The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III (Switch) – Review
Follow Genre: JRPG, Turn-based strategy
Developer: Nihon Falcom, Engine Software, PH3 GmbH
Publisher: Nihon Falcom, Nippon Ichi Software, NIS America
Platform: Switch, PS4, PC
Tested on: Switch

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III (Switch) – Review

Site Score
8.0
Good: Extensive story, classic gameplay
Bad: Graphics can feel a bit static, gameplay outside combat doesn't add much
User Score
9.0
(3 votes)
Click to vote
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Rating: 9.0/10 (3 votes cast)

With many JRPGs and the Trails series that’s been with us since 2004, there’s no surprise anymore whenever a new one comes out. While Trails of Cold Steel IV was already released in 2018 in Japan, its English adaptation is coming in October this year for PS4. And it’s clear that these games are doing well as they are being ported to multiple consoles over time. This time, it’s Trails of Cold Steel III to the Switch.

Story

To say the story in Trails of Cold Steel III is extensive is an understatement. Not only is it the third installment of Trails of Cold Steel, but it’s also the eighth game playing in the same universe. When starting, the game barely takes account of this and you are absolutely loaded with nameless characters and environments in a very typical anime-show style of writing and characteristics. It’s overwhelming for new players, though after an hour of gameplay or so you will also have seen some tutorials and you get to ease into the story better. For those who cannot stomach not knowing exactly what happened before, there’s also a large library to read back into the history and story of previous games.

In a short summary, the story follows up like the previous parts of everything surrounding the main protagonist named Rean. This blue-haired anime boy has somewhat of a military background and is renowned for his fighting abilities. The game starts out following three different groups that are set to fight against each other, and there is just so much going on with already five or so cutscenes from the get-go, that it’s too much to explain. The important fact is that, despite sometimes having too many characters and too much anime nonsense, even for a JRPG, the story is a big part of the game and important to get into playing Trails of Cold Steel III. It’s a bit like watching a new season of anime, though the graphics aren’t as fluid as an actual anime.

Graphics

Where most of the models look fine and the animations are especially alright during fights, the game also looks a bit like it comes from the Xbox 360 and PS3 era. Because when in conversations, the models and mouth movements can either be sufficient or a bit static, like an imprisoned muppet. Sometimes the faces change to express the worries and pleasures that characters feel. Other times it’s more like reading a book with a picture. When running around on the maps (which goes in a fashion of other JRPGs such as the Kingdom Hearts or Final Fantasy series), the running looks fine but it feels a bit like running with a speedy bullet that is going straight for a target. Basically, the game looks alright overall, but some parts make it feel a bit unnatural or static.

Sound

There are some classic JRPG vibes coming from Trails of Cold Steel III, and listening to the sounds and music, this is no different. Some action-packed tracks, emotional calm moments, piano, guitar, synths. It’s nice and it fully fits what the game wants to be. Then there’s also a lot of voice acting going on, which is well-done and brings the game to life more. There’s nothing wrong to be found in the sound section. There’s enough variation and nothing brings the game down.

Gameplay

Ever since JRPGs started as classic top-down pixelated adventures, you would get to walk around to progress a story and on occasion, fight some enemies while you were at it. In Trails of Cold Steel III, this is no different. You are deployed on an enclosed map that is connected to where you are at following the story. Walking around on this map, you pretty much always follow a classic dungeon layout, meaning there are square spaces connected by paths. Some fights on these spaces are triggered by story events, but mostly you will find a monster waiting for you, and you will try to attack it in the back (which triggers an advantage in the fight), starting a turn-based combat fight.

In combat, you get appointed a turn and when it’s one of your characters their turn, you can use a whole array of moves to attack your enemy or build up your defenses. There are Crafts (Special Attacks), Arts (Magic), regular attacks, S-Crafts (charged special attacks), items to be used, overall ”orders” that serve as a boost in attack or defense, strategic movement options, and last but not least, Links. Links connect two characters to each other to let them occasionally follow up on each-others attacks with some minor extra attacks that can make the difference in combat. Most fights aren’t so hard, as most characters have healing options available as well, but the timing and such of these heals, and the possible attacks become more important later in the game as the difficulty slowly increases.

There’s not much to follow up on when it comes to allocating extras to your characters, though equipment and skill-granting items are acquired more than once. It’s enough to let the game and the player focus on the story and the fights, while still having some fun feeling in control over letting your characters grow stronger. That being said, the mechanics of walking on a dungeon floor from monster to monster is getting a bit stale as it’s being done for pretty much every JRPG, and in Trails of Cold Steel III this is most of the gameplay. But that doesn’t take away that its well-developed gameplay that connects well with the story being told.

Conclusion

Though perhaps a bit repetitive as a JRPG’s mechanics can be, and with some outdated or static graphics, Trails of Cold Steel III is an extensive game with a lot of background story in a world that has a lot of background already built-in. This is a game that you play for its story, as well as its classic turn-based combat, and it’s one of the better ones for those elements.

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Rating: 9.0/10 (3 votes cast)
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The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III (Switch) - Review, 9.0 out of 10 based on 3 ratings
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Find me on youtube to see some playthroughs! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCuBrlulGywcb0EiYWBnA1ng

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