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.
After playing the demo on the switch, I was not very impressed. The game looked horrible and ran horrible. If I were to play this series, I'd probably stick to the ps4 version because the engine used doesn't seem to work well with the switch.
Should have started with one.
I usually love jrpgs but I have no idea what this series is about except that it isn't standalone.
I got really far on the first one on the vita. I didn’t get to finish it though because there were other games I want to play. I played the trail series over the years and I absolutely love them. The first one was great. This looks like one of those things you go back. I wish they had all three of them on the switch. I also wish my iPad Pro would do text to speech properly. Instead of me constantly editing. I don’t know what I was thinking when I purchased that instead of a MacBook Pro. I wanted to save a few hundred dollars. In the end you get what you pay for.
I really hope they bring the rest of the wider Trails series to Switch, I played them on Vita and they looked and played great. They could do 3 collections: Sky, Crossbell and Cold Steel.
There's a rights issue between Xseed and NISA that prevents the first two games to be ported to Switch as well as past Ys games. Remember Falcom isn't like Atlus or other japanese devs, they're extremely niche to the point it's a miracle they are still around after decades and why they need external devs to do the porting work. Don't doubt Ys IX will come to Switch, courtesy of NISA of course.
@Incarna I don't see the point in always want an entire serie on one console when a new game is release. This is the case of many many games.
@feder I play the démo too, in handle mode, and it's very correct.
It is really bizarre that they start the series on Switch with the third game.I've played the first two now on PS4 and you definitely need to play them in order.
I won't be starting the third one anytime soon though because the second one really did drag on towards the end.Shame cuz I loved the game but having a couple more chapters after Finale seemed pointless and what could of been a great 70 hour game became a 90 hour game with a sucky ending.
I once won a Trails game but I seriously disliked it. Translation was absolutely horrid, and combat was a slog. I guess I grew out of the genre though. The only recent RPG I liked was Octopath, which ended with a disappointment to me.
@feder I had the same experience on Switch, sadly. Graphics seem like last gen, the Switch should be able to handle them much better.
Ys IX: Monstrum Nox for Switch please, Falcom.
Since many people say that you should play as many of the older games as possible for that series, I will most likely do it at pc unless they announce a port of the sky games.
A brief half hour video on the Switch cart that recaps the previous events?
I hope they go back and pull together the whole series. These type of games are just more suited to a handheld I think
I've played Trails In The Sky #1 on PC and found it to be sheer bliss. If you're in the mood for a JRPG with old school sensibilities and super deep characterisation then you'll be in heaven. Even the NPC townsfolk are rich enough to stick with you, and the main characters are absolutely intriguing.
I bought the second chapter but never played it because the Switch came along and changed my gaming habits completely. If they could release Trails In The Sky on Switch, I'd be a happy customer.
Can't wait to get this. After playing the first game to completion on Vita and part of the second, the third game felt instantly familiar to me on Switch.
I hope the game gets a bit sharper than the pics above. Those jaggies arn't impressive.
From what I understand, this is a long running series. Is ToCS III good to jump in on as the interview implies? Unfortunately I don't have the time to play through the entire series....
Why do I like JRPGs so much?
@Zimon Dude, the franchise isn't stand alone. There are characters from the second series that wasn't localized that show up and are referenced in cold steel. For the full trails experience they would have to Port Sky (which they should) localize zero (which they probably never will) and finally finish part 4 of cold steel which will be another year in English anyway. Then you have the new series coming out. Yeah, it's a big one. Again, all the events carry over. It's not necessary to have played them all, but it helps
@Tyranexx It's not really. There's a soft status quo reset in CS 3, but it follows the other cold steel games. It's basically starting a new arc so it's fine to start there but concepts and returning characters will be hazy. Plus the games hinge on character development so you're obviously missing that
Also, also, the franchise is a shared universe that take place over really 5 years. Events and organizations carry over throughout the world (each series is set on a different continent) so while there will be recap lore to read you are missing that precious organizational and political development that is really the series draw. The plot isn't really anything to write home about it's the characters and how detailed and interwoven things are that make the series special.
So, the answer is kinda. You could, but I'd play the other games. Sky is just a good series and while cold steel 1 did not age well, the characters push you through the poor graphics and average battle system
I dunno, I know this doesn't impact the development of other games, but if rather have origins for a simultaneous worldwide release than anything else. I mean, a zero localization would be better than a switch port of anything, though with how text heavy these games are obviously I understand why these games are so hard to localize. There are literally half a million lines of dialogue in these things, especially sky and zero. I think there's 50 thousand voiced lines in the cold steel games. It's something insane.
Porting the PC versions over makes sense, but why start with 3? It's definitely more polished than 1 and 2 and probably would sell much better just on the merit of being a better game (and the best cs game), but you really are missing a lot of character development and lore just jumping into 3. Hell, jumping into cold steel without playing at least the first two sky games leaves a lot of holes
I'm interested of the perspective of someone who will inevitably start with this game, but I can't recommend it. A lot of my enjoyment of this game is seeing plot threads from prior games, some of which were introduced back in Sky 1, continue to develop.
I imagine it had to have done well in Japan though for them to already announced Cold Steel 4 for the Switch alongside the localization announcement.
I know the whole NIS and Xseed thing keeps them from porting earlier games, but I think that also puts Falcom at a minor fault of not taking advantage of the Nintendo install base much sooner. The Trails in the Sky games would have been an amazing fit for the 3DS, where a lot of other JRPGs thrived, for example.
Trails of Cold Steel III looks and runs amazing on Switch. I was monumentally impressed as it is one of the best ports I’ve seen on the system to date, way better than YS VIII.
It’s full 720p in handheld, practically looks identical to the PS4 version, and ran flawlessly.
I honestly think sometimes people don’t have a clue what they’re talking about or they are legitimately pushing an agenda.
It’s not really a problem, despite a lot of people claiming it would be.
I played the demo all the way through to completion. I have never played any game in the series, aside from the first few hours of the previous Trails games. I literally knew nothing going into it.
The story summaries are so incredibly well done that by the time I had finished the demo I genuinely felt like I had played the previous games. I knew who the characters were, I knew why they were in the situations they were in, I knew what their motives were and what the overall plot was. They did a phenomenal job with the story summaries and, because of the transition to teacher in the game, it works well as a jumping in point because you take on teaching a new group of students who are totally new characters anyways.
So I can personally attest as someone who had no previous knowledge of the series that I was thoroughly engrossed by the end of the demo, I was not confused whatsoever thanks to the amazing story summaries included in the demo right there in the main menu, and I am more than hyped for the full release come June 30th.
I wouldn’t say it’s the best place to jump in (obviously if you’ve played previous games you’re going to get a little more out of it). Nonetheless it’s a pretty good place to jump in, for two reasons.
1 As mentioned by the creator, this particular entry sees you transition from student to teacher. And as such you take on a new group of students which are new characters, and a whole new subplot begins. This lends well to new players, and
2 They have included a very thorough story summary in the main menu (even in the demo) that tells you everything you really need to know to understand what’s going on. And to be honest 90% of the events in previous games are completely irrelevant anyways. There’s a few characters you should know about, for sure, and a few key events that you should have foreknowledge of, by and large I could probably paraphrase everything you need to know in one or two paragraphs. That being said, if you just take 20 minutes and set that aside to go through the story summaries you will be more than equipped to understand what’s going on.
Take it from someone who is new to the series. I had no previous knowledge going into the demo and by the time I was done, I was more than sold. My advice is download the demo- it’s free! Read the story summaries, play the demo and learn the battle mechanics, and you’ll be ready to go on launch day.
@Xansies dude, I never said it was standalone. The opposite in fact. I agree with you.
They should have started porting Cold Steel 1.
@Zimon my point was they should have started porting trails in the sky.
@JaxonH The thing is though, if you haven't played the other entries you can't possibly know exactly HOW MUCH you're missing out on. CS3 only contains summaries for CS1 and 2, so that already means it's missing summaries for FIVE other games that are also important to its plot. Having just finished the game, the entire first two chapters are going to be completely meaningless to anybody who isn't familiar with the series outside of the Cold Steel games.
I feel especially sorry for anybody who's going to play Cold Steel IV without playing anything prior to Cold Steel because that one ramps it up to eleven, there's a good 12+ additional Trails in the Sky and Trails from Zero/Trails to Azure characters (compared to CS3) with major roles that get no proper reintroduction because you're simply supposed to know them already.
No need to pity people playing and enjoying a video game they like.
Nobody's got the time or patience to go play 7 games just so they understand every little thing. If someone has, good for them. But for everyone else, it's not a requirement. I've seen a lot of gatekeeping with this series, the OG fans telling everyone they have to go play over half a dozen games first... and that's just nonsense.
The game tells you enough. And context can be used to discern any small, lingering things. The world won't end if some character appears they havent seen before. They'll figure it out, by the context of what's currently taking place.
@JaxonH yes, exactly. Not sure where these complaints regarding the port are coming from. It looks and runs great, on par with PS4.
@tatanga if that's the case, then I'm even less impressed. The game was riddled with jagged edges and shimmering was everywhere. Some of the backgrounds even waved. It looked like a ps2 game.
IKR? Phenomenal port. Muah!
If only every other Switch port was as good as this one. I was surprised given YS VIII wasn’t the best graphically (although I thought it was fine overall, it just wasn’t that good looking of a game on any platform).
Did you finish the demo btw? I was so absorbed by the time I finished it I considered going back to play the previous games, but they feel a little dated by comparison, and the story summary basically covered everything that happened in those games anyways so I kind of feel like it’s a waste of time. I never did get into the previous two games anyways (I played a few hrs back on Vita) but this one hooked me right away.
@JaxonH as I said before, the game was riddled with jagged edges around the characters, the backgrounds shimmered and the textures looked like ps2 Era. We had an mcable running into our switch to boost its output capabilities and it still looked bad. Sometimes I really think l people believe falcom can do no wrong.
Thanks for the responses!
@Xansies The soft reset is what intrigues me with this one, actually. I know there are some summaries in the demo - and believe me when I say that I'll read them - and know that they still won't capture the full experience. Still, I can live with a general rundown of the situation if it saves me a bit of time in the long run. I would like to play the first two games, but someone mentioned that isn't easily done due to licensing issues with XSEED.
I do intend to play the Trails In The Sky games at some point. My main issue isn't that I don't want to play the other games; it's strictly a time thing and, to a lesser extent, a lack of owning the platforms to play those on. I barely have time for the platforms I do have. XD I try to be pretty picky with what longer JRPGs I pick up these days, so I'm trying to weigh whether to give this series a decent shake.
@JaxonH It does sound like those summaries are pretty thorough, something that I can live with for now, at least on a need-to-know basis for the demo. I believe I will be giving the demo a shot soon as I suspect that's what'll sell it to me at this point. Unfortunately, the actual game will likely have to wait a bit. I'll be quite busy with Xenoblade before that and highly doubt I'll be finished by the time ToCS III rolls around.
A lot of games on switch have jaggies. That’s pretty common. If you’re expecting it to look identical to a PS4 game on switch then you simply have expectations misaligned with the capabilities of the system.
Saying it looks like the PS2 era is just utter hyperbole and I really can’t take anyone seriously who makes such an extreme, incorrect comparison.
If you don’t like it then, don’t play it. That’s all I’ve got to say. But this game looks VERY close to the PS4 version, remarkably so. So comparing it even to a PS3 game is doing it injustice, but comparing it to PS2... I’m just not gonna waste my time arguing about that.
Ya, they’re totally sufficient. By the way the game doesn’t come out until June 30 so you have plenty of time. Although Xenoblade is a pretty big game, and I’ll be playing it right along side you.
Trials of Mana > Xenoblade Chronicles > Trails III > Bravely Default II
@JaxonH completed the demo, read the entire included history, and then pre-ordered 🙌
@Tyranexx All things told, 3 is the best cold steel game, followed by four. When it comes to world building sky is better by far but mostly because cold steel relies a little bit on the ground laid in sky. It's not necessary, but some things are only giving a cursory explanation that are focal in sky. Cold steel does feel more solid on the character development front though.
That said, gameplaywise these games aren't great. Sky is a gridbased turnbased rpg and it doesn't really get the kinks worked out til the second one. The same can be said about cold steel, the kinks don't get ironed until 2 and completely become good until 3. Basically it's actually very similar to the post 3 persona series, but it's much more poorly balanced at first and isn't nearly as polished as 4 and 5. Honestly, it's obvious that persona is a huge inspiration for cold steel, but playing 1 and 2 after five exists and has influenced everything feels like a step back. 3 came out a few months after 5 and 4 exists in a post persona 5 world and it shows
@feder what, really ??, i played it and it look fantastic on SW Lite, even not on Switch
I played through Trails in the Sky FC, SC, Cold Steel 1, Cold Steel 2 and Cold Steel 3 in a row last year (and beginning of this year) so I'll be skipping this for now.
Having played the demo on Switch it definitely looks close to the PS4 version but I noticed it looks less clean right away. Also, no 60fps but that may not be as important to most people seeing how this is not a game where split second reactions are required. Still, 60fps makes any game much more pleasant to look at.
Depending on how it would run (no big issues for example) I would definitely consider buying Cold Steel IV if it were to be released on Switch. The PS4 games aren't all that impressive in the graphics department anyway.
@Incarna Played 7 previous games on PC and I will play cs3, cs4 on Switch because of portability (sometimes with docked), I don't see any problem with that at all.
@JaxonH June 30th? More time than I thought then. I might be able to fit in the demo in that case, provided it isn't more than a few hours in length. Thanks mate!
@Xansies Decent character development is always a +1 in my book. Sounds like the gameplay of ToCS has been fine-tuned as well, so I know I'd be getting into one of the better entries if I take the plunge. I'm not saying I won't give the other entries a shot - especially the Sky games - but it'll admittedly be a bit. Thanks!
@Zimon The demo made it feel like there was history but it was a new era in the life of the main character, kind of like a YS game does. You were a student for the past games and are now a teacher. Didn't feel too off putting.
@feder Really? I thought it ran smooth, just has that Falcom standard awful edges in spots and slight shimmering. Actually liked how the combat system feels slightly like a tactics game in how the physical position of your characters effects the fight.
@JaxonH I actually loved the demo, though I thought some of the story scenes were a bit long and too clustered. If you're gonna give us that much story, that early on, you really need to actually animate a bunch of it. That said, the combat system in it, how much your physical positioning matters, felt a little like a tactics games crossed with a modern RPG...really loved the potential there and it tickled my brain perfectly. Also as with YS8, sure maybe none of the character designs standout, but they all look nice and the personalities and dialog are solid and a bit above average in the charm department. This will fit the YS8 hole nicely. Really loved that game despite how headache inducing the shimmering in that one could get. The Trials of Mana demo on the other hand....I was pretty disappointed by it. Was kind of...boring. Felt a bit budgety too. I still have it preordered because I like the art direction, but I dunno. Personally can't do Bravely because I have no patience for constant random encounters. I tried with Octopath Traveller, but after 30-ish hours dropped it. Xenoblade looks great, and is preordered, but...as long as the systems aren't so numerous and dense (dense doesn't actually mean something is "deep" either) as XBC2, I think I'll dig that.
I actually didn't mind the demo. I even completed it. I usually am very picky with turn based RPGs. Last turn based RPG i liked was xenogears. Go figure.
@feder falcom games are known to have MEH graphics regardless of the platform it's on. The last time they had games with good graphics was when they were still focussing on PC development back in early 90's (pc-8801/Pc engine cd).
But to say it's awful and it looks like ps2 era is flat out exaggerated. I played the same demo on ps4 and it didn't look much better either.
You can start with Cold Steel 3, but please consider playing the other games before starting Cold Steel 4. Seeing the returning characters for the first time in 3D is something special. You'll be missing out a lot.
I would love Trails in The Sky FC/SC on switch, especially the Japan exclusive Evolution remakes!
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