The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III is the third game of the 4 part “Cold Steel” Arc. While I missed doing the first two games, I’m going to cover the most recent released game in the series, which is on the Switch.
Reviewed: Nintendo Switch – Extracurricular Edition (Limited edition for Physical game) (Physical Goodies not reviewed.)
You follow Rean Schwarzer, the “hero” from the previous 2 Cold Steel games. As he starts his new Job, teaching a new Class VII, at the recently opened Branch Campus of Thors Military Academy. Cold Steel 1 & 2 followed Rean as during his first year at the Main Campus at Thors as part of Class VII.
Joining the Teaching staff is Towa Herschel, who was another Pupil in the year above Rean at Thors, as Student Council President. Another new member of staff is the Randy Orlando from Crossbell pair of games (Known as Zero no Kisekei and Ai no Kiseki in Japan). Randy was a member of a Crossbell Police force unit, known as Special Support Section. Coming from the Railway Military Police is Major Michael Irving, who is only new character on the staff. Finally, the School Principle, Aurelia Le Guin, is former General of the Noble Faction during the events of Cold Steel 2, but she was in charge of different front, where Rean was not actively taking part.
Rean is the home room teacher of a new Class VII. New Class VII is small, with only 3 Members initially, with 2 more pupils transferring in after a few months. The first is Juna Crawford, an Crossbell native, who seemed a little upset about the recent issues with her city. Kurt Vander, who is part of family who used to be the Royal Family bodyguards, other members of his extended family have been seen in the other games in the series. Returning for Cold Steel 2 is Altina Orion, who was previously part of the Intelligence Division, at least “on paper.” (Her words.) Joining the Class later on, is Ash Carbide, some what of a loud mouth, but does do well at the task at hand, and with Musse Egret, a girl who appears to be playful and teasing of Rean. Musse does hide a few secrets, and some of them do are revealed over the time of the story.
While Class VII isn’t the only class, every Pupil from other Classes is unique and have their own Personality. This was not the case for Cold Steel 1 & 2, where there where a handful of “Generic” student NPCs, in addition to a collection of unique pupils. I’m not really going to cover all the students at the branch campus, but there are a few that stand out. One stand out of the new pupils in this game is Tita Russel, a girl who previously played a significant part of the “Liberl” or Trails of the Sky Trilogy games. Unlike all the other students, she was seen early on before Rean actually arrived at School.
Along with Tita, several returning playable characters from each of previous Legend of Heroes games. Many of these are “guest” characters and will only join the party for a few short sequences usually for Story reasons. Guest Characters will not let you change much of their equipment, but these are often on par or better than what the player can obtain at the time. The old Class VII returns with one exception, which was made clear in closing events of Cold Steel 2. Both Old and New Class VII’s equipment can changed at any time when they’re in the party and a few times when they’re not.
As expected, for a sequel, many other NPC characters return. As the game is set in Erebonia, like the other Cold Steel games, most characters will have come from Cold Steel games. Several Familiar faces from Thors Alumni also appear, most of them helping out Rean or his friends. As the game is set about two years after the other games, and many of the returning unique character got a new model, either for changes to their circumstances, ageing over the two years or in the case of almost all Crossbell residents change in art style. Due to the lack of time with Crossbell games, I can’t say for certain which Crossbell NPCs return when the Class VII visits the City of Crossbell.
The basic flow of the game, is very similar to Cold Steel 1, where Rean spends one his days requiring to visit a dungeon within the School grounds. Then head out the for the following weekend to Field Trip to a location. Unexpected for a sequel is that many of the locations visited are new to the series, and several had changes since the last time it was in a previous game. Even the “Teaser opening” sequence is echos to the the Cold Steel 1’s own teaser opening, and even keeps with the party not having a extra member when you get to play that sequence for real in the story line.
While the “main” character is Rean, there are times where the player has to control someone other than Rean. This often used get people use other characters and not rely on Rean. This isn’t a major issue as a Turn based RPG, you already control each character in battle, but you can’t make a single over powered character and just hope win. The “Teaser opening” sequence is a example of this.
As only a few existing areas returned untouched from the previous games, only smaller selection of location may have been lifted from the previous Cold Steel games. While the City of Crossbell returned, all of the areas from Crossbell had to be remade due to the change in art style, given that Crossbell and a few other locations from the Trails of the sky where made for the PSP.
While the game is has the third game in the Cold Steel series, it’s technically the Eighth when counting the previous Trails in the Sky/Liberl Trilogy and the pair of Crossbell games. This means there is a lot of pre-established lore about the world already known. This could lead to a issue where many new players getting lost with common terms being not explained. To help avoid this issue, In this game, Many of the students come from different places, they occasionally fill in some missing background knowledge. There is even a Library where the Player can read a summary of events from the games. There are still references to other characters that will go over new player heads even if they read everything in the game. However, if one was to consider starting Cold Steel III, particularly with the Nintendo Switch version, this is not worst place to start. But long terms fans recommend you don’t start with this game.
Moving on to the Battling and some equipment changes, they simplified the Orbment system by removing the upgrade-able slots and making all spells use not to require upgraded slots. Also, they made it harder to obtain the special spells by locking them behind upgrade system and requiring a uncommon item, which itself was used other things. This is change is explained as the Orbment hardware each character uses is upgraded.
The biggest change in the battle is the “Break” bar most enemies when damaged to a point will “break” and be stunned and take massive damage via every hit being a critical. Critical hits and week spot hits retain their ability to fill the party’s BP meter. Player can now spend BP at will by generating Multi Turn Auras. In the older Cold steel games, one may needed to wait for a random critical hit to happen before one could use the their banked up BP.
The Battle UI has taken a Page from Persona 5 own Battle UI, and use the face buttons for many of the commands which was previously in a menu. It doesn’t really work as well as Persona 5 does, but then they did try to theme it match the other Menus and the Orbment Device own UI.
The following notes are relevant to the Nintendo Switch presentation, and concerns presented here may not be present on the PS4 or PC releases. The game is 1280×720 at 30FPS which is actually better than Cold Steel 1 and 2 was in the Vita, which appeared to be running at 960×544 at 20fps. This does produce some minor issues for someone playing on a 1080p Monitor, the worst of which appear in the Menu, with 2d art onscreen.
Some of environment textures seems to get muddy noticeably at not distance away to the camera, due to poor Anisotropic filtering. This is somewhat expected for a lower powered Switch. But this is one of the few minor issue, this only really appears in a few areas.
The Characters and monsters seem almost identical to the PS4 versions, at least visually.
The only thing I think they cut out from the game is some Audio lines. Like the Vita version, the quite a few mandatory sequences lack English voice acting as but react in way they should have it. There is no Japanese Audio on the cart version that I own, however the Japanese voice pack can be “purchased” for Free using the Nintendo eShop, along with various boosters and most of the costumes which was also present on the PS4 version. Several of the Bonus “pre-order” outfits for the PS4 where included for on the cart and these are not present on the Nintendo eShop. I haven’t had time to compare several sequences after downloading the Japanese Audio lines.
- As fan of the series, I was already had an idea what to expect when purchasing the game. (It was more of when I was going to buy it after it was announced.)
- This RPG has a range of difficulty settings, and is a very enjoyable time.
- For a new player, I strongly suggest trying the demo out first. This way you have an idea if you will want to play it for not.. and since there is no save transfer system from the Cold Steel 2, you don’t need to worry about missing out save transfer on bonuses.
- I personally recommend Trails of Cold Steel 1 and 2, to have a good idea on what is happening with Rean and Co. But really if you want the full experience, you’d be best getting a PC and starting with Trails in the Sky trilogy, as characters will reference events and people in the older games.