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by Zoelius / Zennvirus

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Guide and Walkthrough by Zoelius
/ Zennvirus

Version: 0.32 | Updated: 06/07/2019
FAQ of the Month Winner: May 2016 | Highest Rated Guide

Table of Contents

  1. Copyright and Other Information
  2. Gameplay Basics
    1. Characters
    2. Battle Basic
    3. Other Terminology
    4. Gameplay Changes from Cold Steel
  3. Prologue
    1. Prologue Part A: November 29
    2. Prologue Part B: November 30
  4. Act 1 - Part 1
    1. December 1st
    2. Celdic
    3. Twin Dragons Bridge
    4. December 4
  5. Act 1 - Part 2
    1. Nord Highlands - South, Part: A
    2. Nord Highlands - North
    3. Aria Shrine
    4. Nord Highlands - South, Part: B
    5. Watchtower
    6. December 8
  6. Act 1 - Part 3
    1. December 9
    2. Legram
    3. Aqua Shrine
    4. Bareahard
    5. Bareahard Airport
    6. December 12
  7. Intermission Chapter
  8. Act 2 - Part 1
    1. December 15
    2. Searching for Friends (Garrelia Section)
    3. Searching for Friends (Legram Section)
    4. Searching for Friends (Nord Section)
    5. December 17
    6. December 18
  9. Act 2 Part 2
    1. December 19
    2. December 20
    3. December 21
    4. Roer
    5. RF Building
    6. December 22
  10. Act 2 Part 3
    1. December 23
    2. Shrine Trials Part A
    3. Terra Shrine - Trial
    4. Aria Shrine - Trial
    5. Aqua Shrine - Trial
    6. Ignis Shrine - Trial
    7. December 24 & 25
    8. December 26
  11. Act 2 - Part 4
    1. December 27
    2. Bareahard Section
    3. Celdic & Roer
    4. Shrines Trials Part B
    5. December 30
  12. Finale
    1. December 30 Night Time
    2. December 31st
    3. Final Mission
    4. Infernal Castle
  13. Epilogue
    1. March 12
    2. March 13 Free Day
    3. Final Dungeon
  14. Divertissement
  15. New Game +
  16. Mini Games
    1. Snowboarding
    2. Blade II
  17. Optional Bosses
  18. Character Profile
    1. Class VII
    2. Supporters
    3. Year 1 Class I / II
    4. Year 1 Class III / IV / V
    5. Year 2 Class I / II
    6. Year 2 Class III / IV / V
    7. Instructors etc.
  19. Item List
    1. Weapon List
    2. Armor List
    3. Accessory List
    4. Consumables and Other Items
    5. Book List
  20. Arts and Quartz
    1. Arts
    2. Quartz
    3. Ex-Orb
  21. Master Quartz
    1. Earth Type
    2. Water Type
    3. Fire Type
    4. Wind Type
    5. Time Type
    6. Space Type
    7. Mirage Type
  22. Skill List
    1. Character Skills
    2. Valimar Skills
  23. Advance Strategy - Formations (In-Depth)
    1. Formation Types
  24. Advance Strategy - Stacking (In-Depth)
    1. Advance Strategy - Four Tools
  25. Advance Strategy - Character Evaluation (In-Depth)
    1. Field Characters
    2. Characters (In-Depth)
    3. The Characters
    4. General Recommendations
  26. Recipe List
  27. Fishing List
  28. Enemy List
  29. Trophy List
  30. Credits

Advance Strategy - Character Evaluation (In-Depth)

DO NOT READ ON IF YOU DON'T WANT TO RUIN THE SURPRISES FALCOM HAS FOR YOU. READ ONLY IF YOU ALREADY HAVE BEATEN THE GAME AND ARE PLANNING A Fresh Nightmare Run. Or say 'What the Hell!' and read on to meet the cast n' crew. Just don't say you didn't know. Zoel and I wash our hands.

Cold Steel II is currently the Trails with the highest amount of playable characters, topping at a total of 23, when counting guests and Specials, which only join or are available for a limited time. Thus, aside from Class VII, which are all versatile and have enough different abilities to address all possible situations, you get 13 guest characters who are all sort-of wild cards. Now, all players happen to have their favorite teams/characters that pack all you need, but this game, in a similar fashion as Trails in the Sky the 3rd, which will make you face at some points in the later game consecutive boss (and Super Boss) battles in which you'll need to use two teams. Plus, there are a good deal of times when the story will lump you with particular characters. And then there is the cruelty of Nightmare difficulty, especially if you are one of those doing an N3 run. For all these reasons, and any other you see fit to think while in game, it is vital to know the kinks and quirks of your army.

I (Zennvirus) like all of you, have my favorite party members. However, I do make a habit of playing with all possible characters and get to know what they can do. I'll try then to give the most neutral opinion I can manage based on experience. It is also fair to mention that I'll be relating this Evaluations with all the other Advanced Strategies (Formations and Stacking) so that you N3 players can have a better, non-spoiler option of planning the grueling task you set yourselves. Finally: THE FOLLOWING OPINIONS AND EVALUATIONS DO NOT REFLECT THOSE OF FELLOW GUIDE MAKER ZOELIUS. While our playing styles are somewhat similar, know that I tend to favor a more aggressive approach with boss battles and are thus ready to have my parties soak a good beating. It is for this reason that at the end of every character's section you'll find the legend 'Personal Opinion (Zennvirus)'. Feel free to disregard my personal view entirely if you don't agree.

Field Characters

This trend/feature started in Zero no Kiseki. What it means is a character that can help you daze the enemy in order for you to begin the battle with Triple Advantage (TA), which aside from granting your party a greater number of turns before the enemy party can act, also has the extremely useful feature of recovering 10 CP to ALL party members. All this is essential on an N3 run if you intend to traverse the various areas/dungeons without spending too many resources on Nightmare's overpowered mobs. The Erebonian arc has improved on this system by taking into consideration the different Attack Types (check 'Battle Basic' section for more details). This translates into the need of choosing party members that have the most possible Attack Types available, preferably on rank B. There is some leeway on this, as Sharon, who has rank C on Thrust/Pierce/Strike is capable of initiating TA with everything you encounter during Ch 1-3.

These are the best Field Characters that should be included on your party at all times:

  • Sharon
  • Sara
  • Fie
  • Toval

Characters (In-Depth)

Guest characters will join the party at specific points of time (i.e. Toval joins on the Prologue) and leave once you cross a specific point in the story. They will only join as permanent playable characters when you reach the True Final Dungeon, the Reverie Corridor. Aside from their availability, and specific abilities, they are regular characters and thus gain levels and can be equipped with weapons and quartz like Class VII characters.

Reverie Corridor Unique Characters - Phantasmal Mirrors and Special Characters The Mirrors are special accessories you can buy on the Rest Point at the beginning of the dungeon. They cost 200 000 mira EACH. When equipped, they will allow you to use a Special Character in battle. There are 2 Male Only Mirrors and 3 Lady Only Mirrors.

The available characters are: -

  • Azure Knight (Crow)
  • Witch of the Abyss (Vita)
  • Black Rabbit (Altina)
  • Burning Bravery (Lloyd)
  • Silver Moon Princess (Rixia)

Special Character Mechanics: These 5 characters follow specific quirks when you equip the Mirrors on those party members that can do so (remember: they are gender-specific).

  2. Special Characters ARE ONLY AVAILABLE IN BATTLE, substituting the character who has the corresponding Mirror equipped.
  3. Special Characters' LEVEL IS NOT FIXED. This means that their level and overall stats DEPEND ON THE CHARACTER EQUIPPED WITH THE MIRROR. Put simply, the Mirrors enable the use of new stats, character pallet, quartz set and abilities WHICH REPLACE THOSE OF THE MIRROR USER'S.
  5. Since Special Characters only appear in battle, they bear no relevance whenever you get out of the Old School House.

Aside from their quirks, each Special Characters offers the effects of the Ice Crown accessory (only available to regular party members after defeating the secret boss inside the 2nd Playthrough-specific dungeon: Glacia Shrine), which gives permanent 10 CP Regeneration and Critical Up status, making them extremely powerful. Quartz sets include Lost Arts and Lv 5 MQs, so they also benefit from the full roster of abilities.

The Characters

  • Availability: Is he/she with the team always, or is only a guest (will give specific availability).
  • Stat Orientation: (Favors Physical, Magical, Balanced, Speed, Move or Dodge).
  • Elemental Slots: Specific elements in their ARCUS units.
  • Suggested Master Quartz: Which particular MQs works best with this character.
  • Crafts: A general overview of each craft available to the character.
  • Best Formations: On which Formation does this character works best.
  • Recommended Stacks: Which Stacks will benefit this particular character.
  • Pros: His/her strengths.
  • Cons: Shortcomings.
  • Overview: Advantages, disadvantages, potential uses and such.
  • Personal Opinion: How Zennvirus regards this fictitious human being.
Character List
Rean SchwarzerMachias RegnitzGaius WorzelSharon KrugerTowa HerschelSpecial 3 (Crow)
Alisa ReinfordEmma MillsteinMillium OrionSara ValesteinAlfin Reise ArnorSpecial 4 (Vita)
Elliot CraigJusis AlbareaToval RandonneurElise SchwarzerSpecial 1 (Lloyd)Special 5 (Altina)
Laura S. ArseidFie ClaussellClaire RieveldtAngelica RognerSpecial 2 (Rixia)

Rean Schwarzer .

AvailabilityAlways. Whenever you form a party he is mandatory.
Stat OrientationBalanced with extra points on Str and Spd.
Elemental Slots2 Time, 1 Fire.
Suggested Master QuartzForce.
Autumn Leaf CutterUseful against mobs early in the game, but will be replaced by Gale on normal fights for damage dealing, and Arc Slash for Delaying. You'll likely only use it to cancel arts/crafts before a full Impede Stack is available.
MotivateUseful early in the game but will be abandoned once Jusis becomes available (Noble Command).
Arc SlashRean's single most useful craft. Even without the Impede Stack and the later Canceller Set and Black Virtue, the high Delay percentage will usually tip the battle in your favor. Coupled with the fact that Rean does not move when using it, and it is a jewel on all formations, especially Tank 2. Used properly, nothing short of the True Final Boss will ever be able to attack you.
GaleBest crowd control craft when not using Millium. Seal is a useful status effect which can save you from dangerous attacks. Coupled with the Force MQ and a True Gladiator Headband/Belt/Ice Crown and Str+ 50% buff makes Rean a craft-spamming machine against enemies/bosses who summon allies.
Flame/Dragon ImpactPowerful but not that useful due to the cost. However, when both the craft and the Force MQ are properly upgraded, it becomes, useful as Gale, as it would be self-sustaining.
Spirit UnificationEssentially, Rean's Overdrive. His offensive crafts become even more powerful it will even change the way on how Gale works. But the real usefulness of this craft lies in the raw power it gives to his S-Crafts, something invaluable when using an S-Craft strategy on Super Bosses. Coupled with Force MQ, and using the full 200 CP, Rean can almost match Laura in damage potential.
Ashen KnightIn theory, summoning Valimar can give you the same benefits of Spirit Unification. In practice, however, the Ashen Knight is only useful against non-story bosses, which do not generally warrant the use of more power. Also, its biggest flaw is the fact that you can only summon him ONCE PER BATTLE at the cost of 500 EP. Unlike Spirit Unification, which only needs 100 CP (Easy to recover with
the right Food Item and Force MQ's auto CP Regen). Thus, its usefulness lies in its capacity as a shield for the whole party whenever you get in a pinch... but only through the times mentioned above.
Azure Flame SlashUseful, but not the best way to use Rean's CP. That changes when Spirit Unification becomes available.
Termination Slash - DawnThis thing + Spirit Unification is your best source of damage together with Laura. Period. You only get it until Finale, though.
Best FormationsAll, but in particular Tank 2.
Recommended StacksCanceler and Warrior.
ProsFast, strong, versatile crafts. Can cover nearly any situation.
ConsAts and EP are not good. You'll likely ignore him where arts are concerned except for Impassion, which the Force MQ includes.
OverviewClassical well-rounded Main Character. Efficient at dealing with mobs and pretty decent against bosses. He will be using Motivate a lot until Jusis joins. Arts are not his forte, but that fact is often ignored. Though equipping him with a Chrono Burst will make good use of his EP if you don't plan to use Valimar. Where crafts are concerned, you'll be using primarily Arc Slash, Gale, and Spirit Unification. The delay is such a broken mechanic in this game, and since you only get a true Shield at the very end of the game, it becomes so much more important.
Personal OpinionYou cannot change him, so better get used to him? Nah! Rean is one seriously useful character you will NEVER want to find yourself without. His stats and his crafts, particularly the three mentioned above will make A LOT OF DIFFERENCE on an N3 Run, where spd is such a deciding factor. His only flaw (that I can even imagine) is the lack of the proper equipment through Chapter 1. Yet it is never a hindrance. If Alisa's R is for Romance, Rean's is for Resourcefulness. Period.

Alisa Reinford .

AvailabilityAct 1 - Part 2 (Nord Highlands - Northeast)
Stat OrientationCrafts and Ats (support).
Elemental Slots2 Flame, 1 Space.
Suggested Master QuartzAngel.
FlambergeUseful only when you need to Cancel arts/crafts in an emergency.
Mirage ArrowGood against mobs on normal battles. Useless against bosses if they aren't vulnerable to Blind. Otherwise, use in tandem with a blind stack.
Blessed ArrowCan be a real life saver against the toughest nuts in the game where so many powerful stuff will be coming your way.
Molten Rain/StormOnly the upgraded version can be useful. With status Stacks, preferably.
Heavenly GiftThis is the one you will use with religious regularity. CP Regen for 4 turns + Insight? Count me in! The perfect companion for Rean, Jusis, Laura, Sara, Sharon...any character who DEPENDS on CP to function as I depend on coffee on Mondays. Only drawbacks are the cost and the fact that Alisa won't benefit from the buffs, but that can be fixed with an True Gladiator Belt and the Ice Crown (CP Regen) or by Linking her to Rean or whoever is the fastest party member you are currently using.
Judgement ArrowUseful when doing a 4x S-Craft rush.
Radiance ArkUseful when doing a 4x S-Craft rush (yes, I copy-pasted). If your target is weak to Mute...hehehehe!
Best FormationsAll.
Recommended StacksQuick Feet or Dodge.
ProsBest damn support character ever. Heavenly Gift is a pun through and through.
ConsFragile. She NEEDS Insight and Shields for those Super bosses. Moreover since she has the least amount of HP of all Class VII.
OverviewIn short, Ms. CP Battery. She is also a great healer for the Finale/Epilogue thanks to Seraphic Ring. That Angel MQ is super important on her 'cause of her fragility. Seriously, if left unprotected by Insight or Shields chances are she will be killed. Hence, the Angel MQ is needed for those tense moments when you know she can't be saved. You want her protected by both the above-mentioned buffs and the rest of the party.
Personal OpinionI never remove her from my party. You shouldn't too. Especially on N3 Runs. You want her at the highest possible level (both her and her Angel MQ). She is SO. DAMN. USEFUL.

Elliot Craig .

AvailabilityAct 1 - Part 1 (East Celdic Highway).
Stat OrientationArts and Crafts (offensive/healing).
Elemental Slots2 Space, 1 Water
Suggested Master QuartzAries or Scepter.
Detector αWhen it becomes the Alpha version, this craft can take the sting out of those Bosses that are weak to Stat Debuffs. Useful when in a tandem with party buffs that cover Def/Adf.
Resounding Beat /
Resonance Beat
HP Regen and Def Up are always welcome, even on Nightmare, the stat can give you a survival chance, especially for fragile characters (Elliot Included)
Blue LullabySleep is good, especially Stacked, but Nightmare (status) is better.
Holy SongA real lifesaver. Especially against Super Bosses. 50% HP Heal + Recuria effect? Well worth 30 CP easily recovered with Food Items or Gladiator Belts.
Nocturne BellIf you are going offensive with Elliot's crafts, use this one. Unlike Sleep, Nightmare (status) only goes off over time, plus it adds a random status effects. Very useful to remove Boss allies from the picture, especially when mixed with Arc Slash and other Impede/Delay crafts.
Seventh RhapsodyUse it combined with Ats Up (both buff and Stack), Adf Down and an extra Confuse quartz to make sure it performs at full power.
Remedy OratoriumPanic Button.
Best FormationsTank, Baiting and T Formation.
Recommended StacksMage, Might and Quick Feet.
ProsBest Healer, 2nd best Ats of the regular (Class VII) characters. 2nd fastest Mage.
ConsFragile, not much HP, bad Str. Only one true offensive craft.
OverviewElliot is the mandatory healer-oriented party member. As such, he is shackled with all the typical healer issues. However, this being a Trails game that allows for art customization (the ARCUS), you can actually tune him so the scrawny kid can pack a serious wallop. How? By means of Stacking, of course! Properly equipped, he can be tailored to be an arts cannon-healing combo, easily making the party able to survive some of the most brutal stuff you are to find. Add into the mix the Aries MQ and he will never really need to use EP Charges. Craftwise, Elliot is meant to be supportive. Only Nocturne Bell and Seventh Rhapsody can properly deal damage. However, since they depend on his Ats stat, and he excels in that particular talent...try them on purely physical bosses (Shrines).
Personal OpinionI prefer Emma over Elliot, and not just because of a particular favoritism for female characters (hey, I'm a dude!). I usually dump Elliot as soon as Emma becomes available, for she has a hell lot more versatility. Since Elliot is so oriented to the Water element and his most useful MQs are also Water elemental, I use his ARCUS slots to give him more variety. Since he is such a dedicated healer, I usually give him Seraphic Ring as soon as I get it, plus Dark Matter/Cross Crusade/Altair Cannon to better use his Space slots. He is not a bad character, but as I stated before, not so well suited to my playstyle when Emma is around.

Laura S. Arseid .

AvailabilityAct 1 - Part 3 (Legram).
Stat OrientationPure Physical offense, crafts.
Elemental Slots2 Water, 1 Fire
Suggested Master QuartzBrave. You want the Str bonus. Period.
True - Armor BreakerYeah, its single target. So? It still inflicts Def Down. And Laura wants her opponents with Def Down. No need to ask why...
Earth CleaverEnemy far away? Don't want to break the formation? Do you depend on Link attacks? Here is your answer. As an added bonus, Mov Down on target. Which can be just as useful as Spd Down...if the enemy is far enough.
Brilliant Spin/FlashCrowd control. And it adds Faint, which guarantees Critical hits. The only drawback is it knocks back the enemies a bit. But hey! You can draw them back again with this craft (get it? Draw-back...please don't kill me!).
Radiant WingsYou get Alisa before Laura, and Jusis is just around the corner, so you don't really need this craft. Useful on Trial Chests though. Insight is such a great status effect!
Radiant BladeHave a Mage problem? Mute and properly damage the sniveling cowards with this baby. Laura has to move towards them a bit though, so be aware you may need to move her back into formation.
Radiant WaltzA place holder until Lv 105.
Radiant LionOne word: Murder. Making full use of Stacking and buffing, you'll be amazed at how much damage this Bad Boy can do. Trust me.
Best FormationsBaiting, Tank and any that requires strong members on the front line.
Recommended StacksWarrior. It was made for her and tested by her.
ProsRaw power at your disposition. The skills and the parameters to use it with deadly results. Adequately high Def, too.
ConsLow Spd. No magical capabilities whatsoever. But who cares?!
OverviewThe highest Str in the game and more than decent Def too. She makes a proper tank in the front lines. She has no useful magical potential but as stated before she does not need it. Just make sure you give her some extra Adf (quartz or accessories) if she is fighting something that uses arts. And put those ARCUS slots to work as they are meant to. That means putting something useful on her two water slots (kind of a programmer joke). Either with Spirit Breaker or Freeze. Those crafts of hers, with the exception of Radiant Wings, are all jewels.
Personal OpinionOne of the most damn useful characters in the game! We know that arts are the main source of damage on an N3 run. But then there is Laura. She is the reason (together with Rean) that I know Stacking is such a broken mechanic, and why we won't be seeing it again after the Ereboninan arc is over if I know Falcom at all. I can't praise her enough. See for yourself this truly broken character in action.

Machias Regnitz

AvailabilityAct 1 - Part 1 (Celdic).
Stat OrientationSupport and Arts.
Elemental Slots2 Earth, 1 Mirage
Suggested Master QuartzIron or Aegis if using him for support, Aries, Murakumo or any other high Str MQ if using him for offense. Juggler or Pandora if
you plan on abusing Petrifying Shell and Trinity Cross.
Break Shot/Mail BreakerFor obvious reasons, Mailbreaker is superior. Combining this craft with any of Laura's, or those of the other hard hitters will really do good damage. It's added Impede effect is a good perk.
Energy ShellAries MQ and Seraphic Ring make this one not as useful when you only bring one age with you. The fact you can choose the placing of the AoE, however, makes up for it. And as always, Machias won't benefit from the effects.
Petrification ShellUse a Petrify Stack and only those enemies immune will be left alive.
Burst DriveMachias's best craft. Properly used in conjunction with Arc Slash, Chrono Break, and Spd buffs can make enemies completely incapable of acting, since Machias is very slow and he will usually be some the last one to act.
Huge BulletSave the CP for Burst Drive. Useful only against non-boss crowds.
Ultimate ShotVery effective against bosses with allies. Use it to cripple the allies
Trinity CannonUltimate Shot 2.0. I've seen up to 3 very crippling status effects pop up after using it.
Best FormationsAll formations that require someone at the very back row.
Recommended StacksLargely depending on what you plan to use him for. Quick Feet and Plague are the best bets with him.
ProsLong range and wide AoE with his normal attack. Useful crafts and decent Ats.
ConsSlow, so his good Def is not that good. He doesn't have the EP to sustain a constant art bombardment.
OverviewThink him as a cross between Olivier and Tita from Sky. He should be labeled as a "Balance" character, but it is better to have him focus on one task, whether it is support, arts or attack. Properly buffed (and Stacked) he is a decent backup character. Also not fragile, so he takes a beating. Take advantage of his 2 Earth oriented slots to either make him tougher (Defense Stack) or make his Petrifying Shell even deadlier. That Mirage slot can be used for buffing his Ats, EP, or adding Confuse into the mix. The one craft you'll be spending his CP is Burst Drive which, when used properly can totally prevent the enemy turns (Canceler strategies). His S-Crafts should be always used with buffs applied to their fullest. Having the Juggler or Pandora MQs make them a real cruelty.
Personal OpinionNot one of my favorites. Yes, Burst Drive can reset your fast, turn-monopolizing characters turn. Yes, he can inflict a lot of status effects, especially Petrify. Yes, he can be a good damage dealer with the proper Stacks/buffs. The problem with Mr. Regnitz is that he does not work well when you try to balance him in both crafts and arts, since you have to sacrifice valuable slots. He still proves useful though, but he is one character you need to prepare adequately before he can perform right as you wish. But get to know him and he can cover any area you want.

Emma Millstein .

AvailabilityAct 1 - Part 3 (Legram).
Stat OrientationOffensive Magic and Support.
Elemental Slots2 Mirage, 1 Fire
Suggested Master QuartzMirage or Aries.
Detector βNow we are talking! Detector's Beta Version (pun intended) really does the trick, since on Nightmare, debuffing offensive power of the bosses does not provide a significant edge. Def/Adf debuffing, on the other hand... There is one reason Emma joins together with Laura...
Serene BlessingThe one department where Emma does not really shine is healing. But since this craft recovers 30 CP (50 when upgraded at Lv 87) it is the perfect companion for Alisa's Blessed Arrow. Between the two of them, you can maintain a constant supply of HP/CP at a reasonable cost. More so with Gladiator accessories.
Ethereal EdgeEmma has the highest Ats of Class VII and this is a magical-oriented craft...use (buffed) on non-magical targets for grin-making results.
Crescent ShellNext point tilting the scales in Emma's favor. What is better? Having to spend turns healing a powerful art, and the EP/CP/Items involved? Or just downright block the damn things AND gain a Def bonus? Up to you...
Aster FlareTakes advantage of our Hexen Breed's raw magical power, can add Burn and Confuse. Deadlier if you do some Stacking, and she just so happens to have the ARCUS slots for this particular job. Mischief potential is great!
Lord AlbireonStack Ats, Noble Command, murder anything that has low Adf. Period.
Zodiac RainSame as above, but now she means it! And so do I!
Best FormationsAll but excels particularly at Baiting, Spreads and Tanks.
Recommended StacksMight and Magic(al). What did you think?
ProsRaw magical power easily applicable either with arts or crafts. Also the EP to sustain the onslaught. Not that slow either.
ConsMage = Fragile. Bad Def. Second worst HP of Class VII.
OverviewWhen on Nightmare, turn to arts. That is, turn to Emma. Short for Everything Magic Might Annihilate. Seriously, arts have so many uses, and high Ats guarantees they will be coming out fast even without Bell quartz. Since she has natural Mirage and Fire ARCUS slots, you could end up firing the second strongest Purgatorial Flame this side of McBurn. Often. Since Mirage MQ gives you already Claiomh Solarion, those slots will have Mind quartz on a permanent basis except when... you are using her for extra craft mayhem. You may even keep them and what she got will still be fun to see.
Personal OpinionIf Laura ain't Chopping, Emma is Blasting. Plain and simple. Put them together and they are deadly. Plus, both are easy on the eyes! Hey! Its a perk.

Jusis Albarea

AvailabilityAct 1 - Part 3 (Bareahard).
Stat OrientationSupport and Balance.
Elemental Slots2 Space, 1 Wind
Suggested Master QuartzMistral, Raven, or any other Spd proficient MQ.
Rapid Thrust IIJusis Impede/Delay craft that can be useful in a pinch.
Rune Blade/Ark BladeGood complement to soften up enemies for Emma or Elliot. Better when Noble Command is in effect.
Noble CommandPlease insert a "Use all CP here"sign. Two of this are enough to make Rean, Laura and Emma a force to be recon with. Best damn useful craft in his arsenal.
Treasure SwordSeal n' Chill your opposition with this. It has good AoE and benefits from Stacking and Noble Command too.
Platinum ShieldPlease insert a "Use CP here when fighting Super Bosses" sign if you lack Adamantine Shields and Earth Bells or your Aegis MQ is not on Lv 5. Useful even when you do. A real life saver indeed!
Crystal SaberCan be used rather well when doing 4 S-Craft Rushes. Don't waste CP on it otherwise.
Asteion Knights(Copy-paste the above comment).
Best FormationsTank and Baiting. Very useful to on Spread formations.
Recommended StacksQuick Feet and Armor. You want him to survive.
ProsWell rounded individual with just enough on every stat to need only a slight push in your direction of choice. Good, useful and cost effective crafts too.
ConsNot that powerful without buffing, too well rounded to excel in one area.
OverviewSure he has everything, but that limits his usefulness as much as it gives him versatility. Without buffing him in a particular direction, Jusis will not deliver many Criticals or even properly damaging strikes. His arts have power, but they will not decimate mobs (as in groups). He can have enough turns but will never monopolize the action like Fie or Rean. He is silver everywhere... and gold in crafts. Granted, you will rarely use Rapid Thrust, Rune Blade, and Treasure Sword. Noble Command and Platinum Shield more than make up for it in usage. Seriously, by the Finale and its long parade of Super Bosses, and even way before than that, those two crafts will be the reason this young noble will be Commanding the support. Not arts, not even his S-Crafts.
Personal OpinionIf I prefer Emma over Elliot, Jusis takes the lead over Machias. He can make the characters that really get the fight done do their thing. Jusis is the proverbial Duke of Support (I know: silly joke).

Fie Claussell

AvailabilityAct 1 - Part 1 (East Celdic Highway).
Stat OrientationSpeed and offense.
Elemental Slots2 Wind, 1 Time
Suggested Master QuartzRaven or Falco.
SweepGood AoE, Impede and debuffs Spd? What more do you need? And since Fie is the fastest character she will rarely miss if you give her the Canceler Set...
Flash GrenadeFie has the highest possible Agi of all party members. Add this one to include insult to injury and no mob will ever be able to touch her.
Scud Ripper/WingAll the possibilities of this one...the Wing version is even deadlier (and I mean it literally).
Bullet CycloneBaiting formation? Have a Super Boss targeting Fie or someone else? Bullet Cyclone, Baby!
Concealing WindAnd for those emergency cases when you know not even Fie can escape...she still has one last trick under her sleeves. Stealth gives you two things: Automatically dodge any Physical attack (arts and S-Crafts can still hit you), and makes the enemy ignore you. Plus, it increases Spd. The best for gaining those crucial extra turns (of which Fie has so many).
Sylphid DanceClassical placeholder until Fie's Lv 95.
Shadow BrigadeRather powerful, hit-all S-Craft. Since Fie is so fast, any sort of Gladiator equipment will allow you to use this one often.
Best FormationsBaiting.
Recommended StacksDodge or Quick Feet.
ProsBest Speed and Evasion of the entire 23 characters. Even Special Characters can't match her.
ConsBad at arts, not that much HP, so if she is ever caught by something nasty...she may not recover.
OverviewSince Spd is the single most crucial stat on an N3 run, Fie is immediately a crucial and useful character both in boss battles and outside of them. Arts ain't a problem, especially if using Raven MQ, for it contains the few arts that are actually useful to Fie (the Chrono set). Also the fact that her ARCUS elemental slots are Air and Time just begs for you to use them for Evade and Action quartz. Properly prepared, she can deal as much damage as normal attacks from Rean, by virtue of her number of turns. Plus EVA makes her one of most useful characters for Link attacks, even against those only vulnerable to Strike type. All of her crafts are extremely useful, and since she is so fast, she will never lack the CP, nor miss the chance to use them...if you equip her accordingly, otherwise she will devour CP. Those S-Crafts of hers are the perfect complement to any 4 S-Craft Rush and are just as useful for S-Breaking those all-important bonus turns. She is even one of the three best characters to use constantly on the field for anything not resistant to Strike will be dazed by her, so she will give the party countless Triple Advantages, which she can exploit to their fullest.
Personal OpinionAh! Fie...It was on Zoelius' guide for CS 1 where I began to delve really into Stacking. And Fie was the prototype for the mechanics. Zoel's 'Dodge Tank' is the 6th most broken party member, for she is the one that made me develop not only Stacking but the whole Formation mechanics. It's as if Joshua Bright had a daughter and that daughter is Fie. She can do all the stuff Mr. Black Fang did.
AND she is downright untouchable. Not even the True Final Boss, who is capable of shrugging even the power of Arc Slash. can hope to touch Fie at 90-100% EVA with Insight on her. She is the mother of all advanced strategies and cute to boot too. Use her...but don't abuse her. Enjoy the challenge.

Gaius Worzel .

AvailabilityAct 1 - Part 2 (Nord Settlement).
Stat OrientationSpeed and offense.
Elemental Slots2 Wind, 1 Earth
Suggested Master QuartzFalco, Wing or Raven.
Gale Stinger/StormHas good power, and even at 30% Seal, Gaius will be able to stop enemies from attacking. Useful against a vast array of foes that
depend on crafts to hurt you.
TurbulenceBlind is such a useful thing when used properly. Stack it on Gaius and watch your party rake in those counters.
Wild RageYes, it's been toned down since the days of Agate Crossner and Randy Orlandou. It's still one of the best damn crafts ever! Crucial against Super Bosses when your only hope is to use S-Crafts. If only it were on Laura! But Falcom learns from our antics and thus dulls our favorite weapons to maintain the challenge...which is good, BTW.
Savage FangIf it says 'Delay' and 'Area (M)', count me in! However, use with care, since it works the same as Autumn Leaf Cutter, which means he will be placed on a random point within the AoE of the craft after execution. Can be dangerous if you need him to maintain the formation.
Hunter WingCancels arts and lowers Def/Adf. Follow up with something nasty, please.
Calamity HawkPlace holder until Gaius is on Lv 78.
Twin CyclonesNow we are talking! Wild Rage exists for you to use this.
Best FormationsTank, Baiting, Spreads. He is adaptable.
Recommended StacksWarrior, Plague, Canceler, Quick Feet.
ProsStrong and fast. Good set of skills. Has decent Dex too, so he will rarely miss.
ConsNot that resistant. Useless where arts are concerned.
OverviewThere is no Agate, but we get Laura and Gaius! One is slow but ultra powerful, and Gaius is a craft machine! Spend his ARCUS slots buffing his Def and Eva, he has the necessary elemental slots just waiting for them. Give him Action Stacks and Gladiator equipment, he can become almost self-sustained. His crafts will be useful even against enemies resistant to Physical attacks. And if you are itching to spam S-Crafts (like me), Wild Rage is there for you to unleash some Winds of Destruction! (Ys Seven reference)
Personal OpinionCharacters like this are so cool to use. Gaius may not always be included in my party, for I prefer Laura's raw power, but when I need S-Crafts fast (McBurn, you bi...) this calm and composed murder machine from Nord Highlands is one hell of a useful character. He won't disappoint you either.

Millium Orion .

AvailabilityAct 1 - Part 2 (Nord Highlands 3).
Stat OrientationTanking and crafts.
Elemental Slots2 Mirage, 1 Earth
Suggested Master QuartzAegis or other high Def/Str quartz.
Buster ArmYou want to do Baiting and still have the power to cave-in your enemy's face? Look no further! And at a reasonable cost too.
Ultimate BarrierIf you favor Tanking strategies, this one is for you. Very few things are fast enough to be able to hit her before you recast when used in a tandem with all those Delay crafts.
Riot Beam/Valiant BeamHurt your enemies, take some of the sting from their attacks and make them vulnerable to your own. All in one neat, Line Attack.
Megaton PressDelay + Faint? Area (L)?! Hell yeah! The drawback is that Millium is one of the slower types so it won't connect on those with high Delay resistant without the Canceler Set.
Sledge ImpactMob clean-up tool. And you can choose where to place that Area (XL) if something is not already inside.
Gigant BreakerPlace holder until Millium hits Lv 82.
Galactic CannonBuff her Str and you have a near-Rean level of power.
Best FormationsBaiting and Tanking, Frontal Spread is also good.
Recommended StacksWarrior, Quick Feet and Armor.
ProsTough and strong. As good at receiving a beating as she is at giving like for like. Plus the HP to survive the exchange. Decent set of skills can hold her own with arts.
ConsSlow.As.Hell. Does not have the EP to really help with arts. Poor Dex so she will miss often.
OverviewLooks can be deceiving, eh? Our little, hyperactive chatterbox is the best Tank in the whole game. She can take the punishment (somehow that sounds wrong). She may have a fighting chance with arts, but it's best to reserve her ARCUS slots to at least correct some of her defects rather than go nuts trying to make her as powerful as Laura. She "may" have a chance at that, but such a setting will make her so slow her turns will be more like news flashes. She is better with her crafts, especially when Tanking. She may be slow, but she packs some punch! Dump Gigant Breaker as soon as Galactic Cannon becomes available and she can add more pain to what Rean and Laura can do.
Personal OpinionIf I use Millium, it's for the enemy to have something to hit and be hit back while the rest of the party prepares the real pain. Leveling up her Aegis MQ will give her access to Adamantine Shield. Redundant on her, Well, I disagree. That is the one art I always want her using. She ain't a pushover despite being the youngest party member so she won't be killed easily by bad boys like Xeno and Leonidas, Duvalie or many others, including the True Final Boss. I don't use her that often, but she never disappoints me when I do.

Toval Randonneur.

AvailabilityPrologue (Ymir). Will leave after Intermission. Rejoins at Reverie Corridor.
Stat OrientationBalance with a specialty on arts.
Elemental Slots2 Wind, 1 Space
Suggested Master QuartzWing, Mirage or other High Ats quartz.
Double StrikeThis one is more useful for Sealing than for its Impede value. Seal is a rather useful stat against Tough enemies and some of the early bosses. Any Seal quartz you get is to be given to Toval so he 'seals' the enemy's physical attacks.
Dizzying BlowThis craft is specially tailored for art-using foes. Yes, you can't stack Faint, which is a shame, but since most enemy art-users are vulnerable to it, AND the status makes criticals a certainty...mob control is easy.
Sphere BreakThe one craft you will abuse from Toval's arsenal. Considering who you get when he joins you, AoE crafts are always welcome. Very useful on bosses with allies too, since Muting them reduces their arsenal and in some cases block their healing capabilities altogether.
Rebellion StormPowerful, hits all...better when buffed and Stacked. A good companion for pre-Spirit Unification Rean.
Best FormationT formation, Support Baiting.
Recommended StacksWarrior, Magical and Quick Feet.
ProsDecent stat set. Good mage.
ConsA bit less HP than Rean, Dex is not that good so he'll miss often. Second worst range of the game.
Overview:Considering that this game pits you against rather cruel stuff right from the bat, Toval is a Goddess-sent. You need someone that can cover all areas (seems like a trademark of many playable Bracers). Toval, however, excels at arts. And he is equipped for the task, plus has very good ARCUS elemental slots where you can equip something good (Dark Matter). He even comes with an accessory that acts like a Bell quartz, enabling him to throw powerful stuff almost the next turn. The drawback is that he can't unequip it until the Reverie Corridor, so he is mostly stuck to his magical role. Craftwise, his best one is Sphere Breaker. Rean already has Arc Slash which hits more than one enemy, so Sphere Breaker will be a better use of his CP. That is, when not using Rebellion Storm, his S-Craft. At the time of his availability, and only until you reach Bareahard, you are limited to Action 1 quartz, so Stacking is impossible, that means that Toval's Spd, which is initially (un-stacked) higher than Rean's will give him a better chance of recharging the old fashioned way (attacking) for using on S-Breaking. And he fulfills the role of Field Character admirably until Fie joins the party, giving you those necessary Triple Advantages. Only switch him for Rean when the enemy is vulnerable to slash.
Personal OpinionRather useful when you need him, but as soon as Fie and Elliot come into the party he begins to lag behind. And he is completely phased out by Sharon, who is so much better, and since he leaves on the Intermission chapter, his usefulness declines around the beginning of Chapter 1 Act 3. If I use him on the Reverie Corridor, it's only as a holder of a Phantasmal Mirror. Sorry, T.

Claire Rieveldt.

AvailabilityAct 1 - Part 2 (Ymir). Will leave after Intermission. Rejoins at Reverie Corridor.
Stat OrientationArts and crafts. Can also do support.
Elemental Slots2 Water, 1 Space
Suggested Master QuartzMoebius and Aries. Largely dependent on the task you intend to use her for.
Mortal MirageNow we are talking! Give her Hit and Impede quartz and this thing can truly wreck the enemy...
Frigid Rain... or give her Mind and Freeze quartz and 'chill' those mobs something good!
Flawless LeadershipPerfect compliment for Rean and Elliot. Spend their first round using this, Motivate and Resounding Beat and you've just made a great decision.
Kaleido ForceUseful for S-Breaking, but I'll spend that CP on her regular crafts if I were you.
Best FormationsTanking, Baiting and any other that needs good support from the back row.
Recommended StacksWarrior, Might, Canceler or Quick Feet. She can be tailored to fit.
ProsAll-round character with decent Str and Ats, plus enough EP to cooperate with arts.
ConsNot that Fragile, but below-average Def. Slow too and tends to miss if not equipped with a Hit quartz. Also her crafts are rather CP-consuming.
OverviewDecent Mage with good physical power? Sounds like Father Kevin on Sky the 3rd to me. Since you have no Stacking when she joins, her versatility in terms of ARCUS slots will allow you to create a truly balanced, ready-for-all character who can deliver whatever you need her during her time with the party. And if you use her solely for her crafts, she fits right in. Even if they are a bit costly. As stated before, while her S-Craft is good, it is better to reserve her CP for her other crafts. You don't yet have proper Gladiator equipment at the time she joins, so you need to be thrifty with it and Heavenly Gift won't cut it since she is slow.
Personal OpinionGone are the days of super gunners like Olivier, the Padre (Kevin) and dear sweet and sexy Elie. While Madam Rieveldt has good potential, she gets immediately eclipsed by the more proficient Sharon, who is just an Act away from your party. She does deliver while she is around, but you need to decide and prepare beforehand to use her. You can only really see what she is capable of at the Corridor of Reveries, at which point there are so many better characters that it's easy to forget the Ice Maiden (I did). A shame indeed.

Sharon Kruger.

AvailabilityAct 1 - Part 3 (Ymir). Will leave after Intermission. Rejoins at Reverie Corridor.
Stat OrientationSpeed and crafts.
Elemental Slots2 Time, 1 Mirage
Suggested Master QuartzJuggler and Pandora. They are SOOOO FUN with her!
Binding Chains*Whistle* Area (L), hits twice, has a 50% Seal potential, clusters the affected enemies, Delays them and you can set the AoE where it is most convenient. AND for only 30 CP! Super Maid indeed.
Shadow StitchSame as above, but substitute Seal, Delay and the Gathering thingy for a 50% Spd debuff and the total crippling of the enemies' Mov stat. Use this one first, then Binding Chains. Cheapness included.
Tea Time50% HP Heal, 50 CP recovery and cures abnormal status. And for only 50 CP! Be sure to use Blessed Arrow and/or Heavenly Gift and she can manage the battle and Tea Time just as good.
Death's EmbraceWant to be even nastier to the enemy? Throw this at them properly buffed and anything not completely resistant to Death is toast.
Best FormationAll, but she excels at those that require a proper character on the front line to really wreck some havoc.
Recommended StacksWarrior and Quick Feet. You want her powerful and acting as much as possible.
ProsSo.Damn.Versatile! As much Str and Spd as Rean, so she will be going toe to toe with him. Good, range. Great Dex so she won't miss.
ConsLess HP and Def than our hero, not so good Agl, so she will be hit hard.
OverviewRemedy those defects of hers ASAP and watch her in action. Even without Stacking, Super Maid is really Super. You won't ever worry about arts with her, though she can hold her ground rather well, the funny and charismatic over-achiever. Those crafts of hers are sheer cheapness! I certainly don't want her as an enemy. But Falcom being Falcom will do so...at another game, perhaps (got you sweating, ain't cha?). Heavenly Gift and Blessed Arrow make her one Hell of a force to be recon with. Her S-Craft is just as useful, though you may not use it often since her regular crafts are So.Damn.Better. And if you need anything more from her (wait, there is more?!), she is THE BEST FIELD CHARACTER EVER. Forget the 'C' on her Thrust, Pierce and Strike attack types! She WILL Triple Advantage anything short of Tough enemies and Monster Hunts. One good character indeed.
Personal OpinionWhat more can I say? ABUSE her dedicated and over-achieving capabilities. There is a reason she seriously overshadows Toval and Claire, our dear Super Maid. She, together with Rean, Alisa and Laura composed the team that I used to both test Stacking AND knock down Duvalie and bring McBurn to 30 000 HP IN TWO ROUNDS! Now you see why the other guests pale in comparison to her. Alas, all good stuff last too little, for she will leave as soon as you fight the pre-Intermission Boss leaving you at his mercy. And sadly, when she rejoins at the Corridor of Reveries, there are other nastier pieces of work available in the Phantasmal Mirrors. But still, Super Maid remains true Maid Power (among her other, darker features *wink*).

Sara Valestein.

AvailabilityAct 2 - Part 1 (Courageous).
Stat OrientationBalance, Offensive and crafts.
Elemental Slots2 Wind, 1 Fire
Suggested Master QuartzThors and other Spd/Str MQs.
Thundering RoarWhile not as powerful as Flash this one will not move Sara in case you want her to maintain formation. Seal and Spd debuffs are good.
Lightning ChargeWhenever you use her as a Tank, you want to reapply this one as soon as it fades.
FlashJust like Autumn Leaf Cutter and Savage Fang, Sara will be placed on a random spot within the craft's AoE after execution, so use with care.
Thunder VortexThis is the one you want to abuse. Combine it with stuff like Radiant Spin, Megaton Press, etc. Large parties will be decimated quickly and if boss allies are not big Tough enemies they will be left wide open to more brutal stuff. As an added perk, it gives them Str 50% debuff so if something is still alive they will not be that damaging anymore.
Plasma StormPlace holder until you reach and finish Aurochs Fort.
Northern LimitsDoes as much damage as a non-Spirit Unification Termination Slash - Dawn when fully buffed. Abuse.
Best FormationsBaiting and Spread formations, Tank if you don't use Flash or rely on arts.
Recommended StacksWarrior, Canceler, Quick Feet, even Magical is useful on her.
ProsVery well balanced.
ConsFalls short on HP and can be CP consuming without Gladiator equipment. Her Agl is not that good either.
OverviewInstructor Valestein is somewhat of a middle point between Toval, Claire, and Sharon. You should take advantage of her ARCUS slots and give her some extra Agl since the Thors MQ will give her Judgement Bolt. While she benefits from the Warrior, Canceler, Quick Feet, and Magical set, you may want to give her instead enough Stacks to cover as many areas as possible. Her crafts will give you a distinctive edge once you learn when to use them, especially Thunder Vortex. Plasma Storm and Northern Limits will serve you really well since Sara has the power to implement them. And she gets to be the 2nd best Field character who can take Fie's place if for some bizarre reason you don't plan on using her. She works just the same.
Personal OpinionThe one true Balanced character. You may have been clued on CS I during Chapter 5's boss and the intro scenes as to what she can do. Well, she just got better at it on CS II. Sara Valestein kicks ass (and she bear the name of one place in the Ys universe with a true kick ass theme).
She easily takes the torch from Sharon and carries it well throughout the rest of the game. Use her well.

Elise Schwarzer.

AvailabilityPrologue. Will leave after Prologue Boss fight. Rejoins at Reverie Corridor.
Stat OrientationMage. Can also support.
Elemental Slots2 Water, 1 Time
Suggested Master QuartzAny Ats-oriented MQ.
Swallow TailYes, it's a Delay craft. Make it deadlier with extra Mind quartz (only on Reverie Corridor). Not that useful on the Prologue when Rean is around.
Holy SquallA better use of CP during the Prologue and crucial against the boss, especially on an N3 run.
Fragrant GardenSave the CP for Holy Squall. Use only for S-Breaking.
Best FormationsTank and Baiting. She is not good on the front lines.
Recommended StacksMagical and Might.
ProsGood amount of EP and the Ats to use it, relatively fast.
ConsShe is a Mage, so she won't be useful to hurt with her rapier unless it is with Swallow Tail. And as a good Mage, bad Def.
OverviewElise takes me back to Kloe from Sky. She functions almost like her too, up to the point where she even has 2 Water Slots on her ARCUS. So treat her like Kloe and abuse her arts potential. And I'll say it again: Swallow Tail is only useful when her Ats is buffed/Stacked, so save the
CP for Holy Squall. Her S-Craft ain't that good, so one last time: Holy Squall.
Personal OpinionShe is a life saver on the Prologue when your resources are so limited. On the Reverie Corridor, though...she gets outclassed by Alfin, who is a lot more powerful a Mage. If you do plan on using her, giving her the Rebellion MQ is a good idea.

Angelica Rogner.

AvailabilityAct 2 - Part 2 (Roer), leaves after Act boss. Act 2 - Part 4 Boss Battle (Trista). Rejoins at Reverie Corridor.
Stat OrientationAttacking and Tanking.
Elemental Slots2 Space, 1 Time
Suggested Master QuartzAny Str/Def oriented MQ.
Laser BulletAngie's version of Arc Slash. More powerful, but will not come that often since she is slower than Rean.do wonders especially when...
Zero ImpactAh! Now this one is better. During the time you have her, and even on the Reverie Corridor, she will be a very good Bait. And this craft will do wonders especially when...
Dragon Boost...boosted by this one. Even on normal battles (wear Gladiator equipment) it will make her reach near-Laura damage if Lady Arseid does not have a Zemurian Ore Weapon)
Dragon KickIf for some reason you did not bring Laura to Roer, Gelica takes her place with this. Period.
Best FormationsTanking and Baiting.
Recommended StacksWarrior and Quick Feet.
ProsTough and Strong. She can dish a beating and take it back. Has average Spd.
ConsShe may have the Ats, but not the EP. Don't bother unless it is to use Dark Matter.
OverviewA toned down version of Laura with a little bit more art capabilities...which are wasted on her since she does not have the EP to use the stronger stuff. Devote her ARCUS to make her more powerful. Whether helping Rean or Laura do their respective jobs, her crafts will help you. Dragon Kick is also a decent companion for Rean and Laura. She is only around in the Roer area and will only return to the party for the Chapter 2 Act 4 Boss and the Reverie Corridor, so if you wish to use her, those are the times.
Personal OpinionA watered down Laura? No thanks. I prefer the real deal. Not that Angie can't do her thing, but if I have to choose between the two of them... give me my Sword Maiden, please.

Towa Herschel.

AvailabilityAct 2 - Part 4 Boss Battle (Trista). Rejoins at Reverie Corridor.
Stat OrientationMagic, crafts and support.
Elemental Slots2 Earth, 1 Water
Suggested Master QuartzAny Spd/Ats oriented MQ.
WeakenerThis craft is fun to use. It will increase elemental weakness, so stuff like Claiomh Solarion, Altair Cannon, Shadow Blade, and Purgatorial Flame will rake in some damage. Put her around magical monsters like Emma and watch those numbers!
Shooting StarsLil' Towa ain't bath at arts herself either, so a properly buffed/Stacked Ats will make this lil' bullet do big damage.
Energy RainAnd if our Mages are running low on juice, she can help them too. Still, it is better to use an EP Charge...
Rainbow ShotBuff Ats and fire away! Enjoy Towa's cute S-Craft too.
Best FormationsTank and any that requires Mages.
Recommended StacksMight and Quick Feet.
ProsA powerful Mage who can be a great support to even more powerful Mages.
ConsLil' HP, lil' Def, not so lil' Spd. Take.Good.Care.Of.Her!
OverviewIt's Towa time! (Fans cheer). Petit but powerful is her motto. She is a proper Olivier-like Mage, so deck that ARCUS of hers with all she needs to be even better. A-Detector and Comet Strike will be your most common use of her CP, especially the Detector. Use in conjunction with Emma or Vita (Reverie Corridor only) and they'll match Laura in power. Rainbow Shot is also rather useful, especially buffed.
Personal OpinionCuteness is Power...said Anelace Elfread. And Towa is here to demonstrate it. She is not that powerful a Mage, but what she packs is more than enough, especially with A-Detector. Use her wisely and you'll be glad she is around (for more than being cute).

Alfin Reise Arnor.

AvailabilityIntermission and rejoins at Reverie Corridor.
Stat OrientationOffensive Mage and support.
Elemental Slots2 Fire, 1 Mirage
Suggested Master QuartzAny Spd/Ats oriented MQ.
Detector γAnd the last Detector skill does my favorite, that is Spd down (50%) and Delay. Even cheaper than Arc Slash and that is saying something.
Purify RayMake matters worse for the enemy with this. Alfin is a Mage, so she has the Ats to make this one hurt, and if you stack Blind, you've just crippled the enemy badly.
Royal CheerNoble Command's big sister. Too bad it does not affect Alfin or Jusis would have gotten the boot.
Sacred CircleAT LAST! The programmers gave us a true Shield at the every end. Regretfully this is not a Max Guard like Grail Sphere (Sky - Kevin) and Zero Field (Zero/Ao - Tio), so wasting all your CP for something Jusis, Emma, Millium and Altina can do for far less...only on emergencies.
Best FormationsBaiting and any other that requires a Mage in the back row.
Recommended StacksMagical and Might.
ProsPowerful Mage with the skills to prove it. Decent Spd.
ConsFragile Mage with the weakness to prove it.
OverviewShe will only act as a support Mage during her short time as your only ally in the Intermission, so all evaluations are from her time in the Reverie Corridor. She is, like Towa, a great complement to a more powerful Mage like Emma or Vita, and can stand her own rather well. Use her ARCUS both to address some of her weaknesses and make her more powerful a Mage. All her crafts are useful since they enhance what she and others can do. Even Royal Cheer. Sacred Circle would have been better on Emma, but even on the Reverie Corridor, and against the True Final Boss it will be useful, especially in a panic.
Personal OpinionAlfin is good. She and Towa complement each other greatly, to say nothing of the one true Super Mage you get thanks to the Phantasmal Mirror. Taking her to the True Final Boss is a good idea since the bastard cannot be delayed and you need as many arts as you can get, and her Sacred Circle can get its time to shine. Though if it does it means you are getting your ass handed down to you. Still, she does what a proper Trails Princess must do: her part in the battle.

Special Character 1 (Lloyd Bannings)

AvailabilityDivertissement and Reverie Corridor (equip Phantasmal Mirror - Burning Bravery).
Stat OrientationPhysical fighter and crafts.
Elemental Slots2 Earth, 1 Fire (Divertissement)
Raging SpinRather a good way of mixing Impede and Dark Matter effects. Buffed it can be a great crowd control. Great range too, so very few things will escape the craft, and as a perk, it those not push them back too far, so he sets the stage for other crafts or a well placed art to clean up.
Brave Smash 2Reasonable line attack that can Seal enemies rather easily. A must in the Divertissement.
Burning Heart 2Oh Yeah! This thing is one seriously cheap craft that will make our favorite Investigator one force to be feared. It works like this, you use it (Lose 50 CP, they are worth it), and you IMMEDIATELY GET A TURN. From that turn onward you have 5 TURNS before Lloyd feels it, for on the 6th he will Faint. The effect lasts only one turn, but the cheapness kicks in if you reapply this mighty craft on the last (5th) turn of the buff, gaining another IMMEDIATE turn and resetting the whole thing! If this thing is So.Damn.Useful on the Divertissement with limited resources, imagine what he can do on the Reverie Corridor when he gets access to the 10 CP Regen effect of the Phantasmal Mirror...
Rising Sun 2Lloyd has a Lv 5 Force MQ equipped during the Divertissement, so you can decimate mobs with this and still get enough CP to keep up the good work. He hasn't lost his edge.
Best FormationsSame as Rean, Laura or Fie.
ProsStrong, Fast, good Agl and Dex. And he has the moves to use those stats.
ConsBad at arts, but they are irrelevant with him.
OverviewWell, he certainly retains all the charm he packed when he had his turn at the spotlight (in ALL the ways, you'll see ;) ). During the Divertissement, you have to work a little to bring him to full strength, but when you buy and equip his Phantasmal Mirror he is a peach! You'll soon forget he actually has art with him (well, maybe Tempest Roar -Lost Art- is worth his EP), since his crafts, coupled with the 10 CP Regen from the Mirror will make him deadly. Seriously, learn to use them. Especially with the Burning Heart II, he can go toe to toe with Rean's Spirit Unification, and perhaps even surpass him since Burning Heart II is half the cost and lasts longer than Spirit Unification. Add into the mix Rising Sun and he is murder. More than decent S-Craft in the Divertissement, Platinum on the Reverie Corridor.
Personal OpinionLloyd F***ing Bannings man! I know that ain't his middle name. But he does F*** the opposition something good! There is a reason why he is a fan favorite as Main Characters go. You'll see him steal the spotlight on the Divertissement, and he does a fine job at that too if you use him in the Reverie Corridor. He is truly a jewel of a character, and I was happy to use him again in this game. Thanks, Falcom!

Special Character 2 (Rixia Mao)

AvailabilityDivertissement and Reverie Corridor (equip Phantasmal Mirror - Silver Moon Princess).
Stat OrientationBalance, has good Ats, Str, and crafts.
Elemental Slots2 Mirage, 1 Wind (Divertissement)
True Dragon ClawsTwo hits and she will pull everything short of a Tough enemy close. Since our second Princess is rather strong, that is something good. However, handle with care, since the enemy will have the chance to take a bite at you if not properly debuffed/downright killed immediately (not a problem in Corridor).
True Falling MoonsThat Big Sword of hers makes a neat projectile that not only hits twice, it also Faints the enemy with a high probability AND has a good chance of provoking a Link attack. Invaluable in the Divertissement, over-powered and deadly in the Reverie Corridor.
Moonlight ButterfliesYou thought Fie was the only super assassin out there? Wrong! Rixia can do just as fine and packs more power. You'll rarely use it, since it's better for emergencies, but man it helps greatly in those cases.
True Paraselene DanceYes, it is an Area (ALL), and powerful to boot. You're still better off using her CP to throw that trademark sword of hers.
Best FormationsSame as Fie and Laura.
ProsGreat physical power, decent Spd, above average Ats. Fancy moves (and figure).
ConsLacks the EP to really (ab)use that Ats, her Dex ain't that nice, so she has a tendency to miss.
OverviewGiving her Impede quartz on the Divertissement makes her just as deadly as her companion. Too bad her EP remains traditionally low, for she has some good Ats that could have made her match Elliot on power. Guess the Divertissement is really a physical-oriented dungeon. Her crafts are just as good as those of Mr. Senior Investigator, especially that lovely True Falling Moons. And while better used in a pinch (S-Breaking), True - Paraselene Dance, her trademark S-Craft which I'm happy to see on full 3D, is just a waste of CP better used with her Big Sword.
Personal OpinionBeautiful, powerful and Deadly. Who does not love her? In or out of the game. She is the true middle point between Laura, Fie, and Emma, having the potential to be their replacement in the field or their partner in murder. And I won't hold it up to you if she has you doing wild camera swings every time she climbs a ladder during the Divertissement. That is some serious...rendering.

Special Character 3 (Crow Armbrust)

AvailabilityReverie Corridor (equip Phantasmal Mirror - Azure Knight).
Stat OrientationCrafts.
Blade ThrowTrue - Falling Moons' Seal/Balance down version. Works just the same. And is good just the same!
Arc SlashHis version of the fabled craft is only equal in name. While it does Impede the enemy, its main selling point is the fact that it chops enemy defense in half! As if this character or the party needed more ways of abusing the enemy...
Criminal EdgeThink Rean's Autumn Leaf and Laura's Brilliant Spin with an added 50% Def whose only 'if' is that it knocks the enemy WAY back. Can mess up your strategy if you don't have Area (ALL) arts.
World CardI'll be honest, I pass this card. Not worth the risk of Death or Nightmare, even on emergencies and for 5 measly CP.
Deadly CrossMwahahahaha! This is the DEAL! Buffed it is truly Deadly. And since you got 10 CP Regen...
Best FormationsSame as Rean.
ProsGood power and decent Spd. Def, Agl, and Dex are good too. Has the moves.
ConsHis Ats ain't that nice, and he also does not have that many arts. Still, it won't be held up against him.
OverviewHe is back, and better than ever. Another purely physical attacker and a cheap bastard to boot. Ignore his arts. Send him to use his cool looking Dual Blade. Blade Throw and Arc Slash are great. Criminal Edge and World Card need to be understood before they are used, and I still strongly suggest to avoid the World Card like the plague. ABUSE Deadly Cross! You have the CP to enjoy that badass S-Craft over, and over, and over again... and again...ad nauseam...
Personal OpinionLet's face it, he is a gift, a kindness to the fans who can't get enough of this dude. He really deserves this last shine on the stage of Cold Steel II. Another cheap, over-powered, fan-pleasing character to engross the roster of the Reverie Corridor.

Special Character 4 (Vita Clotilde)

AvailabilityReverie Corridor (equip Phantasmal Mirror - Witch of the Abyss).
Stat OrientationPure offensive mage with extremely useful crafts.
Dancing BladesHits all, adds Confuse and Burn, plus it almost always provoke a Link attack. Costs 50 CP, but she carries that super broken 10 CP Regen. Make damn sure she is linked to someone with looooots of Str. Hehehehe.
Frozen PrisonThis one depends on what you want to do. If you want to make those not immune to Freeze get off your back, fire (or rather, ice) away baby! Otherwise, stick to Dancing Blades.
Summon GrianosNow, if you really want to wreak havoc among the enemy party, burn those 100 CP and if they aren't killed by the sheer power of this pinnacle of cheapness, status mayhem awaits. This is the over-powered version of Machias' Trinity Cross. Only Harder, Better, Deadlier (yeah, I like Daft Punk).
Best FormationsSame as Emma.
Recommended StacksMagical and Might.
ProsThe Ultimate Mage. She packs the highest Ats, Adf, and EP of the whole game. Has decent Str and Dex too, so she can help those Fighters.
ConsDef, but it can be fixed. Spd, but it should not be fixed. Rean on why.
OverviewWow! And here I thought Emma was amazing as a Mage. No wonder Vita is the Big Sister. She comes decked with some really nasty arts and has the effects of the Lv 5 Aries MQ, so all you need is one art to recharge her batteries. Though you may need to pop the occasional EP Charge if you use Artemis' Tear (yes, she has it and IT'S GOOD!). And if you want to really use those costly crafts to their fullest, remember that she is a slow character and that the CP Regen she has worked just like that of the Gladiator Belts. So you are more likely to always have enough CP to gleefully decimate everything in your path. Crafts or S-Crafts.
Personal OpinionOne seriously broken character that takes me back to the King Of Fighters era (the late 90s early 2000) where you could choose those insane Final Bosses SNK (hey, Sora No Kiseki! I know: stupid) created. Kinda makes me feel bad for the rest of the Mages since Vita is So.Damn.Amazing. I truly like this character, and not just 'cause I'm a fan of Yukari Tamura (her Japanese VA). Can't wait for Erika to recite that S-Craft speech!

Special Character 5 (Atlina Orion)

AvailabilityReverie Corridor (equip Phantasmal Mirror -Black Rabbit).
Stat OrientationPhysical fighter/Tank with good crafts.
Maser ArmThe AoE works like Autumn Leaf Cutter, and inflicting Seal and Mute on the enemy is just mean. I mean, you essentially turn them into sitting ducks!
BrionacInsult to injury. Abuse, please.
Black BarrierTwo-hit Physical Immunity? Hell Yeah! you Millium 2.0.
Ragna BringerWhat's the point of that 10 CP Regen if you don't abuse it?
Best FormationsTanks and Baiting. You want her up front.
ProsRaw power, great Def. Combined with great crafts too.
ConsSlow-ish, may miss once in a while.
OverviewMillium 2.0 is just the right Cherry on top of the broken Special characters. As with the other 2 Phantasmal Mirror Fighters (Lloyd and Crow), you'll quickly forget she even has arts. She is pure crowd control. Her crafts will deliver as promised and at a very economic rate too, so she will NEVER be out of CP to demolish the opposition. So when the time for S-Crafts has come, just watch her sail right through the enemy.
Personal OpinionThese Special characters are just broken. Guess that's why you have to cough 1,000,000 mira to complete the roster. Altina is just like Millium, only on steroids. Fighting the True Final Boss with a party of 4 Specials is not hard...but may get interesting since some of them CAN get confused. So imagine Altina confused... Still, a nice treat from Falcom. Nice indeed.

General Recommendations

Giving the versatility and the size of the playable cast of Cold Steel II, even if you are only limited to Class VII throughout the normal game, this game allows you to really strategize your actions and there are A LOT of ways to be cheap and nasty. Lemme show you just a few.

Craft complements
There are some crafts that work really well together, covering flaws and adding more power to your arsenal. Here are a some examples, and you the reader are welcome to contribute your own ideas to have fun with crafts.

  • Blessed Arrow and Tea Time:Even if not properly upgraded, these two ensure you recover enough HP and CP (and status anomalies) to neatly cover the cost of usage. Since Alisa is slower than Sharon, she will be doing the refill for her. Neat, huh?
  • Motivate, Resounding Beat, Flawless Leadership: Pump Str and Def and gain HP Regen on one fell swoop. If Claire is not next in turn to Rean, a good Overdrive will do the trick.
  • Noble Command and Crescent Shell:Max Def and Art Reflect. Really Noble Command is like chocolate. Goes well with everything.
  • Brilliant Spin and Thunder Vortex: AKA, the yo-yo. Sara pulls, Laura pushes. Rinse and repeat.
  • Burst Drive: Yep, you guessed it. Since Machias is so slow (maybe the slowest character) he is the one that can make those with any sort of Delay capability (Rean and Fie to name a few) have turns after turns while the poor enemy never gets a chance to show you what it can do. Just make sure Machias goes last, but before the enemy takes a turn and use it to give those with the Canceler Set more chances to shine. Check the example video in the Formation section to see what I mean, and give his due credit to MasterLL for being one cool gamer.
  • Stat Management: Sometimes a weakness can also be a strength in disguise. Namely Spd. You see, low Spd can be turned into an advantage when you consider stuff like Gladiator Belts, Ice Crowns and Phantasmal Mirrors, to name a few. I'll just leave you with the most flashy of all, though.

Suggested parties

Finally, for the benefit of those wanting to steamroll enemies left and right, here is a by-Chapter, by-Act roster of great parties that pack some good cheapness. Obviously, no Prologue, Intermission or Divertissement, since you have no choice in your picks.

Act 1
Celdic Area (Part 1)ReanArc Slash and Gale
FiePretty much everything in her arsenal
ElliotArts, Holy Song and Resounding Beat
MachiasBurst Drive
You have Delaying power, great healing and arts, and Burst Drive is there to help against bosses.
Nord Highlands (Part 2)ReanMotivate
ClaireFlawless Leadership and arts
ElliotResounding/Resonance Beat
FiePretty much everything in her arsenal
This combo is incredibly useful against the bosses in Nord Highlands, making you really tough and durable.
Legram and Bareahard (Part 3)ReanArc Slash and first Impede Stack
LauraFirst Attack Stack
SharonPretty much everything in her arsenal
AlisaCP Battery (Blessed Arrow / Heavenly Gift)
Yes, you can put Emma, but there aren't that many physically resistant enemies that require her personal touch. Plus the Blessed Arrow/Tea Time Combo.
Act 2
(Part 1)Sara or FieYour balanced team member, can act as a tank and perform other miscellaneous tasks
Laura or EmmaMain source of damage (Laura - Physical / Emma - Magic)
AlisaIf you plan to kill the 1st Cryptid (CP Battery)
The best time to start practicing how to use your characters since only by the end of the act when you 'Commence Operation' will you be lumped with mandatory characters.
(Part 2)JusisUsed for support. Providing excellent buffs and Physical Defense (Platinum Shield)
Laura or EmmaMain source of damage (Laura - Physical / Emma - Magic)
You are lumped with mandatory members both before and after Commencing operation. However, since one of those mandatory member is Alisa, it is better to choose some good complements. More so when you add Angelica into the mix.
(Part 3)GaiusGreat all balanced fighter, versatile for Shrines
Laura or EmmaExtra source of damage (Laura - Physical)
MilliumTank. can be used as a hard hitting dps
FieBalanced team member, can act as a tank and perform other miscellaneous tasks
Again, the mandatory members for this part are Emma (Shrine) and Jusis (Operation). Pick proper companions. The above are really good all-terrain party members at this point (mostly 'cause of the Shrine).
(Part 4)LauraMassive source of physical damage
EmmaSource of magic damage and support abilities such as Crescent Shell
JusisSupport unit, use for buffing characters and providing physical immunity
AlisaSupport unit, CP Battery
Ok, no suggestions for this one, since you need to visit so many places you should take the chance to level everyone up in preparation for what's ahead. Even if you intend to use the 4 Tools.