Meet the new Class VII

The next installment in the Trails of Cold Steel series arrives on Playstation 4. The outstanding world building and character development continues, wether you are brand new or a Legend of Heroes veteran there’s something here for everyone.

That’s probably why The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel 3 is such a compelling JRPG: It doesn’t rock the boat where it matters while still delivering an amazing game.

The only real complaint we can lodge about this RPG is that, like many others, it helps if you’ve played the other games in the series. Trails of Cold Steel 3 is the 3rd entry in the Trails of Cold Steel Arc as the title suggests, and the 8th entry in the Legend of Heroes story.

But, even if you haven’t, Trails of Cold Steel 3 has the strength to stand on its own and is a must-play for hardcore role-playing game fans.

We’ll start with the story, it picks up a short year and a half after the events of the second game and centers on Rean Schwarzer, a returning character, as well as his cohorts from previous games. Now a military instructor, a lot of the game centers on exploring Rean’s character and discovering more about his past. We know what you’re thinking, “we’ve been here before.” But it’s done in a way that you might not expect.

Naturally, the goings-on of the other characters in between the two games is explored and their current lives are illuminated as well. Again, this is heavy-handed fan service but very much appreciated by us gamers who have played through the past entries, for those who arent familiar with characters such as those from the “Old Class 7” it could be a bit of a slog for those who have no frame of reference for this nostalgia. Still, it’s all done very masterfully and the game’s narrative absolutely oozes with quality in the production department.

Now, when we get to the meat of the game, we’re venturing into some very familiar territory. Trails of Cold Steel 3 uses a very familiar, very comfortable turn-based combat system that shouldn’t be foreign to anyone who has enjoyed the JRPG genre over the past twenty years. That means that all of the strategy and consideration you normally have to make in those games is present and accounted for here. It’s a bit slower than most modern gamers might be used to experiencing and Nihon Falcom knows that. This is why the devs have implemented a lot of lifestyle conveniences that speed up the gameplay and make everything more accessible and gamer friendly.

Among changes that they have implemented includes a sped up transition between combat and story scenes as well as the ability to speed up combat in general. Combat is still largely menu based but the devs have also implemented a hot-key system that lets you map frequently used commands directly to buttons. Being the first game in the series that won’t make an appearance on the portable Vita system, Trails of Cold Steel 3 takes full advantage of the PlayStation 4’s larger form factor when it comes to delivering an experience that, while not quite as hand-holding as some of Square’s modern entries, does a great job accommodating modern gamers.

You can also delve deeper into the Orbment and Orders systems to satisfy that need to discover the strategies unique to the series. Making a return from previous games but totally reset back to 0 is the affection meter which will allow you to customize your configuration of relationships with the non-player characters in the game.

Looking beyond the solid gameplay mechanics, Trails of Cold Steel 3 is an absolutely gorgeous game. Reminiscent of some of the best in anime film, the art style is quaint and charming while also being detailed and genre appropriate. Music is equally soaring and epic, conveying the proper emotional tenor at all of the right moments. 

Text is easy to read and to understand and sound effects are bright and clear. Really, when it comes to building a high-quality JRPG, few do it as well as Nihon Falcom. While remaining as un-biased as possible, we can say that the story has us completely drawn in. While for some the length of the overall story may be a con, we love the fact that The Legend of Heroes story gives us so much time in the world we’ve grown to know and love. Seeing characters develop over time from game to game has also been an absolute joy.

In conclusion, we recommend The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel 3 for the PlayStation 4 to any gamer that loves a good JRPG. The story pulls no punches and does a great job at turning conventions on their head. Likewise, the gameplay does what you would expect and delivers in every segment that you need. At the end of your journey through you may even find yourself inspired to go back and play through the previous entries as well.

You won’t find yourself put off by some crazy mechanic nor are you required to master every esoteric facet of its complex systems in order to advance. Embodying what we would call the “Goldilocks principle” of RPG design, Trails of Cold Steel 3 keeps it within limits and knocks it out of the park as a consequence. Gamers searching for a fun time and a memorable experience need to pick up this third installment in the legendary series – today.