- Developer:Nihon Falcom
- Publisher:Marvelous/ Xseed Games
- Genre: Single player JRPG
- Release Date:29/3/19
- Platforms:PS4/Pc/PS3/PS Vita
- Reviewed on: PS4
- Game Supplied by: Publisher
Among the nations on the Zemurian continent, the mighty Erebonian Empire has been quick to stake its claim militarily; yet politically, ugly bouts of internal conflict between the upper class and commoners struggling to rise to power have been steadily intensifying with each passing month. The Noble and Reformist Factions have been none too kind to one another over the years, and tensions between the two only stand to worsen if compromises aren’t reached in the very near future.
Rean Schwarzer, like any other citizen of the Imperial nation, is no stranger to these rising conflicts: the class system has been deeply interwoven into the tapestry of Erebonian culture since the days of old. As a seventeen-year-old student preparing for his new life at Thors Military Academy, however, he notices that his crimson uniform differs from the standard outfits issued to his peers—typically green for commoners, and white for nobles.
Enter, Class VII of Thors Military Academy. For the first time in the prestigious academy’s history, rank means nothing and skill means everything. With nine hand-picked students of various backgrounds and abilities, Rean included, Class VII readies itself to dive deep into the political quagmire that threatens not only them, but the very foundations of the Empire.
Originally released on the PS3 and PS Vita back on the 22/12/15, Trails of Cold Steel has had an HD makeover to bring current gamers up to date with the series. Legend of Cold Steel 2, another HD remake, is due to be released in the middle of 2019 to prepare fans for the third PS4 exclusive game already under development.
This new HD remaster of the first game hasn’t had a lot of upgrades but what they have given the game – 5000 extra lines of dialogue ( both in English and Japanese ), running at 60 fps, and a new “turbo” mode – does make a difference.
For most JRPG’s the crux of how good a game is boils down to gameplay. Legend of Heroes has a turn based combat system, with a scale to show whose turn it is next. Quick, basic attacks take no time at all, but crafts or artes ( a bit like spells ) take time and will delay the character on the scale. An enemy may indeed have time to get a hit in on you before you have time to cast an attack.
The RPG aspect of the game comes into full effect here in the combat, as with the help of your ARCUS, which is like a Star Trek communicator, you can customize what Artes and Crafts each character can cast by assigning orbs to slots in the ARCUS. You can set up characters to have mainly long range attacks, heal, or balanced depending on your orb placement strategy. Knowing, or more to the point, taking the time to find out, the enemies weaknesses, will encourage you to change your orbs to maximum effect and make the battles easier.
Battles start with you surprising an enemy (or not) and if you surprise them by hitting them from behind, you then get a few hits in first with your team before the enemy can even form a response. You and your team take it in turns to attack, move, use items or heal until the battle is won. As the game progresses you can form special link attacks, form bonds with characters and assign a link, and if one of your attacks stagger an opponent, your linked partner will then get another hit in.
Later still, characters acquire even more special attacks that consume all of your C gauge for an all out, one off per battle, big damage attack.
Playing the game on normal difficulty I felt the combat was extremely well balanced. If you took care and tried to surprise enemies every fight, then things were easy if you understood what attacks to use. When the situation was on a more even playing field against a boss however, there was a fine balance and the flow of battle could have gone either way.
What was really pleasing about the combat though was the game eased you into its mechanics, and unlike some games, didn’t throw and overwhelm you with everything all at once. You got to learn what each attack did at a good pace to understand it, before you then learnt a new trick. It did slow things down somewhat but in a good way. 10 hours into the game I was just getting to find out about the S break attacks for example.
The combat turned out to be tactical, deep, but very simple to use. You have to use a lot of brain power at times to figure out what types of attack to use and when, or when is best to give the troops a rally call, heal, move or just go for it. Whatever I did at times I thought I was on the edge of defeat only to bring it back. The balancing of combat was excellent
The game flow of each chapter followed the same design throughout. You begin in a hub world where you interact and have to do smaller missions and get to form bonds with characters for half the chapter, before you are then sent out to a field exercise to again undertake missions but with a much more combat focussed theme, until everything in the main story arc was done then back to the hub world for tea and medals.
Getting to know your characters was actually a very important game/combat buff, as bonding with characters by talking to them and spending time with them made your attacks in combat, if together and linked, much more effective. Although the bonding time and hub world area doesn’t sound as exciting as the combat field mission areas, because of the excellent dialogue and voice acting I enjoyed these times just as much as combat.
Completing missions, engaging in combat, or completing simple tasks rewards you with Mira or Sepith. Mira, the local currency, is used to buy items, while Sepith is used for upgrades to your weapons or Arucs. There are other activities to do in the hub world like fishing, shopping, playing a great card game called Blaze or going to the library to read up on the worlds lore, but not much else.
For a lighthearted and generally fun genre, I really wasn’t expecting the depth of the political shenanigans to be found here in Trails of Cold Steel. You play as Rean Schwarzer, a new student at a military school. It soon becomes apparent that there is a class system at this school; nobles and commoners. Students from these backgrounds are split into classes depending on their class background however Rean is thrown into the mix of a new experimental class, called Class VII, which is the first class to be mixed of both nobles and commoners. What the purpose is, and why, is part of the fun of the story line.
As mentioned, the story is very political, and to be honest a little difficult to follow at times. There are four ruling houses over the Empire, but a fifth comes to play to bring tensions to the world. There are no fairies or goblins here, but there are demons and monsters to fight, as well as mechs and armour.
The game plays out a bit like a Scooby Doo mystery with a rag tag, thrown together team to follow the clues as to things going on in the world to win the day. The game’s storyline takes around 50 to 60 hours to finish, but there is easily over 100 hours of gameplay to complete.
Despite the overarching storyline being quite heavy, one of the things that made the game so compelling to play was the wonderful cast of characters, their superb dialogue and fantastic voice acting. Many people don’t play JRPG’s because they don’t have the audio dialogue in English and get bored reading everything rather than hearing it (not me though). If you are one of these types of gamers, fear not, this game has been voiced in English and what a joy it was.
The dialogue, despite being a long story, never felt padded or surplus for the sake of it (looking at you Hyperdimension Games) and all felt interesting to hear. The game encourages you to talk to NPC’s as they give you tips, add to the story and most wonderfully, over time, change what they say to you depending on what you have done in the story.
Rean has to get to know his classmates of which there are another eight, his teacher, Instructor Sara (who’s AWESOME) as well as about 20 other characters. If the dialogue was boring this would make all this very tedious but it’s not. It felt real and relevant but never contrived.
The voice acting of the superb script is excellent. Many Japanese games feel too over the top with their voice acting but not here. Rean, voiced by Sean Chiplock, especially conveyed a perfect sense of heartfelt realism for each situation he was in, but my favourite was Carrie Keranen who voiced Instructor Sara. Sara had some laugh out loud funny lines, is drunk a lot, but also extremely professional when needed. Carrie must have had a lot of fun playing this character and it showed.
One area the game let itself down was graphically. Having recently completed Tales of Graces and Ni No Kuni on my PS3 on a 4K TV, I’m extremely up to date with how the old hardware can look and perform on current tech. However, despite this being a PS4 game, it really lacks a lot of detail and can only be described as average at best. Although the artwork is excellent in the games world design, clothing, items, and features, the graphics that show them are bland and flat, bordering on PS2 quality, let alone a PS3 HD remake.
Although the world is simplistic, and character movement stiff, when it comes to the combat, things are at least colourful and exciting, with a mix of in game graphics and anime stills thrown together to jazz things up.
In addition to this, the menu systems and overall presentation is excellent, clear, and beautiful. It’s very easy to navigate around the game, its menu items and attributes, even though there is a lot of information and stats to read. Details like the font types being large enough to read with no problems helps a lot with a game that has a lot of dialogue to get through.
The games audio is also very good, but not world breaking. There are many pleasant scores to keep you chugging along in the game, and depending on the mood of the situation, follow it perfectly. Explore a dangerous area and the score ramps up the tension with pace and vigour, while wandering around the academy campus looking for somewhere to fish, it’s light and airy.
Combat is where the audio really excels though with great, fast paced music to accompany the exciting weapon sounds. Although this is a military academy and hardware like guns, tanks and mechs are around, the weapons of choice by Class VII are still melee weapons and the ching of metal on metal or the deep rumbling explosions of magic powers on enemies never gets old.
There are many JRPG’s on the market and Legend of Heroes – Trails of Cold Steel HD remake doesn’t rewrite the genre. However, what it does do, it does so in a very clear, simple, effective, yet engaging way.
The combat system is easy to use and ends up being very deep and tactical, but it never became overwhelming. The dialogue was lengthy and enjoyable, the music simple but interesting. In short, despite the limited graphics, I adored being in this world and the journey it took me on with class VII. It’s a superb introduction to the Legend series, and a solid, great, enjoyable JRPG.