It's an odd thing to go back to a series' beginnings after playing the first game in the franchise, and then return to the first game in a recent trilogy. But that's exactly what happened with my time with Trails in the Sky SC, a two-part series (with an epilogue chapter). After my weird journey with it, I actually have a greater respect for this game now than if I had played it before Cold Steel. Trails in the Sky is a game that, much like Cold Steel, is filled with a lot of detail and a story you can care about.
The game's story is a direct conclusion to Trails in the Sky, with Estelle chasing after the errant runaway Joshua. Before she can do that, she spends several months training to become strong enough to drag him back from wherever he went, whilst dealing with the mysterious organization that creeped up at the end of the last game. The story in this game is great, and its payoff really shines here.
Estelle also really grows as a character, but the other people in the game also get more character development (except maybe Tita, the poor loli). New characters like Analace and Father Kevin are also interesting, and you even learn about things like the Reinford Corporation that's featured in Cold Steel. My experience with that game makes me have a greater appreciation for those tidbits being mentioned in SC.
The gameplay of Second Chapter hasn't changed much from First Chapter, as they are meant to be a part of the same game, only split into two. In fact, Second Chapter's script is so large that the game was a nightmare to localize. A PSN version had to be reverse-engineered to accommodate the fact that the original UMD release in Japan was a two UMD game. Its PC version of the game doesn't have to swap out discs though, although the way that orbments worked has been tweaked to allowing slots to be upgraded to increase your EP capacity. It's also much prettier, using the assets from the PS3 release.
There may be some graphical glitches in the game, like how clouds animate during flight sequences. Other glitches showed up like the text overlay from two text panels sometimes overlapping, covering up text. There were some instances where the game seems to have some frame-pacing issues, and at least one time in the Glorious where the game could soft lock your controls. One other advantage the PC version has is that it makes use of auto-saving. The PSP version lacks these bugs and features, and is only running at 30 frames. Its lack of bugs is a good thing, but less good is how the font is harder to read on the tiny screen, regardless if it's a PSP or Vita.
Regardless of which version of the game you pick up, Trails in the Sky Second Chapter is a great game with a fully realized world that's waiting to be explored, despite the old school 2D Sprites/early 3D environments and a lack of voice acting apart from battle clips. It's definitely worth the $30 USD price-tag, so if you are willing to look past its older exterior, the game will shine brightly like Estelle's family namesake. I highly recommend it, but just be sure you play First Chapter first.
The Good: The second part of Trails in the Sky has an even better story than the first.
The Bad: The PC version still has some bugs.
The Ugly: The PSP version's text is a bit hard to read on a Vita or PSP.
SUMMARY: Trails in the Sky Second Chapter is a lengthy 80-plus hour story that's a more satisfying conclusion to the also long and great first half.
PSP and Steam review codes provided by XSEED Games and Marc Bianchi