A must-play gem for PS4 JRPG fans.
What They Say:
The critically-acclaimed Trails of Cold Steel series gets an HD remaster featuring 4K/60 fps support, Turbo Mode to streamline gameplay, and for the first time on console, the option to play with the original Japanese voices along with approximately 50% added lines of English voice-overs. Taking place on the same continent as the fan favorite Trails in the Sky offshoot of Nihon Falcom’s storied The Legend of Heroes franchise, Trails of Cold Steel offers a standalone story that also delves into the expansive lore that has become synonymous with the series as players enjoy school life, take advantage of speedy, tactical turn-based combat, and uncover dramatic events that stand to change everything the two opposing social classes stand for.
While I loved the Trails in the Sky, I never actually got around to playing the Trails of Cold Steel series until now with the PS4 version. Needless to say, I was blown away by this must-play gem that existing Trails and Persona fans should not miss out on. For starters, you can absolutely play the game without having played previous The Legend of Heroes games but you’re better off having done so.
Trails of Cold Steel takes players to the Erebonian Empire as you play as Rean, a student in Thors Military Academy’s Class VII. It’s a much different atmosphere than you might expect as you mix school life with exploring the Empire. For the most part, the game follows a pretty standard routine.
While it is similar to the Persona games, you don’t actually play through every single day of Rean’s school year. Instead, it follows a set formula of occasionally attending his classes, then having one Sunday of the month where you investigate the game’s main dungeon and fulfill various requests, then having your monthly practical exam the following Wednesday, and then a field study the following weekend in a specific location in the Empire.
You can pretty much expect this routine for each of the several chapters in the game. Along the way, you have numerous optional side quests and bonding moments that you can do with your classmates. Trails of Cold Steel is rich in lore and character development, something that is the star of what makes this series what it is. There are literally hours of content that are optional and you could participate in as little or as much if you want to.
If you’d rather just go through each month and see only the main story through to the end, you can. What’s great is that there is a couple of new quality of life improvements that make everything, even seeing all that Trails of Cold Steel has to offer, much easier than ever before. This is mainly in part due to the new Turbo Mode for the PS4 version.
Turbo Mode speeds up basically everything in the entire game. Exploration, battles, and even cutscenes are all sped up in Turbo Mode. It’s totally optional, of course, but I found it to be an amazing asset in enjoying the game. I did most everything you can in the game minus a few hidden side quests and my playthrough clocked at just over 45 hours by the end, which is insane when you look at prior averages for the game.
Turbo Mode also helps when it comes to the many, many battles that you’ll be doing in Trails of Cold Steel. If you’ve played Trails in the Sky, it’s a more improved version of that combat. It’s turn-based but you are able to manually move your characters around the field when it’s their turn. In addition, attacks revolve around using the battlefield’s space to your advantage.
Some spells will let you cover a large area while others will cover a smaller one or just a single enemy. There’s a ton of strategy to be found in pulling together enemies and then unleashing tons of damage on all of them at once using spells, skills, and ultimate abilities that each party member has. The difficulty for Trails of Cold Steel is just right, too, making it totally doable on the normal mode for even newer players while still offering a nice challenge. And if you happen to have trouble with certain bosses and keep losing, the game gives you the option to weaken them so you don’t have to grind like crazy.
The game runs really well, too, on PS4. Loading is almost instantaneous throughout the whole game and it runs silky smooth while looking great visually, too. However, I did notice that the game did occasionally experience some very slight performance problems while in Turbo Mode in the final two chapters.
Trails of Cold Steel’s story is one that rivals the greatest JRPG giants in just how rich and deep the world is. Nihon Falcom has taken a lot of time in developing this world and it only expands even further in this game. The Erebonian Empire and its trouble are fascinating, and it only helps that the cast is so great even if it is insanely large. I played the game with the English voice over (Japanese is available too!) and the voice acting is surprisingly great across the board.
From enjoying school life to countless requests to building bonds with your classmates to grinding your level in battle, there is just so much to do in The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel. And what’s even better is that the PS4 version is the premier place to enjoy this title with the optional Turbo Mode that speeds everything up. The strategic combat coupled with the beautifully crafted world and characters creates an unforgettable starting point in this sub-series that all JRPG fans shouldn’t miss out on.
Developer: Nihon Falcom
Publisher: XSEED Games
Age Rating: Teen
Release Date: March 26, 2019
Platform: PS4 (reviewed), PC, PS Vita, PS3