The third game in Nihon Falcom’s The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel JRPG series finally arrives in North America for the PlayStation 4 today. Picking up a year and a half after the events of the previous game, Trails of Cold Steel III stars a compelling mix of new and old characters and features a slick new streamlined battle system I can’t wait to dive into. But I have to wait. Try as I might, I can’t bring myself to play this game until I finish the first two.
With our resident The Legend of Heroes fan, Jason Schreier, on leave, I figured I would tackle the latest North American entry in the Trails of Cold Steel quadrilogy. Though I missed The Legend of Heroes’ Gagharv trilogy on the PSP, I’ve played a whole lot of the nigh-legendary Trails in the Sky. I’ve also played the first couple of hours of The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel I, which Jason called “basically Suikoden meets Persona,” which to me is one of the best-sounding endorsements for any game ever. I’m also a huge fan of Nihon Falcom’s other massive RPG series, Ys, which is a series of standalone games featuring the same protagonist. How hard could hopping directly into Trails of Cold Steel III possibly be?
Pretty hard, at least for me. The opening sequence of the game, a pitched battle in a military fortress, introduces me to a gaggle of anime-style characters with colorful hair. They’re the latest students in Thors Military Academy’s Class VII, a special class made up of a mix of super-talented commoners and nobles from throughout the Erebonian Empire, established in the first Trails of Cold Steel game. The students from the first two games are now instructors, having grown and matured over the course of two 60+ hour role-playing games that I’ve not finished playing.
I have no clue how Rean Schwarzer, Alisa Reinford, Elliot Craig, Laura Arseid, Machias Regnitz, Emma Millstein, Jusis Albarea, Gaius Worzel, and Fie Claussel, the original Class VII, have fared over the events of the first two games. I can find out easily enough. I could hop on a wiki page or watch let’s play videos on YouTube. Trails of Cold Steel III includes an extensive “Story Summary” section. It features multi-chapter summaries for each game and character bios for students, teachers, enemies, and other characters. It’s even got a “World Introduction” section that goes over the geography, politics, religion, and technology of the world of Zemuria.
Most people would be satisfied with that amount of background. I just can’t help feeling that I am missing out not having experienced the adventures of Rean and crew firsthand. As I played through the first 20 minutes of Cold Steel III, seen in the video above, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I would get much more out of it had I experienced the previous games directly.
I’m nearly a dozen hours into The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel (the first one, not the third one). I’m having an amazing time getting to know the first batch of students from Class VII. I’m speeding a little, but I can’t help it. From what I’ve played so far, there’s a really cool third game waiting for me once I get through these first two.