The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel Review
Developer: Nihon Falcom
Publisher: XSEED Games, Marvelous USA, Inc.
Release Date: Aug 2, 2017
Price: $39.99 as of August 6th, 2017
(Information gathered from STEAM)
Aside from about 15 hours of Final Fantasy X on the PS2 and a little bit of time in Fire Emblem, I believe this is the first in-depth JRPG I've touched. It certainly was not something I was expecting to get, but I'm honestly glad I did. I view writing articles for The Gamers Lounge as a way to expand my gaming palette, and this is no exception. This game has a lot of interesting moments and engaging game play. Even so, there are a lot of eye rolling moments, if you've seen my Twitch Stream. Mainly, if you've ever seen an anime, this uses those tropes. So many stereotypes. Just.... yeesh. Presumably they understand that fact, as it is frequently lamp-shaded by the main character. To be clear, this game is a port to the PC. Originally released on the PS3 and PS Vita in 2015 (here in the US anyways), this PC version came out on just August 2nd. There have been many improvements over the original version, and is worth checking out even if you played the originals.
As an example, this release clearly had some graphical updates, and they are amazing. Everything is clear and sharp, and is vibrant enough to clearly interpret which enemies are in the distance. It genuinely felt like I was controlling an anime, and I don't mean one where they outsource the animation to be done by some cut-rate animation studio. There is subtle variation in styles between characters versus static-objects in the game, where the characters themselves tend to pop a lot more than the surrounding background.
Speaking of the background, the music was decently composed. It fills in the silence and provides a little atmosphere. It blends in with the environment as to enhance the experience, rather than detract. However, there are times when the music really enters the main stage. Bosses are a good example of this. The music gives the more important sequences a flourish that helps captivate the attention.
Those moments help transition between cutscenes and game play as well. They use the same style and rendering as the game, so the music is a minute addition that pairs well the the removal of the UI for those instances. Personally, I almost always dislike when games switch from game fidelity to some previously rendered, high-fidelity movie for those moments. This game keeps everything visually connected, so you can remain attached to the story even as you momentarily lose control.
In addition to the attention given to those cinematic cutscenes, the controls themselves where given proper treatment. Every time you boot the game, you get this small settings menu. This is cool, because you can set your input scheme every time. Most of the time you just boot straight to game, but simply having the easy option to customize every time is refreshing. This same menu also lets the user set a bunch of graphical settings and language settings, so you can change to lower graphical settings to stream or record as needed, or if you have other tasks running in the background and don't have the resources.
I'm sure you want to hear about the actual mechanics now, right? Trails of Cold Steel has a lot going on, and I only have so much space, so I'm going to have to truncate a lot of the information. If you want to see more, you can watch my recording I linked in the first paragraph or view the trailer linked at the bottom of this article. However, I'll do my best.
The game play is divided into two distinct sections: Orienteering (as the game puts it) and Student Life. Orienteering is the dungeon diving and combat aspects. You kill the monsters, you fight the boss, you get the loot and experience. You can use the loot to improve your combat or improve your social life (like items used for cooking). Over the course of combat, you gain experience to gain levels which affect attribute points. Basic things like speed, attack power, defense, etc. There is also the regular inventory management from items you can loot and buy. One of the more interesting mechanics, in my opinion is the tactics screen. It lets you position your team so you can start each normal battle in a way that lets you maximize your first-turn moves, as well as shield your frail casters. It also defines Links. Links are combat synergies between two squad-mates so that they can aid each other during the action.
As I mentioned, the other half is Student Life. During the time between major combat sessions, you will be running errands for the student council, doing class assignments, and maintaining your social life as a student. This gives many different quests with varying rewards. Most just advance the story, but some give you better items or other great perks. There is also fishing, which is a minigame that, over time, allows you to trade in points earned for rewards. There’s cooking, which lets you combine ingredients to create food that has a random chance to drop rarer versions of the dish. You can use these in battle to cure status ailments, or to heal characters, or more. Finally, there is working on your relationships with the other members of Class VII. These are done through daytime tasks, or done through the single (more effective) evening event. Not every person can be interacted with, so it matters who you choose the people correctly.
Overall, I feel that this game is a great RPG. It takes a lot of smaller facets are combines them in a way that lets you invest as much, or as little, to get the story as you like. There is the ability to speed up the game as well, which makes running to areas take a lot shorter time. I genuinely enjoy this game, and will be spending a lot more time on it.
If you like RPGs, and liked the original on PS3 or Vita, then you’ll enjoy this port to the PC. According to Steam, there are more voice lines and a little more content for this, which will help give a little more depth if you return after getting it again. Either way, I highly recommend buying this game to add to your collection, or converting to digital from an old copy.
Self-aware humor that doesn't break the fourth-wall
Great art style
Clear audio with respectable voice acting
Lots of content for your dollar
The tutorial area is a little slow, but good for first time players
I would also like to thank XSEED for providing a code to review the game
"Disclosure(s): I only had time to play the first 10 hours of the game, but in that time I was able to sample most to all of the games many features."