Wow, chapter 2 is absolutely fabulous. The way it ended was just so good. This was definitely the chapter for the Crossbell fans, but it was given the Cold Steel flavor to make it even better. Though I gotta say, if you haven't played Ao, this game is going to spoil one of the biggest plot points (though fortunately not the twist). CS3 is by no means friendly at all to newcomers. Long wall of text with no TL;DR incoming.
Chapter 2 thoughts:
Let's start with Rean. I don't want to sound like I'm beating the dead horse any further, but putting him in a position where he can teach others, given all the things that happened in the previous two games, does wonders for his image as the MC. It's hard to explain, but there's this maturity to him as an adult that really helps you relate as he tries to guide his pupils into doing the right thing, while personally trying to make peace with his own problems. Juna, Kurt, and Altina serve to help Rean mature in a different direction unlike the last two games, while the old class VII members serve to help Rean overcome the personal problems currently plaguing him. I like this duality because it helps to emphasize that Rean isn't some super all-powerful teacher that can solve everyone's problems, or even his own. It's nice to see Rean go about teaching in his own way, compared to say Sara, which adds a lot of complexity, and humor, to his character. He's also gained quite the skill in deflection when it comes to people trying to tease him about his popularity among the girls. I actually don't mind this junk this time around because Rean plays it very straight, especially with students, with whom he immediately tells them to just stop (though it's mostly Musse in this case); it's hilarious since it shows how much of a hard-ass teacher he is when compared to Sara. The happenings in the past two games really add weight to his words as teacher. This works a lot better compared to the things he'd say as a student because we're hearing things coming from a man who went through hell and back. Another thing about his position as a teacher is that he really gives this nice feeling of support for the students, and in the story in general, so this is very nice. You can tell he really acts like a teacher when going out on missions.
I'm also loving how they're handling the chapter exclusive reunions with part of the old class VII members. The game gives you this amazing feeling of nostalgia as you see these kids from the past two games grow up into adults with their own lives and careers they're working towards. The best part is when Rean starts cooperating with them to fulfill the government's orders, because they start discussing the issue at like actual adults instead of leaving one character to do all the talking.The interactions between the old class VII and the new make the character chemistry even better. It's just so fun to see all these characters bounce off of each other. Still, Falcom isn't pulling any punches with who they clearly think is the main girl for Rean, that being Alisa. That steamy reunion hug tells no lie; it was even more intimate than Laura's. Another improvement to Rean is him taking all these harem antic situations in stride without freaking out over them, or just plain deflecting them as I mentioned above. It works very well here since he's a grown man with a teaching license.
For the new class VII, namely Juna, Kurt, and Altina, they have a very unique and fun relationship. I'm very appreciative of the fact that while these three are reliant on Rean to show them the right path as their instructor, the three of them have this relationship where they help each other get back on their feet without Rean's involvement. There's Kurt who came to the second division of Thors due to his uncertainty about his future because of the Vander family being dismissed of their role as the royal family's protector, Juna who has to come to terms with the reality of what happened to Crossbell which conflicts with her admiration of the SSS and the person who saved back before Crossbell was annexed by Erebonia, and Altina who slowly begins to grasp the meaning of having emotions in the same way Millium did. I'm a real sucker when it comes to emotionless little girls starting to understand what real emotions are, and Altina fits that bill perfectly. I'm finding the problems they're dealing with to be pretty engaging since that's a gateway for Rean to get involved as their instructor. It looks like they're pushing Juna and Kurt, so I'm all for these two; they're pretty cute together. Ash and Musse look like they'll be interesting additions. Not too much on them, though we did learn a bit more about Musse this chapter.
Unfortunately, there wasn't much of the SSS except for Randy and Tio, but I'd say those two were enough to give newcomers and veterans a taste of the Crossbell they may or may not have experienced. In particular, Randy acts a bro for Rean in the same way he did with Lloyd in Zero/Ao. Too bad you don't get use him in this chapter due to story reasons, but I love that he hasn't changed at all including his obvious denial of how he really feels about Mireille, which Tio clearly likes to tease him about. It's great that his role as part of the SSS in protecting Crossbell was extended into the Cold Steel environment. All the Jaeger involvement in this game really has me excited again for what his role will be along the way aside from being the ultimate drinking bro. Speaking of Tio, I'm insanely happy she comes back older with the same adorable voice she had in the Zero/Ao games. Falcom pretty much granted my wish of showing Tio and Randy being intimate with each other as members of the SSS family, and I loved every bit of it. She also had a great role with helping the main cast resolving the incident in Crossbell because the SSS were pretty much out of commission due to the government suppressing them. In any case, I really loved Tio's involvement in this chapter, and hope she'll show up again. For now, Randy is probably going to be the focus here going forward from the SSS side of things, and I'm down for that, too.
Tita and Olivier. I love Tita so much. She's so grown up now but she's still as adorable as she was in the Sky games. The Alisa and Tita connection was a nice surprise, though not totally unexpected given their grandpas knowing each other. Both with blond hair to boot, a nice combination, I'd say. While Tita isn't involved to the extent she was in the Sky games (as of now), I'm loving her support role as the primary engineer for the class. The teasing with her and Agate never gets old, either. Olivier and Tita's reunion was fun as expected. I was totally expecting him to hit harder on Tita now that she's growing up to be a fine lady. He's as great as ever, and we even get to see him don his bard outfit again. You definitely need to talk with the NPCs to have fun with his dialogue. If you talk with Ashe, you get to hear about Olivier's plans in the future, which is to spend his days away in a rural town with Schera. An amusing part to that was the rest of old Class VII wondering if it was okay to hear all that.
Aurelia is turning out to be a really nice mother-like figure. She's pretty fun to watch, and kind of reminds me of Sara in a way except more intimidating. Definitely was under a different impression given her appearance in CS2.
The Crossbell NPCs also deserve a small mention. Wendy, San San, Kate, Ashley, Oscar, Bennet, and all the other NPCs in Crossbell have been wonderfully realized in 3D. I'm definitely rooting for the Oscar x Bennet pairing; one day Oscar will notice her feelings. Seeing Azel and Kouki graduate from their respective delinquent groups was pretty cool to see. Also love seeing all the Crossbell children; it's great that they're all still as adorable as ever.
Bonding events are way better in this game. They feel less self-insert-y than before and actually make sense. The one-on-one events with his students, I think, work well here because of his position as a teacher. It's a lot more believable than some busybody student roaming the school campus to see who he could win brownie points with. For the bonding events with the old class VII members, they're definitely winning me over here. I love that these events aren't experienced in isolation from the rest of the world. For chapter 2, the only members you can spend time with so far are Laura, Millium (afternoon) and Elliot (evening). All three events were great, especially Millium's because it involved them tailing Claire because she was under the misunderstanding that she had found a boyfriend. Laura had Schmidt involved, while Elliot had Mint (as expected because of their past connection in the choir club). Great stuff all around.
Man, not sure where to start on this. So much happened in this chapter, too. To start with, the frequent perspective shifts between Rean and Juna/Kurt/Altina are really great. Compared to the previous games, CS3 is doing a better job of balancing Rean as the MC and the characters around him. It helps that he isn't always involved in every single conversation anymore. And even when he is, he usually doesn't say much this time around, unless it directly involves him. This works well because of his position as a teacher, so him watching over how things fold with his students is a very believable characteristic. He shines here, but also when he's working with his fellow class VII members. You really get the "damn, they're actual working adults right now" vibe from them.
Randy and Rean's bonding time was great. Loved that they exchanged drinks and even broke down the barrier they had put up between each other due to their positions in the past. Randy holding onto his position as best bro, I see. Even better when Machias and Rean agrees to get a drink when they have the chance. Cedrick's really different now. What the hell happened to him after the Infernal Castle incident? This particular scene was where Rean was pretty cool as instructor along with Randy. Some intruders come in and they immediately start questioning who they were. We did get to have a fight with 3 controllable gundams this time though, so that was cool.
This was the Crossbell chapter, so of course, it was a pretty big one for Juna, including Randy and Tio. You definitely won't be able to appreciate this city as much if you hadn't played the Zero and Ao games. Seeing it realized in actual 3D is glorious and they definitely got all the details down, with some changes here and there. Plenty of Juna development here, and you get to meet her family. You also learn that Rean saved her life and her siblings back during Crossbell's annexation. I'm surprised Rean didn't recognize her at the beginning, but understandable given the things he had to deal with at the time. Of course, one of the big revelations in this chapter was how the Erebonian government had the SSS and anyone related to them entrapped on MWL. Rufus is one cold bastard, and certainly not what I was expecting after seeing what he was like in the first two games. Not to mention he's the very first Ironblood. Jusis has a lot of work to do with his crazy older brother, because he doesn't seem very right in the head given the little flashback segment of his entire meeting with Osborne. I also can't believe he just walked out of the entire scene when Juna was screaming at Rean. Cold-blooded, man. But this explains why Randy or Tio can't do much because they're under constant surveillance. I loved how old Class VII took on the job to resolve the problem in Crossbell in place of the SSS. They're finally intersecting the main characters of the games with each other and this was awesome. Let's not forget about the cool Randy and Rean brofist.
We also get to learn about Sharon's past and what happened to Alisa's father. Pretty dark stuff. The red plemora is definitely interesting since the blue plemora was a big issue in the Ao games. We might end up learning more about the red genosis which briefly came up in Zero and Ao. And the Epstein Foundation is really coming up with some crazy technology. What the hell is up with that Tio hologram? I would love to have a digital Tio wherever I go! Loved the bard Olivier making his return. He accompanies you to the Tower of Stargaze, which was a dungeon you frequently went to in the Crossbell games. Gotta say, it was weird traversing through it in 3D. Big stuff happened here. Seeing Juna get back on her feet with Kurt and Altina's support was great to see. At most, Rean gave her some words to think on, and that was very cool of him; he's honestly a pretty good teacher. Fighting Mcburn and Campenella was pretty tough, though mostly the former. Old class VII are definitely getting some shonen-tier power-ups right now. Aeon Type Beta had to be the most annoying mecha boss so far. He does that flying attack like 3-4 times in a row and you can't attack him. Love the music here though. Gets you hyped up. My only problem with this scene is how awkward it looked when Kurt and Altina came in to attack the enforcers. They seriously need to work on that.
After that big fight, we have the appearance of notCrow (and his Divine Knight) along with Vita. Really curious who are the masterminds behind the third "faction" that came into play. Alisa and Altina seem to recognize the voice from that floating ball, so definitely looking forward to the reveal in the future. It's nice to see all the old class members recognize notCrow and his weapons, though. I'm glad they're trying not to dwell on it too much, which is a nice touch to their growth as full-fledged adults.
The biggest surprise, though, had to be the end of the chapter with Lloyd, KeA, and Arios making it out of the MWL "birdcage". That was a cool as hell scene. Especially the brofist between Lloyd and Rean. Absolutely loved this part because it finally feels like there's a connection between Rean and the past MCs in this entire franchise. Of course, he hasn't met Estelle, Joshua, or Kevin yet, but I'm sure they'll meet eventually. And then the cycle will be complete. Gotta say, Lloyd looks handsome as hell now; must be because of he got rid of that turtle neck of his. We don't get to see Elie, Noel, Dudley, or Sergei, which was unfortunate.
Some cute things to note, KeA goes by KeA Bannings now. I get the feeling Tio is starting to imitate some of Randy's catchphrases now, that's super cute. Linde and Becky making their appearance was pretty fun. Fast Crafts Man employee Rains still seems to be working at the newspaper agency.
That was longer than I was expecting and I don't even think I addressed everything in the chapter (particularly the politics), but whatever. Great "bro" chapter in any case. I don't think the happenings in this chapter were as crazy in chapter 1, but I felt it was more focused on the nostalgia and roping in the Crossbell side of the story into the Erebonia arc. It still turned out great though since we get to see what happened to the previous MCs during all this. Overall, I'm overwhelming optimistic for this game so far. Only issues really are the clunky, awkward cutscenes as usual and lack of voice for almost everything. And before I end this...
Chapter 3 beginning thoughts:
Holy crap, this has to be one of the best scenes so far. A scene just between Jusis and Millium? Fan-fucking-tastic. I'm actually insanely happy that they might be taking these two in the direction I was expecting based on how these two had so much in common, story-wise (of course, chemistry-wise as well). They're totally pushing these two, aren't they? Romantic or platonic, whatever, because they're cute as hell together. Jusis in particular just stuck out like another MC from him showing concern for Millium as a artificially-created human to telling her not to worry about her position in the intelligence agency and instead to act as a member of class VII instead. This line in particular, 造られし存在・・・だからどうしたという話だな。, is one amazing Jusis-like line. I think it's pretty clear Jusis, like Rean, has some concerns about the factory they were created in, since this also directly concerns his brother, Rufus. Bravo Falcom, I think you've officially won me over here because this is exactly what I wanted to see with class VII. This pairing just made too much sense if you took notice in CS1 and CS2, and I'm glad, or at least I hope, they're going to delve into it even further. Jusis truly is the (second to Randy) best boy. Good job on Millium for finally getting that hug she always wanted from him. Fantastic music for the bonding moment, too.
Phew, this game is bad for my heart.