- Developer: Falcom
- Publisher: NIS America
- Release Date: 09/04/2021
- Price: £53.99 / $59.99
- Review code provided by NIS America
Introducing The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV Switch Review
Sometimes entries in videogame series have no connection to each other. The various Dragon Quest games for example attest to that. Play one and don’t miss anything storywise, because they are independent games just sharing a common design. I found in my review of The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV, it is not one of these games. Rather the opposite, the game being reviewed right here is the culmination and final part of an ongoing storyline. This raises the question if you can enjoy the game without having any idea of what was going on in the previous games. Read on to find out!
So let’s start playing! Well, that was the plan, but contrary to my expectation, the game starts with roughly thirty-five minutes of various cutscenes in which a rising number of people talk about other people I have never heard of before and a growing conflict between the nations of Erebonia and Calvard. The latter is suspected of an assassination attempt which left the king of the former in a coma and his son and crown-prince dead. That’s all very confusing, but still manageable.
What is going on here and who are all these people?
After the introductory scenes, you jump into a Prologue. Here you have to infiltrate a tower and steal information from a computer system. You lead a team of five, all members of the old Class VII apparently, and the main intention of the quest is cramming the basics you need to know about the turn-based battle system into your skull.
It’s a crash course or tour de force as the battle system is both very intricate and demanding if you intend to master it completely. Let me explain!
All fights have a turn order, which is visible on the left side of the screen. Each action of your characters has a different delay which influences when they can act again. Moving or attacking for example have a short delay allowing you to act again quickly. Using an Art on the other hand will not only consume EP, but takes more time to cast. This results in a longer delay before the Art is finally executed. Apart from Arts, you can use Brave Orders which offer special buffs for your team. These don’t consume a turn, but need BP. Not confused yet? One more choice would be to use a Craft in exchange for CP, or craft points. These are combat skills unique to individual characters. Levelling up your characters will let them learn new crafts, while dishing out damage or receiving it will replenish CP.
Finally, you can switch out a character with a reserve combatant during your turn. Pretty deep already, right? And I haven’t even started describing S-Crafts, elemental efficiacy or combat links, weapon types or unbalancing yet. Which I won’t do as this is a review and not a manual. Seriously though, the information screens offered by the game are detailed and easy to understand. It’s simply a lot to take in all at once right in the beginning, especially if you have no prior experience with a battle system like this. It’s very different in the beginning, but the various fights during the Prologue offer enough challenge to become familiar with it.
Strangely though, after completing the initial quest, you find yourself in a school setting with a different group of people. The first information box explains character movement and map to you. Both of which you’ll already have used in the quest before. But at least you get to know Juna, Altina and Kurt now, members of the new Class VII! Play through their short quest to meet even more people (different members of old Class VII) and learn about the terrible events that have set your world onto a course of war and destruction. It’s up to the combined forces of old and new Class VII to save the world and rescue their friends. Thus ends the Prologue.
Phew, that is quite a lot of stuff to take in. Luckily, you have a notebook that serves as your main information hub. Offering, among other things, character profiles of all the folks you met as well as a navigation and quest log. Speaking of navigation, Trails of Cold Steel IV has a quick travel feature letting you return to places already visited with ease. A real time saver!
Mastering the quartz
Think you’ve learned enough about the intricate battle system by now? You’re in for a surprise! Act One of the game introduces you to quartzes and master quartzes. These come in different varieties and can be equipped to give you access to new Arts or stat changes. Again, the information screens are very helpful in making sense of this latest addition to your arsenal. Needless to say that you can modify the quartzes and the slots you set them in with the help of materials collected from monsters.
Now you’re finally ready to save the world! Just in case you still have open questions about what’s actually going on or how to wield your weapons effectively, despair not! Trails of Cold Steel IV features an extensive help section where you can browse through all the information screens again. You’ll also find notes about the events and people of previous games helping you to make sense out of it all. That said, I was pleasantly surprised that I could enjoy the game and its good writing even without consulting them too often. While the story drags on a bit at times and can be confusing, the battle system alone and the myriad of strategic options it offers make sure you have a good time.
No tears nor shattered eardrums
Trails of Cold Steel IV is a game easy on the eyes. It’s wonderful to look at both during gameplay and cutscenes. The anime art style is well executed. Especially considering all the Arts, Link-Actions and Crafts which are beautifully animated. My only gripe would be that the locations sometimes do not feel “alive”, simply because there aren’t many people populating them in the background.
When the eyes feast, the ears aren’t far behind. Trails of Cold Steel IV features voice acting in English and Japanese. While I can’t judge the Japanese one, I can say that the English voice acting is good. There is little screeching and even the banter between party members in between key events is delightsome. Keep in mind though, that not all conversations got the voice treatment. The music, on the other hand, is never absent for too long. Wherever you are, there’s music accompanying you. It’s a delectable soundtrack that underscores what’s happening on screen.
You got problems with me?
Other than a few drops in the framerate, my play experience was a great one both docked and handheld. No crashes, nor glitches limited my enjoyment. Given that the game has turn-based combat, the framerate pickles didn’t bother me too much.
So, what do we make out of all that? Well, that is a tough question to answer. If you played the previous games of the series, it’s a no-brainer: Go and get the game. If you, like me, have no prior experience with it, think about what you enjoy most in a JRPG. If it is a deep and well-written story with interesting characters, The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV delivers, but at the price of either investing the time to read the notes about what happened before or of missing some parts of the plot. If your focus lies on the gameplay mechanics the game coughs up as well. The battle system is so awesome that the story can become secondary to you.
- Unique combat system with immense strategic depth
- Good writing and story
- Extended notes help mitigating the confusion
- Recipe collection and cooking as well as a fishing mini-game. (No game is complete without the latter.)
- Story can be overwhelming at the beginning if young have no knowledge of the previous games
- The combat system is very detailed and can be overwhelming as well
- Story drags on at times