The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel is one of the best JRPG franchises out there and that’s why I was saddened to see it come to an end when the fourth and final entry released late last year on the PlayStation 4. NIS America and developer Falcom are now releasing The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV on the Nintendo Switch this week and while I loved the game in my review of the PS4 version I have to give a word of caution to those looking to pick up this game if they only own a Nintendo Switch.
The caution isn’t in regards to how Trails of Cold Steel IV performs on the Nintendo Switch, which I’ll go into more below, but rather how only the third and now the fourth entry in this franchise is available on the system. That means that if you didn’t play the first and second entry on some other platform then you’re going to be lost in regards to what is going on in the story and who these characters are. Trails of Cold Steel IV is the culmination of everything that the prior three games have been building towards so I absolutely recommend you play them before diving into this one. One can only hope that the first two entries come to the Switch in the future but for now you’ll have to find another platform to play them on. It’s also worth mentioning that there are ties to other Legend of Heroes games that haven’t been released outside of Japan so even I was still a little bit lost in regards to who certain characters were in this fourth game even after having played the previous three mainline entries.
The story in Trails of Cold Steel IV picks up only two weeks after the ending of the third game. The main character Rean along with Celine are missing and the Erebonian government has declared war on the Republic of Calvard for trying to assassinate their emperor. Members of Class VII from the last game who include Kurt, Altina, and Juna are currently in a village and they set off from there to try and find out where Rean and Celine are. Much of the early hours are spent seeing how characters are dealing with what happened at the end of the last game. You also run into characters from those other Legend of Heroes games that I spoke of that I had no clue who they were at the time. Now I’ve been playing this game over the last few weeks and it’s a long one. I ended up putting over a dozen hours into it before I even got to meet up with Rean again if that tells you anything and that’s still nowhere near that far into the game. You can easily get well over 100 hours out of this which won’t be too surprising to those who have played the other entries.
I won’t say much else about the story for risk of spoiling anything but what I will say is that this game’s story does justice to what the series has been building to. Pretty much everything you would expect is tied up by the end which as a fan left me pretty happy. There is tons of fan service throughout and tons of awesome moments. Not only that but the world building here is superb showing once again that many others can learn from Falcom’s example. It does suffer from a problem that a lot of long games do though and that’s pacing. At times things will be really interesting and moving along and then the game will start putting you through all kinds of tasks that feel like they are only here to drag the game out. Some fat certainly could’ve been trimmed from this game to make it a more focused experience and story.
So, let’s talk about the gameplay in this fourth entry. This game has you out exploring the towns in the world, moving through dungeons, taking on quests, talking to various NPCs, and much more. Activities in games like this are always fun to check out and you’ll find several different things here to partake in. You can go fishing, cook up some delicious food, take photos at places in the world, or play the Vantage Masters card game. Those who played this in Trails of Cold Steel III know this game is a lot of fun and lets you play against the other characters in order to build your bond with them. I’m a sucker for card games in video games and this one is very addictive. There is also a new game called Pom Pom Party that reminded me of Puyo Puyo and it too is a fun time waster.
Enemies can be seen in the over world and you can get a bonus before a fight if you can surprise attack them there. Once you enter battle, you’ll find that the turn-based combat system hasn’t really changed from the last game not that that is a bad thing. Some minor refinements have been made here and there to make it a bit more balanced. You’ll have four characters in battle at a time out of the well over 20+ available to you over the course of the game. Your basic options in fights are to move your character around to get a better angle on the enemy, use items, attack, or cast magic. LINK attacks return allowing you to use BP to have another character perform a team up attack with you. Overall, the battle system didn’t need to be changed in my opinion so I’m happy with how it was here.
Those who enjoyed the quality of life extra features from the previous games will be glad to know they also return in Trails IV. These include the faster movement to make getting around the world faster, auto battle option, and various difficulty settings to tailor the experience to your liking. The visuals in the game are very much still what you’d expect from this series. It’s not a big jump or anything from Trails of Cold Steel III and you do tend to see how the game doesn’t have a huge budget behind it when it comes to environmental detail, character models, and animations. The Switch version doesn’t look as nice as it did on the PlayStation 4 but I don’t think it’s a huge difference or anything. The framerate seemed to hold steady to 30 fps most of the time with just a noticeable occasional dip in some more dense areas of the map. The only other issue I had with the Switch version is that I noticed some localization errors in text and such in a few places but otherwise this is a really solid port technically. For audio the game supports both Japanese and English voice acting both of which sounded great to me. I only played with the Japanese voices for a short time though as I’d rather hear the English voice acting. The soundtrack in this game is still really good but I would have to say it’s not to the same level as Trails 1 – 3.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV is a great finale to what has been a memorable four game journey. It’s got so many great moments throughout and many of the characters we’ve grown to love get to shine. It could’ve done with a bit better pacing though as I felt like I was just doing busy work quite a bit of the time. The Switch version doesn’t look or perform as well as the PlayStation version that released last year but what you lose in visuals you make up for in being able to pick up and play portably. It also is disappointing that Switch only owners can’t experience the full four game story on the platform currently with only the third and fourth entries being available. I can’t say much else other than if you’ve been invested in this story so far, you’ll be very happy with the payoff and if you haven’t yet jumped into it yet then you’re missing out on one of the best JRPG franchises out there.
*The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV is available now on PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. Nintendo Switch version reviewed. Review copy provided by the publisher for this review.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV$59.99
- A worthy sendoff to what has been one of the best JRPG sagas out there
- Same great combat system with some refinements
- Tons of fun side activities and tons and tons of content
- Great dual audio voice acting and soundtrack
- Pacing is off in parts causing it to drag at times
- Visuals still aren't as high budget as I would like to see
- Has some performance issues on the Switch
- No way for Switch only owners to experience all four games currently