Review by John Hellier
Well isn’t that title a bit of a mouthful? It fits quite well though, because The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel is such a chock full game, any shorter title wouldn’t be able to do it justice. Think of the name as an entrance exam, if you can get to the end without rolling your eyes then you are accepted.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel is brought to us by Marvelous, and is a remaster of a JRPG from last generation. I think this will be where the second group will drop out after shaking their heads at the thought of another remaster, but hold on for just a moment. With a third game in the series set to be released later on in the year, this is the perfect time to get in to the series, or for fans to replay in order to jump back in.
Like I said, we are firmly in JRPG territory here, so I was fully expecting the usual fare. You know what I mean, improbably young heroes saving the world with ridiculously sized weapons, inappropriate outfits for combat and token girls for fan service. Needless to say, I got all of that in spades, but thankfully The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel is far from a typical JRPG. The last time I was so engrossed by a game like this was my first play through of Final Fantasy 7 way back on the original PlayStation (yes I am old, deal with it).
Now let me get something off my chest. The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel is very content rich. That will go some way to explain why this review is so late, and yet I’ve still barely scratched the surface of what’s on offer. I am still on the first chapter as I write this, so take this review as more of first impressions take, because my editor would kill me if he had to wait for me to finish the game before I wrote a review (please don’t fire me).
Right, confessional over, conscience clear, let’s get down to business. Which is apt really, because The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel does just that, doing what I wish movies and games would stop doing, the flash forward approach of storytelling.
You may not know what I mean by that, not sure if the trope has an actual name, but let me explain. You start off where things have gone south, so you and your party of high-level characters have to battle through a dungeon in order to prevent whatever is supposed to be happening. Once you reach the end, stuff happens and then the screen fades to black and we are presented with the “5 months earlier” thing.
This is where things start properly, and we actually get to know who all the people we were just playing as and interacting with actually are. Now I’m aware The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel is a product of a different era, but this opening almost made me join the dropouts down washout lane.
Once we reach the game proper, The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel. becomes a very different beast. Characters are all well realized, and their interactions always seem to be more meaty than typical for these types of game. Usually, the main protagonist is an unquestioned badass that everyone fawns over, but here the whole class has different personalities and no one is seen as Superman in disguise.
That’s right, I said class. Being set in a military academy means girls in short skirts and boys in outlandish dress uniforms typical of this kind of thing, but don’t be fooled into thinking we have reached maximum depth yet.
As part of your studies you have to do jobs for various people, mainly fetch quests so far, but these are all satisfyingly written so as not to become a chore. There are also times where you will be quizzed on information in the form of multiple choice conversations, and getting these right also improves your academic performance. Think of it as another form of XP, which unlocks perks the higher grades you reach
I’m fairly confident I don’t have to explain what turn-based combat is right? I’m guessing not, consider it homework if you don’t know. The biggest unique features here are the link system and the quartz system. I shall try to explain. As all of the characters are part of the same school class, and testing new technology, this translates to being able to link characters together, resulting in occasional combos during combat, and presumably more the further into the story you get. Then there is the quartz system, which is basically materia from Final Fantasy 7, but with a more in-depth mechanic.
So, who is still here? Hopefully, a large amount of you, because I fully recommend The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel. Sure the level design is basic, but apart from that little niggle and the poor (in my opinion, sue me) opening, this is a fantastic game.
Like I’ve said, I barely scratched the surface in my time so far, and I haven’t even mentioned everything, like the fishing, cooking, trading, card games… Trust me, you get an awful lot of bang for your buck.
Overall Score – 9/10
I’m not sure I will have finished this by the time the second instalment is out, someone do me a favour and get to work on a time travelling DeLorean.