After the long flurry of visual novels that came out for the PlayStation Vita, it’s refreshing to finally get a title out of Japan that’s heavy on gameplay. The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel is the newest turn-based JRPG by XSeeds that incorporates infantry weapons, swords, and other militaristic weapons in a futuristic setting. This title was released awhile back in Japan on September 26th, 2013 with good reviews, opting for a release in North America two years later on December 22nd and in Europe on January 29th, 2016.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel: PlayStation Vita [Reviewed], PlayStation 3
Developer: Nihon Falcom
Publisher: XSEED Games
N/A Release Date: 22 December 2015
Price: $39.99 [Disclosure: Game copy supplied by Publisher]
The story for Trails of Cold Steel follows the setting of the Legend of Heroes world that has been created throughout the series, but through a different take. This time, players will experience how it is through the students’ eyes of the Thors Military Academy within the Erebonian Empire. Class VII of the academy includes both aristocratic and common citizens as its the only class that doesn’t segregate them. The protagonist is Rean Schwarzer, a katana-wielding warrior that reminds anime enthusiasts of the typical main character. That doesn’t mean that all the characters are typically themed, but they are each unique in their own way and feel different from one another. Their interactions with one another feel genuine, even if it’s hostility due to hierarchies throughout the story. The player is guaranteed to feel connected to one or more characters, as they each have their own insecurities and misgivings that are resolved throughout the story. All in all, they are really quite fleshed out to make the story feel fresh and unique.
The interactions between the characters emulate the differences in society with those of higher standings and those of lower ones. While playing the game, the misconceptions and ignorance expressed by each student disappears as they begin to understand one another and it becomes endearing to see their teamwork. By the end you feel like the interactions have made the characters a well-oiled team. The story is pretty good and is the main focal point of the game as it’s interesting to see a new world like this that never really got to come over to North America. This is coupled with its solidly structured and strategic gameplay.
The turn-based gameplay for this RPG is quite unique in it’s own way. The titles that were previously only released in Japan were never brought to North America prior to Cold Steel, but this title is actually quite interesting as the character actually moves to the position of the enemy during battle. Not only that, but you can move a team of four-five fighters to other character’s positions and work with them to assist them. This is different from regular turn-based combat that I’ve encountered in the past such as Final Fantasy or Digimon World 2 where the characters only attack from their stationary positions or move towards the enemy for a physical attack then return. It’s actually quite refreshing and adds a more complex gameplay that will have the player thinking more critically and strategically. I found myself more intrigued in the gameplay in this game than in other turn-based titles played in the past.
The balance between using your attacks and mana in battle gets more intricate as you progress throughout the game. At the beginning the player is provided with the characters at their peak powers in order to instruct them as a tutorial. Afterwards, it begins with them at a fresh stage in order to build them to your liking. Some can be heavier on support or attack magic while others can solely wield strength to their advantage to physically attack with their weapons. The combination between the fighters’ moves can be chained with one another, and each Art used will not only cost mana but also a cost in sequence. This is a common thing that’s already existed in other turn-based titles I’ve played, but figuring out the combinations and how to use them efficiently in the game add to the fun factor.
The voice actors for Cold Steel express their characters very well, making them feel fleshed out and human rather than people reading off of a script. Their concern and angst doesn’t feel forced, which is good and is what more story-heavy titles needs nowadays. It might not be something that all people view as important to a game, but this creates an absorbing experience that will have the player feel immersed in the world. However, to contrast this, the music doesn’t feel like it matches the feel of the game and simply wishes to saturate it with guitar riffs to try to create an exciting score, but this is something that’s too often done.
The Trophies for Trails of Cold Steel are nothing but daunting as they will be quite a grind. Many involve completing all missions or the highest difficulty for the story. Not only are there accumulative Trophies throughout the entire game, but also ones involving forming strong bonds with each character so that there’s even more content to the game than just combat. You are able to explore through the cities you venture to and interact with citizens and characters you know, alike, to build bonds and complete missions. The more you complete, the closer to finishing these lengthy Trophies. Vis a vis, this game’s Trophies provides the player with a lot of replay value but they are extremely grindey.
At the end of the day, The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel is worth a look and the $39.99 as it features a lot of content including side missions, extra-curricular studies, during field studies, journal entries and more. The complex gameplay during the turn-based combat is coupled with an exploration factor that exists in all other RPG titles. There are also a ton of collectibles in order to get to fill up the journal and many monsters to face. The game has a solid voice team behind it and the artwork looks phenomenal. I highly recommend players to get this game for either the PlayStation 3 or PlayStation Vita, or get cross-buy as the Trophies and save progress is shared across the platforms.