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The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel
Game Reviews

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel

Improvements all-around make this PC edition the definitive version of a fantastic JRPG; bring on the sequels!

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You know what, let’s just port all the games. Herd ’em all together, wrangle them into the porting port and just get everything on Steam. I’ll play games on whatever, but if you can get something on PC where it tends to look, run and play better, then that’s the direction I’ll go. Lately we’ve seen ports of games I would have swore would never end up on PC, like the classic Platinum games Bayonetta and Vanquish, and the increased power available to these older titles has helped make them feel new again. Today we’re looking at another game that deeply benefits from the move: The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel, which was originally released on the PlayStation 3 and PS Vita.

We’ve talked about this one already back in the day, but to summarize: this is a side-story to the Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky series. We follow Rean Schwarzer as he attends Thors Military Academy, a prestigious school in the Empire of Erebonia. Rean is part of a new, special class of students intended to bridge the social class gap in Erebonian society, and he’ll have to deal with both his lessons and the personalities of his fellow classmates as his education proceeds.

I find the Trails games to be somewhat similar to the classic Lunar series from the PlayStation and Sega CD, given how they focus on character development and a simple turn-based combat system with aspects of strategy gameplay. These tend to be slower-paced sorts of games that rely less on the action-focused plots you see in a lot of modern RPGs; there’s nothing wrong with either style, but it’s important to know what you’re getting into. Here, that means a lot of times is spent getting to know Rean and the other members of Class VII, watching how their personalities interact and how they deal with challenges.

When it’s time to fight, things play out somewhat like Lunar’s positioning-focused combat, with the incorporation of modern sensibilities like a displayed turn order that lets you plan out moves in advance. It’s nothing groundbreaking but it’s also entirely workable. Victory is all about learning and expanding your party’s capabilities to match the situations you find yourself in; each character has points they excel in naturally, and you can further customize each character with the Materia-esque Orbment system seen in Trails in the Sky. Cold Steel’s biggest innovation in the Trails series’ combat revolves around characters’ relationships with one another providing combat bonuses, lending some importance to the time spent between adventures.

Anyway, it’s now on PC! That’s awesome. Cold Steel looks and sounds better than ever now that it’s got a little room to stretch its legs; you’d certainly hope so, since legendary performance guru Peter “Durante” Thoman was picked up to help with optimizing the game. Enhancements include Turbo Mode, a delightful feature (that’s also been added to the Trails in the Sky games on Steam) that speeds the game up significantly to cut down on grinding and long travel times, tons of new voiced dialogue in English, and ultrawide resolution support.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel on PC is, in other words, the definitive version of the game, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw Cold Steel II make its way to Steam in a similar state before long. For all the hand-wringing about microtransactions, remasters and Early Access, great ports like this (made through the partnership of a publisher and devoted fan) represent a reminder that we’re living in one of gaming’s golden ages. JRPG fans no longer have a reason not to play Trails of Cold Steel – check it out ASAP.

About the Author: Cory Galliher