Preview | The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III
Recently, NIS America invited GotGame to check out various games they had in their pipeline. Among them mainly was Nihon Falcom’s The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III. Previously, this series has been localized by XSEED Games, though fans don’t have to worry. After playing the English version for over a couple hours, the game seems to be in good hands.
Trails of Cold Steel III takes place a year and a half after the previous game. Where the first and second game work together as one complete game, the third pairs up with the fourth installment. Unlike the first and second game, the third entry is also built from the ground up on PlayStation 4. Taking advantage of the time skip, it gives the story a chance to advance and bring in new characters. We still follow Rean Schwarzer, but now he is a newly recruited professor at a military academy.
The game starts out with a prelude depicting events further into the game. To keep a sense of mystery, you start out playing as brand new characters, their names not even shown. I did find it funny that the in-game text described everyone by their hair color and gender, noting that they had enough different anime hair colors to make that distinction. Regardless, the character designs are quite varied and each character has a distinct personality. During this sequence, you’ll play as a group of five young students as they storm a large fortress.
Even though the game starts you off without telling much of the story, it does help you dive right into the gameplay. Oddly enough, there isn’t much of a tutorial during this part, though the game gives access to combat mechanics that wouldn’t be accessible in the beginning. Unlike the previous Trails of Cold Steel games, the combat menu displays itself with each command assigned to a button or direction. It takes a little getting used to, what with moving the analog stick or d-pad selecting commands like “run away” or “items”. Once you get comfortable though, it’s a pretty solid system.
Like previous games in the series, battles are turn based, but they take place in a battle arena. Players can use a turn to move their characters, attack, use special skills and more. Placement matters, as certain attacks can only work with enemies in the right spot. The enemy position also matters, as some attacks have a wide range and can attack multiple foes if they’re close enough. Players can even use some of the skills, “Arts” and “Crafts”, in the same way. Arts work much like magic, using the EP gauge, while Crafts require CP, points gained from getting attacked, among other bonuses. Some characters even have unique properties, like the pink-haired girl, Juna. Her weapon can transform from tonpa-like melee weapons to a pair of long-ranged guns.
One thing fans will likely be happy about is the return of bonds. Depending on the strength of a connection between characters, players can unleash a bonus attack. If a player attacks a foe with a critical hit, they can use “Link Attacks”, where their bond partner can assist with an extra attack. They can also perform a rush attack where they unleash a barrage of strikes with their partner. These abilities cost Brave Points, and if the point gauge is full, then the player can also do a “Burst Attack”, where all the characters perform a team attack together. Think like the “All-Out Attacks” from Persona 5. Finally, there is the S-Craft, which is a powerful attack that requires a large amount of CP. It’s an interesting combat system overall, but it works well.
Outside of combat, the game plays like many traditional JRPGs. Players can run around as any of their party characters as enemies will roam the map. Players can avoid them, but they can also attack them to stun them for a battle. This allows an advantage to the player and gives them a chance to get in extra attacks. If the player isn’t careful though, the enemy could get an advantage too if they sneak up on you. Aside from that, players can find items, restore their health at rest points, and destroy obstructions.
Getting through the introductory chapter, players will fight a boss battle. Boss battles take a lot more time and require a more strategy, using your position and maintaining health. When the battle is over, Rean and his team will appear, and the game flashes back to the beginning of the story. Now playing as Rean, the game introduces his new life as a military instructor. The game has a lot of exposition, which can be a little overwhelming, but it presents itself in a charming and humorous way. The voice acting is also pretty solid, having many fantastic performances. This includes Sean Chiplock, who voices Revali in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, reprising his role as Rean.
This sequence takes time, and eventually, it introduces us to many of the new characters. Rean is obviously very new at this, but he still goes in with a level head (and glasses). Again, fans can expect a lot of humor in the dialogue, and it really feels like an anime at points. Without spoiling too much of the events that occur, I will say the story did a great job sucking me in. I didn’t have to keep playing, but I kept wanting to get further and further in the plot. I wanted to learn more about these characters. Even as someone with little experience with the franchise, having only played a little of the first one, I was still hooked.
Overall, fans of this story should keep The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III on their radar. The characters are fun and charming, and the presentation is rather unique and effective. The game will have a reference for newcomers to read about the previous games if they so please. Even without the reference, the game still stands on its own well. It’s not every day players get good JRPG experiences, but NIS America is deadset on delivering one here. We’ll have more information on The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III as it approaches its September 24th release date. (UPDATE: NIS America is postponing the game till October 22nd for extra polish.)