The Legend of Heroes is a series with a lot of history behind it. There are many sub-stories within The Legend of Heroes series that have their own sequels. Even though the story seems to intertwine with the other sub-stories within the Legend of Heroes saga, you can still enjoy Trails of Cold Steel despite going in blind. It serves as a good introduction to The Legend of Heroes if you have never played any of the games in the series.
This is not the first time The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel is out on any platform. It was originally developed and published for the PS3 and PS Vita and then later ported to the PC. While the PS3 and PS Vita version of the game looked decent enough, the PC version gained some important quality-of-life changes that helped improve the experience. This has now carried over to the PS4 port of The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel.
In terms of what’s new here, the improvements made from the PC version are now carried over to the PS4 version. This includes the support for the 4K resolution, 60 FPS, and the ability to run the battles at 2x speed and the world map at 4x speed. This greatly helps overcome the rather slow pace of the game which could be a problem on the PS3 and PS Vita. The loading times are now practically gone and this is a game changer if you played this on the older consoles. The biggest addition that was not available for PC is the ability to transfer save data from the PS3 or PS Vita to the PS4.
Unlike most other JRPGs, Trails of Cold Steel places an emphasis on the world building and character development. The lead character is Rean Schwarzer who studies at Thors Military Academy, which lies in the Erebonia Empire. This academy aims to teach the empire’s most talented military personnel every major subject so that they could add to their military strength. Rean Schwarzer arrives in the academy as a first-year student and has to team up with Class VII. As a newcomer in Class VII, Rean Schwarzer tries to forge a friendship with the members of this new class. It is an extra challenge for him due to the strict social norms of the Erebonia Empire.
There is some spectacular world building in Trails of Cold Steel that helps you learn more of the world. Everything from how society functions to their own internal struggles are neatly explained out in great detail, so you start to feel like a part of this world. In this society, there are factions that divide the citizens all the way from the nobles to the commoners. Thankfully, as part of Class VII, Rean Schwarzer doesn’t have to deal with this internal strife since each member of class VII ranks based on their skills. Every member of Class VII has its own unique personality and traits. Their character develops and evolves through the various story events which make it easier to care for them.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel is a lengthy game so it is going to take you a while before you are done with it. The main story deals with the everyday life of Rean in Thors Military Academy. It is not that similar to how a Persona game plays out even if the concept sound familiar. Rean can run around to do daily errands, try to get some perspective on the story, dig deeper into the life of the side-characters, or simply talk to others to increase his knowledge. It is a system that keeps you engaged and never feels like it is boring to the point that you stop playing it. The game keeps throwing important story events as you go past a certain point, pulling your attention back on the goal.
Every quest in the game feels like it has a purpose attached to it. Even if you end up mostly doing fetch quests, the rewards feel satisfactory because they add some meaning to the story, deliver some important information, or just give some context to the situation. This applies to the side-quests as well, which are found in a large number. If you do some of these tasks, you can also increase the bond with your class members which in turn leads to new story scenes, more character development for them, and even improving their combat abilities. It is a system that provides rewards on almost every activity, never making you feel like you are wasting your time.
The combat is easy to understand because the game lays out most of the basics in some nice tutorials. It is mostly turn-based but you get some added interactivity and a degree of randomness to the attacks. You have a standard attack that can also lead to link strikes depending on your affinity with the characters, and these continue to evolve as the player bond level increases over time with them. There are crafts which are special powers granting status boosts or arts, which unlock by equipping a special piece of Quartz. You can use this to customize your character and swap their abilities as you see fit in combat.
At this point, it is easy to say there are a lot of elements to figure out in The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel, but the way the game manages to handle them is remarkable in itself. I have always considered the story and character development a huge part of making any game special, and with Trails of Cold Steel, I was never disappointed with it. My only issue with the game is that it looks quite dated now. Even if you play it at 4K resolution with a better frame rate, the textures seem ugly up and close. The character models do look fine, but the environments suffer the most due to targeting an older platform like PS3 and PS Vita. Regardless, it shouldn’t become an issue if you get immersed in the world of Trails of Cold Steel.