If Japanese Role Playing Games are your favorite type of game to play, then Nihon Falcom’s Legends of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel for the PS3 and PSVita is a great game to pick up for yourself this Christmas. It’s part of a well known and well loved JRPG franchise that began with the first game, Dragon Slayer: The Legend of Heroes, which originally released in Japan in 1989. Trails of Cold Steel takes place at the same time as Trails of Zero (2010) and Trails of Azure (2011). What makes Trails of Cold Steel special is the exploration and explanation of the Erebonian’s political conflicts; This may sound a bit like history class, and that’s part of where the player will spend time. You take on the role of a student(s) and go through the motions of a military school career while completing quests and finding out the truth behind the mysterious Class VII, which you have been recruited for at the Thors Military Academy.
This academy is what I really love about Trails of Cold Steel: The Thors Military Academy is beautifully crafted and the students have rich personalities along with distinctive uniforms. Nihon Falcom has done a fantastic job as usual for character design. Each of the students in the combat party not only have the usual set of unique skills and weapons, but their uniforms differ per person while still remaining similar. The backgrounds of buildings, dungeons and the town are all rich in color and shading. Rather than the backgrounds being over-saturated, the color scheme of the settings tend to be more realistic while the characters’ clothing and hair stand out with their own vivid colors.
The turn-based battle system is the same as most JRPGs. Eventually the player has a party made up of various characters who posses their own individual abilities that work well together. The controls are very simple and feel natural. If you are new to JRPGs or are wanting to get into playing them, Trails of Cold Steel can serve as a good starting point. Veterans of the Legend of Heroes series will appreciate the Cold Steel’s story line since it explains more of the earlier Trails stories. And for newbies to the franchise, like myself, can still appreciate the game without the feeling of missing the main story since most of it is retold throughout the game. I personally found the plot fun due to the problems Rean Schwarzer, the main character, deals with like trying to apologize to a fellow female student after falling on her. While the serious nature of a political system changing from the nobility having the control to the nobles sharing the control with commoners is rather fascinating to watch unfold.
Unfortunately the dialogue tends to be a bit tedious at times. Instead of every conversation contributing to the overall plot or even sub-stories, some of the dialogues are bits of repeated grumbles or information. Even with the repetitive talks, the story progresses nicely and the Link System is extremely useful and promotes spending time with interactive characters. The Link System is new to The Legend of Heroes series, the player must bond with friends and allies which in turn adds to your playable characters healing, guarding and other stats. For someone who adores talking to every character, like myself, the Link System is makes speaking with and spending time with allies even more of a treat.
The growth mechanic of the series, the Orbment magic system, has gotten an upgrade with the use of ARCUS units. By fighting through dungeons and completing quests, the player can collect orbs to add into their ARCUS and create lines which with the right combo can grant great effects/ stats for a character. There is plenty of customizable options to make the playable characters adept to a personal combat preference. Players do need to grind a bit to beat the various enemies but thankfully the developers designed the rewards and level increasing after battles to be more balanced than other JRPGs.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel supports cross-play between the PS Vita and PS3 which allows the player to take Cold Steel on the go and enjoy playing it on their home console on a large screen. A downside to the game being initially released in Japan in 2013, is that the graphics are slightly stale looking but the scenery is so beautiful the older graphics can be easily overlooked. The series’ history and politic strife are layered to make Erebonia seem real. Another huge plus for choosing to play Cold Steel is the story is written to be stand-alone. JRPGs are often challenging to understand if jumping into a series for the first time without playing the previous games however Trails of Cold Steel can be played own it’s own without any knowledge of the series’s earlier stories. It’s well worth exploring and fighting your way through the Thors Military Academy and the Erebonia Empire especially during these cold months of winter!
A PS3 copy of Legend Of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel was provided by XSEED for the purpose of this review