Every so often a game comes along to whisk you away into a world like nothing you have ever experienced, and then there are games like The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel that feel oh so familiar in a very comforting kind of way. Titles like these manage to hold one’s attention because they have relatable characters and situations, which helps you the gamer lose yourself for hundreds of hours in the digital world that the developers have created.
I’d like to make it very clear before we continue, You should already know if you want to play this title from the very moment that you see the opening movie. It is a very Japanese role playing game developed by XSEED Games. Everyone else may either like it for other reasons that will be mentioned in this review or maybe it just might not be the title for you.
Trials of cold steel’s plot has you follow a young man named, Rean who has moved from his hometown to attend a military school, which is a mixture actual military stuff and a modern Japanese styled schooling system that you’d expect to find in any slice of life anime.
Shortly after arriving at the school Rean is told that he is to be placed into a mysterious class called, class VII along with 8 other students for reasons that are not initially explained to any of them. After being placed in the class, he and his fellow classmates are expected to live the life of a regular student; sitting in classes, taking exams, etc, while at the same time going on special missions to different parts of the country, which help explain why they are in this mystery class in the first place.
After my first few hours with the game I started to see the similarities between not just it and other JRPGs that I’ve played in the past, but also real life situations that occur in modern society. Issues that we as a species struggle with to this day, ranging from war, & trust, to the very real questions about equality, and social status.
These similarities between real life and the game helped me get more invested in the lore of the game, and is ultimately one of the main reasons why I couldn’t put it down during my first sitting with it, and if not for a few issues that I encountered along the way, I’d have probably ignored my family all through the holiday season and submerged myself into this world completely.
The graphics and sound work is also top notch. I don’t know what else to say about them because I’m not much of a graphics fan/ expert and the same can be said about the sound, so I’ll just let you look at a few images of gameplay.
Other than that, the two biggest things to like about the game are probably its plot and setting, but there were many other things about the game that stood out to me. The game’s battle system for one is one of those other things. When I was first exposed to it I thought to myself “What is this, Urg this is gonna be lame”, fast forward two hrs later and my tone had totally changed. I was breezing my way past enemies and loving every moment of it, because the of the unique battle system that has the player control each member of their party in a turn based system, while taking into consideration their location on the battlefield and the location of the enemies, and their weaknesses. If you completely master the battle system you’ll find that many fights can be completed with just two characters, or for those of us that love to grind, how easy to exploit these systems to make grinding less tedious. The closest battle system I can compare it to is that of eternal sonata for the Xbox 360 & PS3, bundled with a world that just screams “Tales of”.
Now the last and probably the most controversial thing that I liked about Trials of Cold Steel were characters. This is a tricky thing to write about, because I really liked the characters and if not for one aspect of their portrait I would have had more fun with this game. So let’s start with the main Character, Rean Schwarzer. He’s a cool, and collected from the moment we are introduced to him at the beginning, and dare I say, he gets cooler the more you play. This I liked a lot because a lot of JRPG protagonist are just blank emotionless slates for you to put your own personality into and still they come off a bit weak. Rean on the other hand is Rean, not Q, not Paul, (of course there’s a Paul playing this) He’s Rean and his personality shines. His character dialog and voice acting is so well done that I actually looked up the voice actor while only playing for a few minutes, that’s how good it it.
BTW the VA is Sean Chiplock.
The character and their respective Voice Acting were also really great, and thus this where I found my biggest issue with Trials of Cold Steel.
You see though the game has great dialog and VA it is very inconsistent with the use of the Voice overs. Here I was exposed to Rean’s (Sean) amazing voice, and character in the beginning, then it was taken away while his classmates kept theirs, then their voices also go missing, and so I’m there thinking, “OK that must have been just for the intro”, the rest of the game is text, no problem I’m OK with text, but no that’s not what happens. It comes and goes at random. Sometimes you have dialog with VA and other times you don’t. Sometimes Rean has VA and other times it’s just his classmates, and some other characters. This and this alone is the biggest problem with the game, and the reason that I couldn’t get fully immersed into this title. What the Publisher should have done is decided on which way they wanted the dialog to go and stuck to it for the entire game. That way we the players don’t get confused while playing. I kid you not when I say that I felt a sense of anxiety during every cut-scene while playing this, because I wasn’t sure if I would be treated with VA dialog or not, and if Rean was who among the characters on screen would be talking and who I’d have to read dialog for.
Had to skip a few lines, because that’s how long an exhale I had to take after writing that paragraph.
Other than the inconsistency with the manner in which the VA is used the game only had a few minor issues that I feel I must mention. This review is based on the Vita version of the game so please note that some of these issues may not be present on the PS3 adaptation.
- Noticeable frame loss during more graphic intensive scenes. (Probably just the limitations of the PS Vita)
That is all. 🙂
After playing The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel for few hours I thought to myself, “this may be the next Persona 4: Golden for the Vita”, but after spending more time with the game I realized that wasn’t that. What Trials of Cold Steel is, is a very good JRPG on the PS Vita. It’s one of the best in fact. It’s the type of game that was really close to being perfect, but due to a few shortcomings couldn’t fully capitalize on all it’s potential.
If you’re not a fan of these types of games, this game is not going to change your mind about them. For those of you that are fans of JRPGs, Anime and have a PS VIta, Buy it. It’s $39.99 and it’s worth every cent of that price tag. With it’s great plot, charismatic characters, unique battle system and bevy of content, you won’t find a better JRPG for the handheld other than Persona 4 Golden, and Tales of Hearts.
if you’d like to hear more of my thoughts on this topic, then I suggest you listen to the That Beautiful Life Podcast.