The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III
So I want to preface this review by saying I am not a person that enjoys JRPG’s, but I will not let that be my deciding factor for this game.
Trails of Cold Steel III (ToCS) is the third part to the sub series known as…well trails of cold steel, but it’s something like the ninth game in the series of Legends of Heroes and here is me jumping straight in to this series with no prior knowledge of it, I mean none what so ever, didnt even know it existed before Nihon Falcom gave us a code for the game. So why did I take it on? Short answer I wanted to expand my gaming horizons into JRPG territory and this may not have been the wisest move but I have found myself enjoying this game far more than I first thought.
ToCS is centred around Rean Schwarzer, the protagonist from the previous two games and set about a year after the last. Rean is what’s known as the Ashen Chevalier (essentially the chosen one that can control the mech Valimar) and helped stop a civil war that had been ravaging the world…a year on he has graduated Thor’s Academy (he’s 19 in this game) and has become a military school instructor tasked with teaching his former Class VII but now with new students, Kurt Vander, a member of a wealthy family that’s all about honour and respect, Juna Crawford a former Police academy student forced in to Thor’s academy due too her country being taken over during the last game and Altina Orion a mysterious 14 year old that helped Rean in the previous game…though he still doesn’t know much about her. Together they are Class VII of Thor’s Academy Branch Campus in Special Operations. Together they must build a relationship with the neighbouring countries and eventually put a stop to ouroboros. They are not alone throughout the story you will meet many characters from previous games that will join you in your quests give you side missions and generally help fill out the story.
Now holy heck this is a deep and long story for a new comer to jump in on but the game gives you lot of back story you can read before you start the game (highly recommend) in the form of text logs. This game doesn’t take any prisoners it really expects you to have played at least the first two cold steel games before this one but don’t let that put you off as you get a good idea of what has previously happened as talk to everyone around you and read those text logs…you’ll still be in the dark every so often and emotional beats may not hit as intended but you will still get what’s going on.
When I started this game I had expectations of battling creatures from the get go and you kinda do with a flash forward section that shows off some abilities and enemies you will encounter later in the game but there are no tutorials in this section that’s saved for the 3 months previously section…I wish they just started where the story starts rather than doing that but what can you do. Now at this point I saw what JRPG’s are all about and that’s story and characters because for the next hour I watched a cut-scene that I felt could’ve been boiled down to a short montage but I would be missing the point if it did that. Honestly this game takes a while to get going and be prepared to read a lot of text as this is a huge element of this game and I found my self being quite bored and just wanting to play the game.
How does the game play? I hear you ask…well its a turn based battle system that has some gorgeous animations and big semi complicated levelling system in the form of Orbs. You take in turns to hit your opponent but you also have a chance to “unbalance” them which can result in a barrage of attacks from your team with characters chaining attacks and taking names. Once you get to battle the game opens up way more for you and become a heck of a lot of fun its just shame that it takes a while to really get your teeth in to it. You also get to pilot huge Mechs known as Panzer Soldats where the battle systems changes up a little as its focus is on the Mechs powers not your characters, gonna be honest I thought that once we unlocked the Mechs there would be more of a free-form style of fighting but it’s still turn based…these mechs though are pretty sweet showing off some kick ass moves.
Besides battling you run around the town or area you are in doing side quests such as taking photos for the local paper, getting juicy gossip for the radio and even play a new card game that feels very reminiscent of Magic the Gathering. Basically if you’ve played a JRPG before you already know what you are in for.
The presentation of this game is made to look like your are playing an anime the character models are look amazing and battle animations are stunning (especially the big summon moves), but the worlds although very colourful suffer from flat textures and squared off edges…If you have read or watched my review of trials of mana you may remember me praising the the graphics and presentation but that game was a remake of a 20 year old game and I gave it some leeway I wasn’t expecting a brand new game (ish) to have the same issues, that being it looks like ps2 with high definition graphics. Don’t get me wrong this game looks great but when the characters are so good looking and stood next to a wall or tree the backgrounds pale in comparison. This could be due to the fact the game is so huge and so full of story that the developers decided tat the environments where not as important, I don’t know but it just didn’t sit well with me. Another point to add to this is that outside of battles animation is a bit wonky, for instance a group of people will walk past you quite stiffly and their foot that’s on the ground slides across the floor, just little things like this kept getting on my nerves. The Music in the game however is charming and at times very beautiful, which builds the atmosphere perfectly in this world.
I’ve mention there being a lot of text to read in this game but its not all reading we do get voice actors helping us along with the story and they do a great job, not one of these voices did I find out of place the actors clearly put there al in to their performance, but this brings me to an odd situation and that’s the localisation of the game…so there are spelling mistakes and wrong wording used in this game A female charter may be referred to as “he” when its made clear she is a woman or only half of a conversation is being preformed by an actor, for instance Rean is talking to an old friend on his phone and we hear what his friend is saying but Rean’s replies are in a text box, just strange this like this.
Overall when I started this game I found myself confused, bored and angry that the game wasn’t letting me game but after a few persistent hours I found myself really enjoying it, getting stuck in with side quests and wanting to help everyone around me. I may not care too much for many of the immediate side characters but that didn’t stop me from wanting to get stuck in, once you get outside of Thor’s Academy the game opens up for the better and shows why it’s worth playing even if you have never played the previous games. On the switch it runs perfectly I never had a glitched and load times are super quick (just a few seconds). When I first loaded this game up I was prepared to give it a low score due to my biased against the JRPG but this proved it self and as such future JRPG’s I play will be with more of an open mind.
I give The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III a solid 7 out of 10.
This game is released on Nintendo Switch 30/06/2020
Well that’s my review I know I didn’t cover everything in this game but its so big I would probably have to write a novel to cover it all, let me know what you think and be nice to each other yeah?
P.S. Here’s a video review if you fancy it