The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III
[ Introduction ]
Trails of Cold Steel III is the direct sequel to the prior installments. Does this mean you need to have played the first two… Not really as there is a full story summary to get the player up to speed with the main events and story points. I, however, believe you should play the prequels to get the full feeling and the overall grandeur of the saga.
It has been almost eighteen months since the end of the Erebonian civil war. The political standpoints of the Empire and counties are shifting their stances on world events. Even our young hero Rean Schwarzer’s life has changed. He has graduated from the Thors Military Academy and is now an instructor at the newly formed Thors Branch Campus. Rean is regarded as a hero with all he achieved while being a student, this makes his task of teaching more difficult. At his new post, Rean is given the task of training and supporting the new class VII into a new era of peace. There is the Ouroborous organization that is plotting something evil, that will break this brief era of peace. Plunging the world back into war.
With this being the 3rd part in the saga, there are many callbacks to the previous game. These start within the first 10 minutes of playing. If the previous two games have not been played, this will be a bit confusing how everyone knows each other. It does not detract from the experience.The story is fantastic with excellent plot twist and extraordinary moments. However, the plot is not as strong as the second installment’s, but still great regardless.
[ Gameplay ]
At its core, thia game is a JRPG with enough of its own unique spin to make it something special. Much of the core systems return from the previous entries as well as the typical JRPG battle system, but improves and adds a few things. The party is made up of four members with the best of Class VII being freely interchangeable at any time. Meaning there is less need for grinding class levels. Where characters are positioned is just as important as what Art or Craft is to be used. Arts are the games magic equivalent, and use the EP resource, depending on what Orbments are equipped. Crafts, on the other hands, are special moves for that character only and use CP that regenerates. As each of these has a different area of effect, meaning that one attack might hit in a straight line whereas another a big circle. Why is this important? It is sometimes more prudent to hit as many of the enemies as possible that hitting one enemy with a strong attack.
S-Craft abilities have returned; there are powerful attacks that can be used in battle as long as there is enough CP to cast them. There is also the link system, this shows the two linked characters team up for extra attack as well as an auto action, like taking the hit for the linked character. Brave Points also make a come back with a new use; Break Points are rewarded for any critical hits. The new Brave Orders use these points to give a party-wide buff, as well as for powerful follow up attacks.
The game employs a Break System, displayed as a bar under the enemy’s health, that once depleted the enemy becomes stunned and it’s crits galore time. Causing a break is the difference between winning and losing in many fights. MECH BATTLES ARE BACK! Sorry I will compose myself. These battles require the player to make choices based on what the enemies’ stance is as well as a bit of resource management.
Trails of Cold Steel III comes with the quality of life changes the previous two did with the speed up movement and battles options, making the trash mobs feel less of a hassle. There are also four difficulty levels and a new Nightmare mode -really not for the faint of heart.- The game will also allow the player to retry boss fights they lose, along with the option to weaken the boss. It is an excellent feature for the players enjoying the story and do not hit the invisible wall of “I cannot beat this boss”. It allows for more accessibility to all players of all levels.
Lastly, there are tons of side quests and other things to do if you would like a break from the main story. We highly recommend the Vantage Masters card mini-game.
[ Visual and Perfomance ]
Trails of Cold Steel III is a beautiful game. It was pretty back on the PsVita, but here everything looks cleaner all around. The charters are more defined and look better than ever. There is not much we can say negatively about the graphics. The anime-styled S-moves look stunning, as they are only seen in battle each time they pop up it is like a breath of fresh air. The enemies are weird yet beautiful, and all look great. I could go on all day about how good this game looks but we would even get fed up of that.
There were no bugs that we could find at all, and the game ran super smooth, with decent load times.
[ Sound ]
The sound design is just like the graphics, there is no significant negative aspect we can come up with. The music here is simply outstanding, and each track complements each area perfectly. The battle and boss music gets the player ready for the fight, even the easiest of fights are made less monotonous by the music.
Sound effects are also great even the special moves sound as good as they look. The voice acting is not amazing, but it is decent, Nihon Falcom seems to take world design more serious than voice acting. There is nothing wrong with that.
The sound design, on the whole, is fantastic.
[ Conclusion ]
In a nutshell the Trails of Cold Steel saga are JRPGs for the ages. The plot takes a bit of a drop from the second installment, but it is still moving, funny, serious and somewhat relevant to today.
The game’s core mechanics have not changed much, though out of the rest of series it is improved, and plays the best of the three. Compared to everything else out there in the JRPG genre this one is a contender for one of the best out there today.
We have to recommend this title, in fact, all of them (unfortunately we did not get to review the first two so, you will need to take my word for it). If you are looking for a genuinely in-depth story with great characters and a coming of age story, then Trails of Cold Steel III is a definite buy.
If you enjoyed this review check out The Alliance Alive (HD Remaster) HERE!