The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel (PC) - Launch Trailer
Who it Caters to
With every game comes a different story to tell. Some tell a short but everlasting tale of pain and triumph, while others are long and dramatic, full of every kind of emotion we experience through life. A lot of games we play nowadays tend to fall in between that category which isn’t necessarily a bad thing because it takes the best of both worlds, and clamps them firmly together to create a genuinely eye opening experience. JRPGs as we all know are known for their very long and often times very emotional storyline which leads our imagination in various directions, leaving us at a standstill towards the end of that illustrious journey. Some may not find that to be very alluring and it’s why we see a lot of games that are all about that quick fix, then pack up and go onto the next one. However those who stay true to the traditional JRPG experience will know that the more you hang on and course through every chapter, the reward you receive at the end is priceless. That brings us to Nihon Falcom’s celebrated title The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel, an instant JRPG classic in our books because it’s perhaps the title that really helped to solidify Nihon Falcom’s appeal in the west. Of course, you have the likes of Ys which too garnered a lot of attention in the west, but didn’t perform as profoundly as it did in Japan. Be that as it may, both titles have helped to open a lot of doors for many other JRPG developers, and we’re going to look at why The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel is worth the journey.
What to Expect
JRPG titles are traditionally very slow and tend to follow a linear path, and as such, you’ll find that issue in The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel. There are moments when your decision making becomes important throughout the story, but it doesn’t truly change the story in a major way which isn’t a bad thing since the story is pretty solid anyway. In the beginning, things will be very slow as the game tries to open your eyes to what’s happening, and provides you with a nice refreshing tutorial on how to fully take advantage of the JRPG battle experience. Expect there to be well over 40+ hours of gameplay which is ample time to play any game these days, along with a handful of other new features. One being that the PC version now comes with 50% more dialogue than the original, which was on the PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 3, and of course being on PC, you’ll be able to customize performance options to make playing much smoother (60FPS baby!). With all of that out of the way let’s get to the meat and bones of it all and inform you as to why The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel is a must have for any JRPG junkie.
Much of the game’s initial plot is focused primarily on the introduction of the ‘Class VII’ special class, situated within Thors Military Academy. With growing tension between the aristocrats and the common Erabonian citizens, the Class VII was designed to help ease that tension by uniting both social classes together to fight for justice. As the students continue to train under the watchful eye of the main council, violence continues to break out between the working class reformists led by Iron Blood Chancellor Osborne, and the four noble houses of the aristocracy. With so much turbulence surrounding these young students and a mysterious force that lies beneath Thors, their job is to ensure the empire doesn’t fall in the wrong hands or worse, collapse all together.
The minute you jump into the game you’re greeted with a nice anime intro that gets you in the mood to play, and of course in traditional fashion the game teaches you how to play as you play. This is something more games should do because it really makes playing RPGs so much easier, and since you learn to grasp the game early on, coming up with clever tactical formations in the long run become so useful. Once you’ve charged through the opening credits and tutorial you go right into the swing of things and find yourself within school grounds, where you’ll encounter a lot of things to do. One of the finer aspects of Trails of Cold Steel is the introduction of the tactical link system, which allows you to link attacks with your other teammates on the field to create powerful successive blows to the opponent and create advantageous situations on the fly. As you continue to level up and increase your skills the link attacks become even more powerful, which then allow for special moves to be used over time. One example is being able to heal or give CP to the other player. While this may sound quite normal since healing is something you’ll most certainly do, it does allow you to not only attack the enemy but heal as well in the same sequence which is highly beneficial in the bigger boss battles. So say one of your teammates is running low on CP and you lack the pivotal resources to restore it, level your character to the point where you can link heal and boom the tide now turns in your favor. All of this syncs together wonderfully and doesn’t affect the overall flow of the battle, since everything is turn based anyway. Trails of Cold Steel also removed an old system that seemed to no longer function well with regards to leveling up and that’s your sepith count pertaining to Quartzes, which actually play a major role in the game. Orbal arts no longer depend on the overall sepith count on a single line but is instead based on the quartz you equip, so in the case of main protagonist Rean we could easily swap out his Quartz and put in a different one, say a green Quartz and we could then use that particular Quartz art. We stuck with the Fire Quartz because Fire Bolt Art works so well in the beginning to mid stage of the game, but later on once you start tackling new enemies having awareness on how elements work will truly help you win.
There’s a lot of dialogue to sit through in this game so patience is certainly required when playing, but then again if you’re familiar with how JRPGs work then this shouldn’t be an issue. Those who aren’t used to that well take this as a heads up. Most of your time will be sifting through lines of text but fortunately there’s a lot more voicing in the PC version due to the 50% upgrade we mentioned earlier, so sitting through it is actually quite fun. There’s plenty of humor and tense moments to create balance throughout the story, and of course the big climax that comes around the mid part of the game to really spice things up. Every JRPG needs that climax and plot twist because that’s when you know things are about to go down, not only in the story but in the battles you encounter as well. Which brings us to our next point which is difficulty. The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel is not too hard but it’s not too easy either, it strikes a nice balance between the two and offers players enough challenge that you’ll constantly try to conjure up different ways to beat down the bosses.
Not every tactical formation will work and not every link will be of great benefit, so trial and error comes into play which again only adds that extra layer of excitement to the game. When it’s all said and done though, The Legends of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel is still your typical JRPG and at times it can feel dry even after playing JRPG titles for pretty much most of your life. It’s just that kind of relationship that tends to form with JRPG games, you jump in and have this euphoric journey and then you reach a certain point in the plot that makes you want to sleep, but it’s right after that moment that everything cannonballs and you’re right back into the action. This emotional rollercoaster ride is exactly why The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel is worth playing from start to finish, because much like its tactical link system it strengthens the mind and heals your heart.
Honey's Gameplay Consensus:
For what it’s worth, which is a lot, The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel has an impactful story that blends smoothly with straightforward yet deep gameplay. The deeper you dive into it the more it moves you and there aren’t that many games that can leave a strong lasting impression. Fortunately Trails of Cold Steel does and we highly recommend it to anyone who’s either looking for a new JRPG experience (well not new because the game is 4 years old, but you know what we mean!), or perhaps you’re a veteran of the genre but never dabbled with the series. We do suggest though that if you haven’t played any of The Legend of Heroes titles that you do so now, since they’re available on Steam! We also reviewed Trails in the Sky 3rd which we recommend you check out too!
Incredibly straightforward yet deep immersive gameplay.
The improved Quartz system is a huge plus.
Very long gameplay time!
Upgraded visuals and overall performance.
50% more voice acting added into the game!
As with any traditional JRPG it’s linear.
Character movements are stiff while in animation.
Honey's Final Verdict:
What other JRPG titles would you like for us to check out? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to leave your two cents there as well! With so many more big titles slated to release later this year and well into the new year, you can expect us to be playing and reviewing them just for you. We’re looking forward to also creating more video content for everyone, so please be on the lookout for that one. In the meantime check out our official Twitch page and show us some love by following! Until next time, my name’s NualphaJPN, have a great one!
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Author: Rob "NualphaJPN" B.
A passionate fan of gaming, writing, journalism, anime, and philosophy. I've lived in Japan for many years and consider this place to be my permanent home. I love to travel around Japan and learn about the history and culture! Leave a comment if you enjoy my articles and watch me play on twitch.tv/honeysgaming ! Take care!