The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel is the first part of a trilogy that came out in Japan originally back in 2013. Last year saw the release of a version for the US market and now it’s finally our turn over here in Europe.
Developer Falcom is (not surprisingly) Japanese, hence the delay in getting the game to western audiences. It’s also a developer that has, unbeknownst to many, a long-running history in the field of role playing game development. They’ve been around since the early eighties and every one of their titles has been an rpg – the most well-known of them being the Ys series. Originally a PC developer, most of Falcom’s recent titles have been for Sony’s systems – starting out with the PSP. The Legend of Heroes is actually the first (non-handheld) console title they’re releasing, but we’re checking out the Vita version.
In Trials of Cold Steel, you find yourself at a military academy in a unit called “Class VII” – the only part of the military where social classes are not segregated. Without giving too much away, this is an integral part to the game’s storyline – as lines between social classes sometimes fade away and become a source of conflict soon after. The story’s not groundbreaking, but the gameplay does involve a social element that’s interesting and ties in well with the story’s background. Aligning yourself with the right people (or the wrong people, for that matter) really makes a difference in how the story and gameplay elements develop – right up to the battle dynamics.
The combat itself is turn-based – which is of course the standard for most rpgs coming out of Japan. The system works well but isn’t revolutionary in any way either, nor does it have the strategic depth of something like Disgaea. Still, it shows Falcom’s expertise in crafting rock solid rpg experiences because the battles are nicely paced, accessible and diverse – with plenty of options to change your party mid-battle or through story decisions. There’s also plenty to do on a tactical level, with counters and special abilities – without ever becoming daunting to play (which can be the case for more strategy-oriented rpg games).
The vita version looks decent enough, without ever blowing anyone away. The corridor sections in particular look like a high definition PSP game, and the battle sections aren’t too different from Ys – Memories of Celceta in the visual sense. But while not revolutionary in terms of gameplay or presentation, The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel is a solid rpg game and we’re looking forward to parts 2 and 3. A safe purchase to rpg fans both experienced and new, don’t hesitate to pick this up if you get the chance.