Last year NIS America confirmed that it was bringing JRPG The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III to Switch in 2020, with the game scheduled to arrive on 30th June. The long-running Legend of Heroes series has over a dozen entries to its name, and for fans of the Cold Steel games in particular, there's plenty to look forward to this summer and beyond, with the fourth Cold Steel game recently announced for Switch as well.
Recently we had the chance to have president of Nihon Falcom, Mr Toshihiro Kondo, and NIS America answer a few of our questions regarding the Switch version and find out a little more before it releases at the end of Spring.
Nintendo Life: For anyone who hasn’t played any of the many Trails games, tell us a little about the series and this entry in particular.
Toshihiro Kondo: Trails of Cold Steel is a fantasy RPG series filled with rich characters and an expansive story, like an epic TV drama. In this third installment, the Erebonian Empire, the most powerful on the continent, has begun invading other nations. We step into the shoes of the main character, Rean, as he transitions from life as a student of Thors Military Academy to an instructor at its branch campus.
For series veterans, what have been the most significant changes to the base Trails experience in this sequel compared to the two previous Cold Steel games?
Toshihiro Kondo: I think that for those who played I and II, Rean’s transition from student to an instructor with his own class will be an extremely interesting thing to experience.
Rean’s transition from student to an instructor with his own class will be an extremely interesting thing to experience
In terms of the system, we’ve completely overhauled the UI and made it so that commands can be carried out with the press of a button. I think it makes for fun, speedy battles. Additionally, there is an important new system called Brave Order, that allows you to buff your party without expending a turn.
Additionally, enemies have a Break Gauge that, once reduced, will make it impossible for them to act. This is another new system that allows players turn the tides in battle.
We’ve also improved the Panzer Soldat battles to give them a stronger presence and make them more fun to play as well.
The series has a long and storied history with over a dozen games, and Trails of Cold Steel III is a direct sequel. As a series with a strong focus on character, how much knowledge of the story so far would a new player need before jumping into this game? What's the best way to catch up (short of playing the entire series to this point)?
Toshihiro Kondo: In this game, Rean is now an instructor and his students are brand new, making for a fresh start. Furthermore, the relationships that Rean has forged until now also begin anew, so it’s perfect timing for those who want to jump into Trails of Cold Steel from III.
From the title screen, you are able to check character bios as well as things that have occurred up until this point. In this way, the player will be able to familiarize themselves quickly with the story.
The game was originally developed for PS4 - what were the biggest challenges in bringing ToCS3 to Switch?
The most challenging aspect of porting to Nintendo Switch (and PC) was securing the development teams to work on both platforms simultaneously
NIS America: The most challenging aspect of porting to Nintendo Switch (and PC) was securing the development teams to work on both platforms simultaneously. Durante (Peter Thoman), now part of PH3 [PH3 Games, a specialist games engineering company] had previously brought over Trails of Cold Steel I and Trails of Cold Steel II to PC. He did an incredible job on the port, including providing a very hands-on support to the Steam community that had issues post-launch. We were certain we wanted to reach out to PH3.
At the same time, we were also in search of a studio that was capable of working alongside the PH3 team for the Nintendo Switch version. In the end, arrangements were made with Engine Software and PH3 to share the same code base for both versions.
Will there be any changes or additions to the Switch version?
Toshihiro Kondo: We launched patch 1.02 on the PS4 regarding text updates. These updates will be included within the Nintendo Switch version upon release, which will also include 26 pieces of cosmetic DLC (free forever!) to customize the characters.
Many people see the Switch as a sort of ‘spiritual successor’ to PS Vita, so seeing Trails – which has a strong history on Sony’s handhelds – coming to Nintendo’s console will please many fans. Obviously, this game started development before Switch launched, but in the future can we expect to see Trails games coming to the system alongside (or closer to) releases on other platforms?
Toshihiro Kondo: I think that almost everyone who reaches the end of Trails of Cold Steel III will want to jump right into Trails of Cold Steel IV. For those players who play on the Switch, we definitely want to meet their demands.
Note: Since this interview took place, NIS America has confirmed that the fourth game is coming to Switch.
The Trails subseries is part of the larger Kiseki / Legend of Heroes franchise which dates back to 1989. Are there plans to bring any previous titles from the Legend of Heroes series (or any other games in Nihon Falcom’s back catalogue) to Switch in the future?
Toshihiro Kondo: If Nintendo Switch players really do want our games on the platform, there is definitely room for us to consider other titles for it going forward. I’m hoping it works out that way myself. I hope that you all start with Trails of Cold Steel III.
If Nintendo Switch players really do want our games on the platform, there is definitely room for us to consider other titles for it going forward. I’m hoping it works out that way myself.
Switch is a great system to enjoy turn-based RPGs and already has loads of brilliant examples in its library. Tell us what you think makes Trails of Cold Steel III special and sets it apart from other JRPGs on the system.
Toshihiro Kondo: There are several. There are the things I mentioned earlier in regards to the new features in the game, but something that has been a constant through the series is the Action Time battle system. In this system, you watch the AT bar and see when each character will take action, allowing you to plan accordingly. You can interrupt other characters and think about what orders to use, so it isn’t just a simple turn-based battle system. I think the battle system has a lot of depth to it.
Finally, what Switch games does the team enjoy playing when they’re not hard at work on Trails?
Toshihiro Kondo: I’m sure people on staff are enjoying various games, but among most of them, Zelda is definitely a favorite. I hear people talking about Breath of the Wild a lot. Also, I kind of think we feel a lot of closeness to Fire Emblem.
Our thanks to Mr Kondo and Erin at NIS America. If you're eager for more about the game, there's a demo available on the Switch eShop now. We also recommend you check out the review of the PS4 version of Trails of Cold Steel III on our sister site Push Square (spoilers: they liked it!) to find out why RPG fans are so excited for its arrival on Switch.
Let us know if you're excited for it with a comment below.