Game: The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III
Genre: RPG, Adventure, Action
System: Nintendo Switch (also on PC and PS4)
Developer|Publisher: Falcom | NIS America
Age Rating: EU 12+ | US Teen
Price: UK £53.99 | EU € 59,99 | AUD $90.00 | CAD $79.37 | USD $59.99
Release Date: 30th June 2020
Review code provided with many thanks to Reef Entertainment
The Legend of Heroes
I have always been keen to dive into the Trails of Cold series since it’s original inception on the Vita and PS3 and part of the Legend of Heroes series of RPGs. Unfortunately due to life, the universe and limited memory on my Vita memory card it just passed me by. But here we are in 2020 and the series is coming to Switch with the games third entry. I guess my main thoughts coming into this review were is the third entry worth diving into to even if you have no prior knowledge of the previous games? Or would I be behind the rest of the class? Well lets dive in and find out.
A New Adventure With Familiar Faces
The game follows the adventures of Rean Schwarzer. Hero of the prior two games. He has grown up a bit though as he’s now a military professor and is returning to school to teach a new set of students. All seems well but you soon learn something more sinister is going on and its up Rean and the students to save the day. This game right up to its animated opening is pretty ‘anime as heck.’ There are loads of characters to meet in the adventure and the dialogue is often friendly with the occasional wit thrown in for good measure.
For some reason the game decides to introduce every character in the game initially by their hair colour, E.g Pink haired girl or blue haired boy. That is until the character gets their grand introduction. While funny to read about blonde haired boy you already know most of the characters names thanks to a handy role call introduction sequence close to the start of the game. It’s hard not to instantly discover likable characters and it’s enjoyable to witness the interactions and dialogue between the students in the game. In a way I guess it sorta took me back to school in more ways than one.
Right out the gate the game hits you hard with the plot . There’s quite a lot to digest and get your head around. This is often expected for an RPG, my main problem is though that so much of it felt like unnecessary fluff. While some gamers would love to listen to characters go into a horrific amount of depth about their lives, their weapons but strangely not their shoe size. These are all fine things but serves much better as a secondary thing to discover outside the quest line as opposed to forcing it on you. I often played this game in two hour bursts and it felt like half of that was listening to dialogue. Most scenes are fully voice acted which is decent. When your exploring most of the dialogue is text based with the odd interruption of voice acting which seems a little out of place.
The game does a pretty good job of catching you up on the events of the previous games. In the main menu you can read about the previous titles in great detail to catch you up on the plot. However, the main game does a pretty good job of updating you on prior games anyway, usually by introducing old characters. Needless to say even though this is my first foray into the series I didn’t feel lost or left out by not playing the previous entries. What I will say is, after playing this I would love it if the previous games did make it to Switch someday. If you’re familiar with the series you’ll get a kick out of all the familiar faces from the prior games and if you’re familiar with other Legend of Heroes games like Trial in the Sky you may be in for a nice surprise.
A button you’ll get used to quickly is the high speed mode. This basically speeds up everything including story segments and battles. It’s a very welcome function when you start to encounter familiar battle cut-scenes. It also makes you move about the world super fast. Kind of a lifesaver for the busy player.
Deep and Engaging Battle System
When you get a chance to actually play the game I’m pleased to say it’s a lot of fun. When you’re out and about exploring the world you can see enemies on the map, giving you the choice to engage in combat or avoid them entirely. Of course some encounters are compulsory to get you ready for turn based battling. I thoroughly enjoyed the battle system of Trails of Cold Steel III. Each fight felt like some epic over the top cinematic conflict. You have up to 4 characters in your party and take up a 3D space with the enemies. Your placement on the map is important, being too far away from an enemy means you may need to take a turn to move closer but holding back and letting the enemy come to you can hold its own benefits.
You have the usual options of attack and defend. You also have arts, which act like magic spells and crafts which are attack abilities, all of which consume meters so can’t be over used. The options available are huge and it’s a little overwhelming to start with. The early areas of the game do allow plenty of room for error allowing you to experiment and find the play style that works best for you. The game does an excellent job with single screen tutorials, which teach you each of the mechanics without becoming overbearing. These can also be easily accessed in the menus and I found this to be a handy resource when I needed a little reminder.
You also occasionally get to battle in these awesome mech suits. These battles are similar to the main battle system but adds a mechanic where you can target individual body parts. A great addition to an already fun battle system.
I really enjoyed jumping into battles and trying out different attack options. You also constantly level up everything from your characters general stats, to your move sets and bonds with fellow characters. You can also link to a fellow fighter allowing for these really awesome assist moves which you can fire off after performing an attack. The time I had to pay most attention to though was boss fights where the difficulty often spiked a little allowing less room for mistakes. But fortunately a rest spot is present before these major encounters indicating something nasty is on the horizon. The game also allows you to save anywhere, a brilliant feature especially if you don’t always have hours to spend on the game at a time. If things do get too much the game does offer 5 difficulty settings which can be changed at any time in the options.
Spot of Fishing
As well as battling there are plenty of other things to do. You can build relationships with students, play a pretty in-depth card game, which I was terrible at but loved the depth put into it. But my favourite thing to do like many games is just to go fishing – in a parallel world James is playing this fishing mini game instead of reviewing it. Simple controls yet addictive as anything! Fishing may not grab you but there’s a good chance something will. I was constantly distracted from the main quest line to head back to my rod.
The graphics are 3D anime inspired models. The characters look brilliant. With all their various hair styles and looks. It was easy to recognize each one. You can even dress up your party in alternative outfits if you fancy. This is why in this review you see Rean sporting a rather unusual outfit compared to the over students. The backgrounds are little mixed, sometimes you run around really blank stone environments which feel rather empty and dull. Only to then find a wide open landscape later with plenty of green foliage. I didn’t notice these issues so much in handheld mode. The music was good, escalating as you would expect when entering a battle then moving to something more relaxing when exploring.
Massive Adventure in a Tiny Space
Trails of Cold Steel III is massive, so prepare to get lost in it for hours on end. I never felt in a rush to tackle the main quest since I genuinely liked exploring and battling so much. Tacking on new side quests (or field exercises) to get more money to upgrade my fishing rod and sometimes my weapons. It’s a game you can comfortably go at your own pace and if you decide to take a break its pretty easy to return to later. There’s also a demo on the eShop you can download to try the game for yourself. The best part is any progress you make in the demo you can continue from in the final piece.
A huge positive about the game is it only takes up 7.1 GB digitally on your Switch or micro SD card. This is pretty incredible for a game of this size and magnitude. There are so many games coming to the Switch that are clocking in over 40 GB. It’s welcoming to see developers take into account file sizes.
The Final Grade
Trails of Cold Steel III is an adventure well worth taking if you’re a fan of RPGs or just anime in general. It’s bursting with content and when I was actually playing the game I was not disappointed. For me the story became a bit much in places. Far too many dialogue sections interrupted the fun game play. This may suit some but I prefer to play a video game more than watch or read it. Despite this it’s hard to ignore that Trails of Cold Steel III is a great RPG and well worth going back to school to experience.
Final Verdict: I liked it a lot
At the point, writing this review marks my 50th article for Ladies Gamers. So I wanted to take this paragraph to make some acknowledgments. First off, I want to thank my wife Melissa who has read all my work and helped filter out the stupid bits (Your Welcome!). She’s acted as an important player two and contributor to several of my reviews. Next up I want to thank all my fellow writers on Ladies Gamers. This is easily one of the warmest and nicest gaming communities I’ve been a part of. I have thoroughly enjoyed chatting to them behind the scenes and reading their work. I want to thank Dave for being a pal and a huge support through some tricky times. Finally and most importantly I want to thank Ladies Gamers lead lady Yvonne. Without her none of my work would be on this website. She’s a wonderful person who has created a great website and I hope people continue to come to the site and enjoy it with a nice coffee (or tea) like I do every day. Here’s to another 50 more articles! No pressure – I guess.