Publisher NIS America have finally answered Nintendo Switch owners’ prayers by bringing the final instalment of developer Nihon Falcom’s Trails of Cold Steel series. Fans of the series were treated to a port of Trails of Cold Steel III in 2020 and have been waiting in anticipation ever since. Trials of Cold Steel IV makes its way onto the Switch to end Rean Schwarzer’s epic tale.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel series spans over four different games following the adventures of Rean Schwarzer and heroes of Class VII. Each story in this series is a direct sequel, normally taking place a few weeks or months after each other.
The Trails series is a sub series in the Legend of Heroes franchise which spans over fourteen games. Each series follows the endeavours of a different group of heroes usually in a turn based JPRG game. The entire series has a massive following worldwide, praised for its stellar storytelling and great battle system, which is why fans jump at them once they get released outside of Japan.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV picks off two weeks after the end of Cold Steel III, which I suspect left fans gasping. The Erebonian Empire is preparing for an assault on the neighbouring Republic of Calvard. And to make matters worse Rean is being held captive in the Gnome’s HQ- the Black Workshop. It’s now up to the students of Class VII old and new to find Rean and unite with heroes from all over the continent to stop the imminent destruction.
The story of The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV is a non stop roller coaster as every finale should be and fans won’t be disappointed with the abundance of characters who appear from the previous three games. Even with the large cast of characters Nihon Falcom have still managed to develop characters with great depth exhibiting their massive growth during this adventure.
The main thing about this series is that players can’t just skip the previous games and jump straight in, because too many references will go amiss if they do. For those who have managed to play any of the previous games will be amazed at how well Nihon Falcom have weaved together so many characters not only from the Trails of Cold Steel story arc but from the entire Trails subseries. The only issue here is the pacing, with scenes tending to last longer than they need to.
Visually Trails of Cold Steel IV has a dazzling anime aesthetic, with characters sporting alluring designs. The entire world of Trails of Cold Steel is vibrant and fun with so much intricate detail being paid to enemies, especially bosses. The battle animations boast slick camera angles for attacks and brazen cinematics for each character’s S-Craft abilities.
However graphically this game hasn’t improved from previous entries with animations being fairly stiff which can sometimes drain the life out of emotional cutscenes. But fans of the Trails games aren’t here for the graphics which have never been its selling point.
The music is great with the tone and compositions of the soundtrack always helping to invoke some emotion during important scenes. There is a diverse range of music from exciting piano melodies to big orchestra pieces, the music was always a great accompaniment throughout the game.
It’s rare that you find a JPRG with English voice acting that is actually a palatable choice. The actors give performances that may not always land but are still great alternatives to the original Japanese voice acting. Players will also be able to swap them in and out at any point of the game so you don’t have to stick to one.
Trails of Cold Steel IV is a hefty game comprising several chapters which each feeling like a full JPRG adventure on their own. Gameplay mainly consists of battles, exploration, quests, mini games and of course those heart to heart bonding Events. The story uses a calendar system with time passing as the players make their way through the plot. This time progression will allow the players to access new quests and side quests as they explore the world with some events being only available on specific days. Exploration of fields and dungeons is pretty limited with an emphasis on battle, there is really not much to see but loads of enemies to fight.
The High Speed mode increases the speed and allows players to get through the game a lot faster. This helps with levelling up and long conversations with NPCs. There are also loads of mini games that add some variety into the adventure with Vantage Masters and Pom Pom Party returning from previous games. These extra mini games are fully welcome as they act as a breather from the adventure and stop gameplay become repetitive at times.
Trails of Cold Steel IV uses a turn-based battle system that’s pretty much identical to previous games with some slight changes. Now players will have to work hard to deplete an enemy’s Break Meter, requiring even more strategy. Brave Points now go up to seven instead of five like in previous games, however this doesn’t mean players can use more Brave Orders, as they have also been revamped.
Brave Orders will have different costs also dealing different amounts of break damage. There are Trial Chests which will allow players to gain an upgraded Brave Order. This changes things up a bit making players more weary of how they deploy their Brave Orders and use their Arts in battle.
Lost Arts make a triumphant return from past games and players will fully welcome them to their strategy. There are also updates for existing crafts, with the new members of Class VII receiving new S-Crafts to add to the mix.
There are loads of characters to mix and match for different strategies and with a variation of enemies players will have a steep learning curve on their hands. Battles may feel a lot more tough and drawn out than in previous games but the added depth to strategy and brazen animations make it a stand out part of the game.
Customisation comes in the form of the Orbment system which has been revamped as well. Basically each character has a selection of gem slots that can be filled with a quartz. Each quartz has a different effect that can provide boosts or grant magic abilities. Players can now assign any Mastery quartz as their characters secondary quartz which will allow that extra freedom to assign bonuses. With the huge roster, customisation can become convoluted and very daunting for newcomers as keeping track of all your characters to gain the best out of them will take a lot of trial and error.
Trails of Cold Steel IV is all about its characters and Nihon Falcom have done well with the bonding events to help with the character development. Although each character doesn’t have the same amount of screen time there is enough here to allow players gain a better understanding of each character and help them to forge future relationships with other characters.
Trails of Cold Steel IV is a huge game with so much content for players to consume, a lot of the features do require players to have experienced past games. However Trails of Cold Steel IV is a well executed final entry in an amazing JPRG series, the writers have done an amazing job to include characters from different games seamlessly. Fans of the series are certainly in for a wild ride with this one. Some of the gaming mechanics and systems may be daunting for first time players but it’s a highly recommended JPRG that fans of the genre should experience.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel is out now for Nintendo Switch, and was previously released on PS4