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Game Review #531: The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: Robert Krause

Publisher: NIS America

Developer: Falcom

Category: Role Playing, Action, Adventure

Release Date: June 30th 2020

Price: $59.99

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Buy The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III from the Nintendo Switch eShop.

Trails of Cold Steel Beginner Guide

The Legend of Heroes series began back in 1989 and has spawned a long running series of acclaimed games that I have somehow never played despite being a massive JRPG fan. I know, I am ashamed of me too. Trails of the Cold Steel follows the story of Rean Schwarzer, the Ashen Chevalier, from student to war hero to now instructor at Thors Leeves Academy training the new Class VII Special Ops. After becoming the hero of Erebonian Civil War, Rean finds himself being tasked with teaching a new class of students and some familiar friends to defend the country from the next adversary that arises.

The gameplay reminds me a lot of a Persona game; cultivating relationships, doing side quests for NPCs, and advancing the days while you wait for the next battle opportunity. Being my first experience with the series it was a bit overwhelming trying to catch up with the cameo appearances and backstory flashbacks but there is a Backstory Mode that provides a bit of help with that. However, without playing the previous entries to build a familiarity to the characters you miss out the on fan service moments. The first few hours are also a bit sluggish because of this but the game provided enough free moments and enjoyable character interactions to have it pass by relatively quickly. 

Class VII: The Next Generation

Now instructor Rean, a humble but not very confident protagonist, is given 3 students to reform Class VII a new Special Ops team. Juna Crawford, Kurt Vander and Altina Orion make up the the original class with Ash Carbide and Musse Egret joining later. Class VII serves as the Thors Leeves Vanguard and performs special missions during monthly sessions. In between battling and missions each character is available for Rean to bond with, using bonding points, strengthening the bond between them and learning each character's back story. Early on Rean struggles with being a new teacher and knowing the dangers of what is being asked of his students. It doesn’t take long before a new threat arises and fans of this series may feel a bit frustrated as the new cast takes center stage but won’t have a long wait until the old Class VII is added to the mix.

Turn Based Arts & Crafts

Trails of Cold Steel III has an incredibly robust battle system. Customized through your ARCUS II handheld device you can use quartz to add elemental attacks, support actions, and more. The abilities can be further enhanced and upgraded as you collect items from battle. When you come across an enemy while exploring through dungeons you are able to attack before combat starts providing first strike chances. Aside from the normal turned based attacks in battle you have Art and Craft abilities. Arts are similar to magic attacks and have their own “mana” gauge while Craft abilities are powered attacks that use Combat Points. Super Craft attacks work as Ultimates that usually consume all of your Combat Points, forcing you to wait for them to replenish before using any other crafts. 

New to this installment are the Break System and Brave Order. The Break System will give enemies break gauges that will cause them to go into a stunned state, taking higher damage. Brave Order points are used to assign combat strategies and positions for your team, which usually provide higher damage output or coming together in defense positions for protection. This comes in handy with the combat positioning and syncing of characters together to perform combo attacks and finishing attacks.

Audio Visual

The game runs at a steady 30fps and I didn’t notice any real performance issues while playing docked or handheld. The art style is very well done on character design and combat animations. Some of the avatars will have pixelated issues and blurry distance backgrounds that are probably attributed to the Switch as screenshots from the PS4 version are smoother. The voice acting is great and features some of my favorite VO Actors. Background and battle music are also pretty decent but comparing it to Persona 4 or 5 the music doesn’t hold up. 

Wrap Up

I’m definitely kicking myself for waiting this long to try a Legend of Heroes game if Trails of Cold Steel III is anything like the others. It features great world building and character development with a story that has me pumped for the fourth title now out in Japan and coming to Switch in 2021. There is also a DLC package you can buy separately or in a bundle with the core game. It features a ton of costume, hair, accessory and ARCUS II customized options. Even with the large library of JRPG titles available on Nintendo Switch I would put Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III at the front of the class as it excels in every area I look for in a RPG game. 

Score: 9/10

Buy The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III from the Nintendo Switch eShop.

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 *A game key was provided for review purposes

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