[PS3/Vita Double Review] The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel is a new Japanese-RPG from Nihon Falcom and has been localized by XSEED, the same studio who gave us the excellent Action-RPG Ys series, and who also released Trails in the Sky: Second Chapter just a few weeks ago.
Trails games usually come in trilogies, and this is also the case for the game we’re about to review. Cold Steel is the first in this new trilogy, and thankfully the localization for Cold Steel II has already been confirmed. Cold Steel III production has just begun in Japan, which is great news, but that means it will take at least another year before we see it. It is also worth noting that any The Legend of Heroes sub-series can be played in any order (Trails in the Sky is one story, Trails of Cold Steel is another one) so you won’t miss out on any details by starting one before the other!
This is my first Double Review, and I was pretty excited to do it for a game like Trails of Cold Steel which I’ve been waiting for a while now. If you like long JRPGs, then sit back and enjoy this review!
Taking place on the same continent as the fan favorite Trails in the Sky offshoot of Nihon Falcom’s storied The Legend of Heroes franchise, Trails of Cold Steel (Sen no Kiseki in Japanese) is the first in the series to tread Erebonian soil and explore the inner political conflicts of this oft-mentioned powerhouse nation in detail. With a standalone story that also delves into the expansive lore that has become synonymous with the series, players can enjoy school life and bond with fellow students to earn new abilities in battle, take advantage of speedy, tactical turn-based combat with the newly-developed “ARCUS” system, and uncover dramatic events that stand to change everything these two opposing social classes stand for.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel – Launch Trailer
Note: This is a spoiler-free review.
This is a double review for the PS3 and Vita versions of The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel. The PS3 version was played by Tracey and the Vita version was played by Ceidz. This review presents what they both had to say.
Trails of Cold Steel takes place during a time of growing tensions surrounding the noble families wanting to maintain the traditions of aristocracy ruled areas, while the reformist groups (commoners) oppose the ideology of the nobles. The four noble families and the reformist faction cannot find common ground, and, therefore, the peace of the Erebonian Empire is at great risk of possible civil war. Could Class VII be the country’s last best hope for peace between nobles and commoners?
This game is set in Thors Military Academy (in the Erebonian Empire) and places players in control of the students that have been specially chosen for the newly formed Class VII. If you played Trails in the Sky beforehand, this name will ring a bell since Erebonia is the country next to Liberl where the story of Trails in the Sky runs its course. Cold Steel takes place in 1204 of the Septian Calendar, which is two years after the events of Trails in the Sky.
Now back to Class VII. This is the only class in Thors Military Academy that does not segregate students based on their social backgrounds. For the first time ever, nobles and commoners can work together. Class VII has its own dormitories and a brand new crimson uniform that stands out from the crowd. Before Class VII existed nobles were in white uniforms and had plush dorms with butlers and maids, while the commoners had green uniforms and had very ordinary dorms without any luxuries. Trails of Cold Steel follows nine students chosen for Class VII’s entire experimental year. They will receive assignments that no other class will get to undertake, and it will take them all over Erebonia. Does that sound good already?
Trails of Cold Steel is a turn-based JRPG that will take you probably well over 100 hours to complete. If you want even more, there is a New Game+ mode that unlocks the hardest difficulty that will provide a greater challenge for those who crave hard as nails games. Upon choosing a higher difficulty, you may take considerably longer than 100 hours depending on your combat skills!
Trails of Cold Steel features a lot of sidequests and completing them earns you AP (Academic Points). Rack up enough points and you will rank up. There are 15 ranks from B7 up to A0 and increasing in rank will give you perks from the Academy. A word of warning, though: most quests are timed, so if you decide to go on with the main story without completing every facultative quest, they WILL be gone forever. I definitively suggest you do the optional quests first before doing the story quests if you are planning to do a completionist playthrough. Quests are automatically given to you by the President of the Student Union Council at the start of each new day, so you don’t need to search for them.
You can also buy weapons and armor using in-game currency called Mira. You can also upgrade your existing weapons and armor using “U” materials that are dropped by enemies or found in treasure chests. It is highly recommended that you upgrade your stuff whenever you get a chance to since the enemy encounters get tougher as you make your way through the game’s story. Oh, speaking of which… the boss encounters are pretty awesome (and bosses are very tough to defeat)!
A few months ago, I only had a very slim experience with the Trails of series (not to be confused with the Tales of series!). I reviewed and LOVED Trails in the Sky: Second Chapter and completed it just a couple of weeks ago, just in time to play Trails of Cold Steel!
Tracey talked about the story and context of Trails of Cold Steel, so I’ll be talking about the gameplay. Class VII members have four main attacks that can be used in battle: Crafts, S Crafts, Arts and their standard weapon attacks. Crafts are unique skills to each member, and S Crafts are super strong skills that reminded me of Limit Breaks in the Final Fantasy universe. Craft and S Craft skills require Craft Points (CP), but if you are running low, you can use your standard weapon attacks to refill your CP meter. The animations during skills are very colorful and fun to watch!
Arts are basically magical abilities that are used for attacking enemies or supporting other characters. Arts are chosen with Quartz set on an Orbment, like in previous Trails games. Some quartz are given to you right at the start of the game, but most of them will either be found in chests or will require that you build them yourself. Different abilities are available depending on the combination of quartz in your orbment, so it was definitely fun to try and see what was the best combination depending on the characters I had chosen in battle!
The very best feature of this new enhanced battle system is the ability to link to characters together (similar to what we saw in Tales of Xillia). Once two characters are linked, the second character can attack after the first finished has hit, and they can share other attacking or healing benefits! And the link can be leveled further so more options become available as you progress.
I played on the Playstation Vita, and I noticed that the game was running generally very smoothly on this hardware. The colors are crisp and this game is a perfect fit for the Vita console. True to Nihon Falcom’s fame, the soundtrack is very good. Finally, if you’re not sold yet, take note that the Trails of series prides itself of a Save-Anywhere feature that allows you to play as much or as little as you want!
I loved playing Trails of Cold Steel and plan to finish it in the next few weeks in order to be compeltely ready for when Cold Steel II releases!
Overall the game is big and very long, which is always great for a JRPG! The graphics are truly amazing – if you have played any game in the Tales Of series, you will know what to expect in terms of graphics as Cold Steel pretty much has that charm. We had a GREAT time playing the game and since it’s already released on the NA PSN (and is set to release next month in Europe), you should definitely put your Christmas gift money to good use and purchase Trails of Cold Steel.
Cost: $39.99-54.99 (Standard to Lionheart Edition, and depending on if you go for the Vita or the PS3 release)
PSN Game Size: 2.7GB