In its three-year history, Nintendo Switch has become a powerful Japanese role-playing game (JRPG) with dozens and dozens of great titles to choose from. The competition is fierce and big hits like Square Enix (Dragon Quest XI S, Octopath Traveler, and the upcoming Default Bravery II) and Nintendo (Fire Emblem : Three Houses, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Pokémon Sword and Shield, and the upcoming Paper Mario : King of Origami) compete with each other. Although these huge tent releases are probably enough to satisfy many fans of the genre, it is the supporting games that really bring the system to the status it should have. Games such as Ys VIII, SteamWorld Quest, Rune Factory 4 Special, Ni No Kuni, and Valkyria Chronicles 4 are just a small selection of fantastic worlds to explore at the counter.
NIS America has long been a supporter of the JRPG, and it’s nice to see that they are developing their favorite series The Legend of Heroes . The original series of games has been released on PSP, and this new series of games, Trails of Cold Steel, will enter its third iteration, the fourth of which will be announced next year. I admit it’s a bit strange that Switch owners start with Trails of Cold Steel III, especially since the games have the same world and characters. It’s like starting a Star Wars franchise with the return of the Jedi. As I never played the two previous games in this series, I was grateful that the game contains a summary of the first two games. It requires a lot of reading and, to be honest, following all the characters can be very confusing. This short overview is also available on the official website if you want to read the story in advance. Although I appreciate the effort, nothing can replace a real game in the first two Trails or Cold Steel, but it doesn’t look like they’re going to make the switch.
StartingTrails or Cold Steel III without playing the other games in the series can be a challenge. That’s because the game takes you to the heart of the matter when you lead a group of characters you have no idea who they are, what they’re fighting for or what’s going on. Very quickly, you get into battle and you’re supposed to know how the combat system works. For those familiar with the series this is not a problem, but beginners will just have to try to confuse the way they experience these encounters. Without manuals or instructions, I was completely surprised that the game started this way. It turns out that in about 15 minutes you will finish this part of the game, and it will be on fire at first. Here you take control of the main character of the game, Rin, and begin to solve the story. You will finally receive some of the manuals that were not available in the beginning. Who still misses the 80 page handbooks/guides belonging to the JRPG for NES and Genesis? I know I can’t be the only one!
You’re playing for Rin Schwarzer, who recently finished seventh. Class of Thor Military Academy. He’s now the new teacher for the new 7. He has to teach the new group of students the skills needed to perform special operations. In a sense, the game starts from scratch, but from the beginning it is clear that those who have played the first two games will understand the world much better, the plot as a whole and the many characters that come into contact with the Rhine. Throughout the story, we meet a lot of people from Rin’s past who would probably have had an emotional impact if I had played previous games. But even without knowing it, encounters between graduates are always a pleasure, and the different characters appear to them as real personalities. The story itself is very political: Territories are annexed and various factions fight for power. Normally I’m not too interested in these kinds of stories, but the interaction between party members and friends is the glue that holds everything together and makes me long for what happens next.
Two things are important to me with the JRPG: History and battle. Both have to convince me to continue my commitment and I am happy to say that the Trails of Cold Steel III does exactly that. I was especially impressed with the combat system because it adds different levels of strategy that are easy to understand and fun to use. Unlike many other games today, it adheres to the turn-based fighting model that all JRPGs adhere to. You can spend as much time as you want to decide what to do next, and I really appreciate this approach, far from the remake of the Final Fantasy VII on PS4. Don’t get me wrong, I liked that combat system too, but there’s something comforting about going back to mechanics in stages.
The commands in the user interface are presented here in a smooth way and are assigned to the Action and D-Pad buttons, giving you eight possible options without having to scroll through the menus. You have the usual options, such as attacking and using objects. In addition, you can perform spells from the art team and special attacks from the ship icon – both get the required number of points, so you’ll want to see your pawn in battle. There are basic systems that allow you to exchange spells that you can use (such as fire, healing, etc.), and you can even tackle your enemies’ weaknesses to break them, effectively stun them and cause significant damage. Another interesting facet of the combat system is that you can perform combat links, which means that your partner can follow your attack with the other, provided that you have disturbed the enemy’s balance by focusing on his weakness. Of course, I didn’t really scratch the board in this review, but the game describes these things in pretty good detail following the story. In other words: Don’t sweat too much if you feel depressed at the beginning of the game, because at the end you know what happens next. Suffice it to say that I really liked this fighting system, and it’s really well designed to keep you entertained during the adventure and even make you fight the fur! Who doesn’t like fur?
The general presentation is a little mixed, especially in comparison with the games that clearly have a larger budget. The graphics are vivid and colorful, and I like the design of the characters very much. The geometry of the game is definitely of the previous generation, and I have no doubt that the PS3 or perhaps Wii can handle some of those environments. Although there are a few interesting places to visit, including some really nice towns and places, it seemed to me that the dungeon was quite flawed. You spend a lot of time at the training center where you come back and it gets quite old. With the cuts and runs in some areas, it becomes clear that the game is simply not as good as some of its competitors. Sharp, flat polygons protrude here and there, and things like buildings seem to be cut out and inserted with low-resolution textures, which really detracts from the overall visual presentation. The detailed characters, who really know how to express their emotions through animation, are a positive point. The overall picture reminds me a bit of the Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, with their elegant character design and fascinating monsters. The whole game is similar to the anime, and in a way I immediately remembered Fire Emblem: exploring the campus. Three houses, and there is indeed a small character development where you talk to the students and learn more about them.
The soundtrack and voice actions are pretty good, especially considering that the game is likely to last at least 40 to 60 hours. Some characters do the rules a little better than others, but for the most part I was pretty impressed. Music is a force, which is not surprising when it comes to Falcom, a company known for its excellent titles.
I won’t deny that with Cold Steel Trails III there is a barrier to entry that may discourage some players. If you really need to know all the details of previous games, you can play them on competing systems first, read a short summary of the game, or even watch some YouTube videos that will surely inform you about important things. As a rookie player, I was shocked by the first hour, but things started to fall into place, and as the game progressed, I started to enjoy it more and more. Fact is that there is a great game full of entertaining turn-based battles, intriguing characters and a fascinating world to explore. I understand why this series is so dedicated, and even if you don’t have an emotional connection with the repeating characters from previous games, I want to tell you that you can really get into this iteration and have fun. There are so many other JRPG options on the counter competing for your money and attention, and this is one of the best!
Hero legend: Cold Steel Tracks III Revision
- Graphs – 7/10
- Sound – 8.5/10
- The gameplay is 8/10.
- Late appeal – 8.5/10
Final remarks : GROSS
Cold Steel III is a long and entertaining JRPG that will surely sink into a sea of competitive titles. It does not help that the switch owners have to intervene in the third part of the series, especially since the plot and characters are directly related to the previous games. But if you stick to it, you’ll be rewarded with an entertaining fighting system, charming characters and a fascinating adventure.
Craig has been working in the video game industry since 1995. His works have been published on various media sites. He is currently editor-in-chief and contributes to the Games Age.
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