Kuro no Kiseki II -CRIMSON SiN- is fun to play, and a decent entry in the Trails series, but longtime fans looking for answers to old questions and exciting reveals might be left disappointed.
This review was written based on the Japanese release of the game, and may not reflect changes made to versions released in other regions or in later updates