[Review] The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III – Nintendo Switch

Written by Thomas Haroldsen
  • Developer: Falcom
  • Publisher: NIS America
  • Release Date: 30/06/2020
  • Price: £53.99 / $59.99
  • Review code provided by NIS America

Introducing: Trails of Cold Steel III Review

There are few series that have captured me the way the Legend of Heroes has. I was a bit late to the party when I discovered Trails in the Sky late into the PlayStation Vita’s lifecycle. I was enamored by the characters, the world and the story. Roughly five years ago, the Cold Steel saga began to grace Western audiences. Trails of Cold Steel III is the first to land on the Nintendo Switch. Continue reading to see how this epic fantasy RPG meshes with the ever growing ecosystem of the Switch, despite breaking out on its own from the first two tales of its storyline.

The Way Back to Thors

Trails of Cold Steel III follows Rean Schwarzer, the protagonist of the previous two entries. Rean has since graduated Thors Military Academy and has returned as a professor at the new Branch Campus of Thors in the town of Leeves. It had been a while since my last adventure with Rean and his classmates and I couldn’t quite remember the details from prior games. Fortunately there’s a Backstory section in the main menu which summarizes each game in addition to providing information on the various lands, cities and key players. I highly recommend a brief perusal to anyone who embarks on this new journey regardless of being a Cold Steel veteran or novice.

Furthermore, if you haven’t played the earlier titles, you can still enjoy Cold Steel III. The world is incredibly detailed and there is a ton of content. Much of the dialogue is voiced and the character depth is refreshing. The story is a continuation of Cold Steel one and two and takes place roughly a year and a half later. It was a fantastic journey which was accentuated by the appearance of past friends and familiar allies. My eyes lit up everytime one of Rean’s former classmates walked on screen. Fanservice aside, the relationships felt genuine and natural. It was nice to see how different characters have grown and what fields they ended up working in. Though it’s surmised that this will likely be to the benefit of previous fans only.

Unconventional Studies

If the soul of the Cold Steel series is found in the compelling characters and captivating world, then the heart would be in the meticulous combat and engaging gameplay. Thirty hours passed so quickly, that I hardly realized I’d spent that much time with the new students of Class VII. The combat is very fluid for a turn-based RPG. Your team can move around the battlefield at the cost of a turn. Depending on what action you take, your next turn is delayed by a set amount.

Arts, or spells typically take longer to cast and are determined by items called quartz. Thus, spells can be used by anyone if the quartz is equipped. Crafts are special skills unique to each character and can be used right away but often have a longer wait time before that character can act again. You can also issue orders to help turn the tide in a failing battle. Orders can boost your defense or increase your attack. There’s a decent variety based on who is in your party. Many of the attacks can hit multiple enemies either in a line or ring, so positioning is important. This level of engagement offers multiple ways to approach each foe, so you can test a lot of strategies. It’s safe to say you won’t be spamming the attack button over and over. Not to mention battling as and with huge mechs is always a plus.

Combat isn’t the only thing to fill your time in Trails of Cold Steel III. Most of the sidequests have you helping class members or citizens to improve your relationships. You’ll also be able to spend bonding points during specific days at school to build better connections with the people around you. One of my personal favorite activities was Vantage, the in-game collectible card game. It takes some strategy to play despite being fairly easy to win. Trails of Cold Steel has a lot to occupy your time and is well paced.

A Midsummer’s Revels

The character art is stunning and detailed. Each person has quality rendering with striking motion during combat. The graphics pull back during exploration and cutscenes giving the characters an awkward stiffness. Even the panzer soldats, the mechs, move about in odd ways. They slide in and out of scenes as if they didn’t really belong. The backgrounds are also out of place as they lack detail and blur together.

Trails of Cold Steel looks much better when played in handheld mode and was a perfect fit for portable play. Other than stiff movement and barren backdrops, the game ran smoothly without any noticeable dips in framerate, crashes or bugs.

Returning Home

It’s not certain whether part one or two will join the Switch but I can say with certainty that this is a game you don’t want to miss. Best case scenario, the other two games get ported and you get to experience them as prequels. Since Cold Steel III starts with Rean becoming a professor over a new class, it’s a good segue into the second half of the saga. There are a lot of flashbacks and references to the prior Legend of Heroes games which can be bothersome if you didn’t read the recaps. Overall, it’s fun to see the characters interact with one another and the richly developed world will easily pull you in for an exciting time.

Pros

  • Incredible Cast
  • Gripping Story
  • Enriched Gameplay

Cons

  • Missing Game 1 and 2
  • Flat Graphics

Verdict
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III has notably matured alongside Rean and his friends in an engaging and provocative adventure.

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