The initial Trails of Cold Steel match is very dear to my heart since it was the very first”Trails” game that I ever played. I bought the PS Vita version at start, that to the slightly more expensive Lionheart variant because a friend had recommended this game. However I, like most people I’ve recommended the series to, judged the match early and dropped it two or three hours in. Around a year after, I decided to begin the game and played with it for a week straight, racking up more than 100 hours once I put the game down once and for all. The point I’m trying to make it that The Legend of Heroes games, and by extension that the”Trails” series, are such”deep” experiences that if you put at the time, they will deliver to your expectations and more.
When the game first released back in 2013 for the PS3 and PS Vita, it really did fly under the radars of many due to the PS3 being quickly phased out in favor of the PS4 and the PS Vita nearing its eventual death. However now in 2019, the series has quickly become quite popular internationally with most of the series being localized in just a few years.
Trails of Cold Steel starts the third sub-series in the overarching Trails story. The sub-series is preceded by the three Trails in the Sky games, as well as the two yet unlocalized Crossbell games dubbed Trails from Zero and Trails to Azure.
Cold Steel takes place in the Erebonia region, or the Empire as its commonly referred to. Players follow the story of Rean Schwarzer, the adopted son of a Noble with a mysterious past, as he enrolls into the Thors Military Academy. Much to his surprise, he is enrolled in a brand new class, Class 7, with his new classmates. Unlike the other classes at the academy which are made up of either Nobles or Commoners, Class 7 consists of both of them on equal ground.
The slow burn of Trails of Cold Steel’s story is pretty well done. A few chapters can get slow but when you consider there are a total of four Cold Steel games out in Japan, with the third releasing in Western regions later this year, there is a lot of character development and world-building to be done. Like previous Trails games, Cold Steel is divided into chapters. Class 7 does a lot of “remote learning”, which requires them to visit different places in Erebonia, so different chapters take the class to different locations across the Empire. Not only does this give sufficient attention to the huge cast (as the class gets divided for each mission), but players also get a great overarching view at the different cities of Erebonia and its people. As the story goes on, stakes get higher and higher as Class 7 is tasked to go above and beyond their duties as students. I won’t go into more details on the story as for a game such as Trails of Cold Steel that’s best discovered on your own.
Trails of Cold Steel uses an updated and improved version of the battle system used in previous Trails series games so to Trails veterans it should feel fairly familiar. The battle system is turn-based, and that too one of the best you’ll ever see in a modern JRPG. Thanks to the huge cast of characters, players will be able to choose between a variety of weapons and character types to make their best party. The game does a great job at explaining how everything works, so new players have nothing to worry about.
When the battle starts each character has their standard attack with their equipped weapon. Taking damage or inflicting weapon damage grants you “Craft Point” or CP which allows you to unleash powerful attacks called “Crafts”. You’ll also be able to unleash ultra-powerful “S-Crafts” when you reach 100 or 200 CP, which can turn the tide of battle. Characters are also able to use “Arts”, which is similar to Magic. Arts are used via a characters Orbments, a special technology allowing them to unleash powerful Arts that are stored in the Quartz they have equipped. You’ll come across a wide variety of Quartz pieces in your journey, with each having a different set of Arts stored within.
In Trails of Cold Steel, the Link System ties in deeply to the story as students of Class 7 have to set aside their differences and work together. The Link System strengthens the bond between two characters and grants them bonuses like defending each other from enemy attacks and pulling off the occasional follow-up attack. There’s a lot more to the battle system and it never gets boring, especially if you’re playing on the higher difficulties.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel on the PS4 makes a great game even better with QOL features like Turbo Mode and 4K/60FPS support. The port is excellent and gave me an excuse to playthrough the game for the second time, and made me realize that I missed so much in my first playthrough even though I put in a great amount of time in it. If you want to get into the Trails series then Cold Steel is a great first game that we can’t recommend enough, as I mentioned earlier just put in the time and you’ll be glad that you did.