Much like its predecessors, we had a fair wait until The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV reached western audiences. First launched three years ago, Cold Steel IV finally arrived in the West last year on PS4 to great reviews and, come April 9th, Switch owners can experience how Nihon Falcom’s latest RPG saga wraps up. Following on from Cold Steel III's Switch launch in 2020, the presence of numbers three and four might make you question where the western Switch versions of Cold Steel I & II have got to; for such a story-driven saga, starting with number three is an odd move which robs players o the series' incredibly rich history.
If you’re not familiar, Trails (A.K.A. Kiseki) is a sub-series within The Legend of Heroes franchise, although after eleven entries, it has basically replaced it now. Set across the Zemurian continent, the games are divided into their own arcs, each bringing us incredible tales between Zemuria’s nations.
At face value, the two properties may not seem like natural companions... However, both contain striking parallels in the finer aspects of their worlds
It began back in 2004 with Trails in the Sky kicking off inside the Liberl Kingdom; Zero & Ao no Kiseki took us to Crossbell State; Cold Steel and Hajimari No Kiseki spanned Erebonia; and the upcoming Kuro No Kiseki takes place in the Calvard Republic. Despite working as standalone experiences, these arcs often overlap, and they cumulatively demonstrate some of gaming's most incredible worldbuilding.
In many ways, the sheer depth behind Trails is reminiscent of something like George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire novels (that's Game of Thrones if you're not a fan of those book things). On face value, the two properties may not seem like natural companions: Cold Steel falls into quite a few anime tropes – the school setting, most main characters having different hair colours, ridiculously powerful teenagers, mechs, we could go on – whereas Game of Thrones is a much darker affair based in a (somewhat) more realistic feudal setting. It's a different brand of fantasy, that's for sure; one that’s not nearly as afraid to kill its characters and offers a lot more… well, *ahem* adult content. However, both contain striking parallels in the finer aspects of their worlds, and to understand how, we must go back to the start. As such, be aware that this feature contains spoilers, specifically regarding Game Of Thrones and the original Trails of Cold Steel. You have been warned!...
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George R.R. Martin’s fantasy epic gained a huge mainstream following through HBO’s TV adaptation that began back in 2011, but the story kicked off in 1996 with the first novel in the series, A Game Of Thrones. Each chapter focused on different characters spanning across the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, and those constituent realms all swear fealty to the Iron Throne upon which sits a Great Lord. Fifteen years after Robert Baratheon rebelled against Aerys “the Mad King” Targaryen to take said throne, he summons Lord Eddard “Ned” Stark to the capital to become Robert’s new aide, better known as 'Hand of the King'.
When King Robert dies in a hunting “accident” and Ned discovers the heir apparent Prince Joffrey is a bastard born of incest, a power struggle ensues after Joffrey’s coronation, one that eventually leads to Ned’s execution. With two regions declaring independence and both Baratheon brothers taking up arms, this sparks a civil war that soon becomes “The War of the Five Kings” and we are drawn into a tale of political intrigue.
As for Trails of Cold Steel, the opening takes a different tone: set within the Erebonian Empire, we find a nation ruled by “The Four Great Houses”, each swearing fealty to the Reise Arnor family. Rather than focus on multiple characters, Cold Steel tells the story of Rean Schwarzer, son of a minor noble beginning his school life at Thors Military Academy. Upon enrolment, he finds himself placed in Class VII, a special group which mixes nobles and commoners.
Soon enough, Class VII are sent on numerous field trips across the empire, giving us a first-hand look at tensions between aristocratic nobles and the working-class Reformist faction. Much like Game of Thrones, tensions ultimately result in death, with the assassination of the Reformist faction’s leader, Chancellor Giliath Osborne. Shortly after, the Imperial capital Heimdallr comes under Noble Alliance occupation, taking both Emperor Eugent III and Crown Prince Cedric hostage and starting a new civil war.
Westeros and Erebonia both come to life brilliantly through well-observed, subtle character interactions
You get all that? Granted, there’s a few plot differences even if the end result is ultimately similar, but events in these worlds don’t just occur out of the blue; great, multi-layered stories like this require strong worldbuilding, and that comes with a fine balance to achieve. Too much exposition disrupts the narrative flow — you wouldn’t expect someone you’d just met to offer up their whole backstory — but offer too little and your audience lacks crucial context for proceedings. Whether it came as passing anecdotes while travelling, arriving at a new field trip location, or old friends reuniting once again, Westeros and Erebonia both come to life brilliantly through well-observed, subtle character interactions that illustrate the broader issues.
Through those Class VII field trips and Game of Thrones’ multiple perspectives, we got a strong look at the unique cultures that inhabit these worlds, too, going way beyond surface-level politics and taking a deeper look into class divides that fuel the conflicts. Both nations share commonalities in their formation, too, based upon wars long past. Outside of Robert’s Rebellion, plenty is discussed on these kingdoms uniting under Aegon “The Conqueror” Targaryen, alongside the sixteen Targaryen kings who followed. Likewise, Cold Steel often delves into “The War of the Lions”, a bloody conflict for succession between five princes, before Dreichels Reise Arnor emerged victorious. By taking the time to painstakingly detail both continents through their histories, we become invested and intrigued.
Sadly, worldbuilding alone doesn’t guarantee a satisfying payoff. Game of Thrones fans can attest to this, after that disappointing finale arguably squandered so much potential. Thankfully, a poor ending can never take away what drew us in in the first place, and we fans of the books can hope for a better resolution for A Song of Ice and Fire’s conclusion, whenever those novels might release.
As for Trails, Nihon Falcom aren’t stopping anytime soon with Kuro No Kiseki on the way, and we’re looking forward to how these adventures further develop within Calvard. In the meantime, Japan’s already got Hajimari, and we’re praying it arrives quicker than The Winds of Winter.
Keep an eye out for our review of Trails of Cold Steel IV soon, and feel free to let us know your thoughts on this series below.
Just got my order for the ToCS IV LE from NIS America yesterday. I look forward to playing it years from now, after ToCS I & II are localized on Switch.
I love these games. Can't wait for the next one to be localized.
Just want Young Griff to make a surprise appearance in Erebonia
Still waiting on those first 2 games to come to switch. I've been keeping an eye on this series for so long now but I've also been trying to avoid spoilers lol. Honestly, I might just cave and get them on Steam or something
I’d try it, but I can’t play the first two.. mainly because my pc can’t run them, so I have to wait until it’s brought to switch, which may never happen.
This series really amazes me with its commitment to telling an epic story that's both character driven and expansive. RPG world building at its finest. Can't wait to finish the series off. I could have done it on PS4 by now, but I want to wait to get my hands on the Switch version for the portability factor.
They should put the older games on Switch before even attempting to put Hajimari on there. Lord knows how anybody knows the significance of Lloyd and Estelle without having played their games.
Really sucks that I & II aren't available for me to play because I would love to play this series but I'm not going to start with #3!
I ordered 3 and 4 after reading how good the series is and I didn't want to miss out on physical copies. I will definitely wait for the first two to get a switch release before starting the series though.
Love this series - got the first US game when it released for PSP back in 2005 and have played them all since (on PSP, then PS Vita, and now Switch). I just finished Trails of Cold Steel III last week (took me at least 150 hours!), and decided to dive back to Trails in the Sky on PS Vita (it is a PSP game) ... wish the initial PSP trilogy had gotten digital releases!
@Old-Red i’m hovering over the buy button for 3 on switch, worried that it will soon be sold out everywhere. But yea sucks I can’t enjoy it until 1 and 2 are out. Though I heard they are getting a Japanese port so there is hope!
Also as soon as I buy them; Microsoft will announce all 4 are hitting Gamepass. So yea.
I would love to play all of these. I I hope they bring the Vita versions of the early games to Switch!
don't care until ToCS I and II are released in the west
@samuraicop Heard that the man can't even figure out a resolution or ending to the story, so that's probably why he's not bothering finishing it off. This is why most people probably should plan out the ending of their stories first, and work their way backwards.
@nessisonett If they followed that advice, nothing but PC would be getting the newest Trails game, considering PS4 only has access to the Cold Steel games as well.
Hopefully NISA can work through the legal translation rights and bring those recently announced Asia Switch versions of Trails of Cold Steel I&II and the Crossbell series to the west. XSEED owns the rights to a lot of the early Trails games and the Crossbell series is still not "officially" translated by the developers, but the hard work of Geofront is making that happen for Crossbell.
My dream is to have the entire Kiseki series on Switch. I played the Sky trilogy, the Crossbell duology and the first two Cold Steel games on PC but had to switch to Ps4 after that because IV was not released in PC yet. However, the journey was the best I have ever done in gaming and I can't recommend it enough. The world building and characters are amazing and while it IS possible to jump in from Cold Steel I really recommend starting from the beginning if possible.
Since then I bought Cold Steel III physical on switch and I expect my Cold Steel IV pre-order to arrive tomorrow or Friday. But as I said earlier, I hope one day the entire series will be on switch due to the portability. Cold Steel III technically plays better on Ps4 and PC but next playthrough will still be on switch for me because of the handheld capability.
@Ralizah Or they could just port the games. They have the Vita and PC versions of Sky ready to go and translated. While not every game ever has to be ported, this series would require a crash course on YouTube or the Kiseki Wiki to understand any of the overarching plot. At this point it’s like seasons 4 and 5 of The Wire being on Netflix but not the earlier seasons.
@nessisonett That's not Falcom's call, sadly. XSEED owns that stuff, and after the falling out it's unlikely it'll go anywhere. With the closing of the PSP store, I think those games will remain lost for a long long time, which sucks considering they're part of an ongoing series and tell important story. Maybe if Falcom made a remake of them they could republish depending on the contract with XSEED, but then they'd be putting time into a remake rather than continuing the future series. The cliff notes will have to suffice forever I think.
@nessisonett Well, I mean, yeah, it seems like common sense for a plot-heavy series with multiple reoccurring characters and storylines to be ported to modern platforms before ploughing ahead, but it's become pretty clear from both Falcom's own actions and interviews they've given that they're prioritizing a minority of hardcore asian fans who have already played all of the games to date. They still seem pretty baffled by the idea of Western gamers enjoying their products at all, frankly. Much love and respect to Falcom, one of the pioneers of the industry, but they're lost and confused when it comes to the broader global appeal of their games in the modern era.
At least the Crossbell and first two Cold Steel games should be on Switch in Japan soon, if they're not already. Half the work is done.
@samuraicop I just hope the books get finished in the Author's lifetime, since sometimes some authors never get to finish, and their children or family have to take it upon themselves to finish the story based on their notes.
I'm hoping the Crossbell arc gets localized at some point. I also recommend for those getting into the Trails series, play Trails in the Sky trilogy before you get to Cold Steel 4. There are quite a few events in ToCS4 that piggyback off of TitS.
Definitely a big fan off the series. Play 1,2 on the ps vita and currently just started chapter 4 on Cold Steel 3 (Switch). Looking forward to Cold Steel 4 but I will start it sometime later in the year.
Do I need to play the first three games to enjoy this one?
Wish they brought the 1st two games to Switch, not just the 3rd & the 4th.
@Aurumonado I assume so, since the stories are connected together, and I believe the 4th one is the conclusion.
As someone who played the Trails 3 demo and watched a ton of youtube gameplay videos trying to get into it... how much of the game is cutscene vs actually playing?
The world and combat look fascinating, but every impression I got of Trails 3 just makes it seem like a meandering anime where you press the "a" button sometimes.
@PacMang look at my posts a few up. They are coming to Switch. Just not in English. Yet...
@K1LLEGAL these are exactly the type of games I like to collect physically on switch. Perfect for portable, lowish print run and old enough to have everything patched and on the cart. A collector's dream.
@eatdogs Don't care, English versions is all I care about.
@PacMang its the first step towards it happening. Getting them onto the system was the biggest issue. Now it's up to NISA if they will get the rights to the translations. That's where you and everyone else can help by letting them know how much you want them.
If CS 1 and 2 were to turn up on the Switch I would buy the four of them all at once.
(Already played, and loved, the Skies and Zero games)
@Danondorf All the games in the trails-series have tons of text. Much of it is optional and depends on how deep you want to go down the rabbithole but the huge amount of detail in the world and even the minor NPCs is part of what makes the series great. There's tons of gameplay to be found but it's also heavy on story and cutscenes so if that is not your cup of tea you might want to spend your time on some other game.
Either way, before you jump into Cold Steel III (no matter what NISA say) you should at the very least play Cold Steel 1 and 2 first. They are currently available on VITA/PS3/PS4/PC.
I personally adore this series and have enjoyed each release from the first on PSP. Prior to that I even played the original Legend of Heroes in 2005. I bounced off it and forgot about the series until 2011's Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky and I've been enjoying it since then.
Hmm, it appears 1 and 2 are coming to switch this year in japan but licensing may prevent it from coming out in the west. As others have mentioned there is some legal red tape involving Xseed. However, if my research is correct, it appears as though xseed only owns the rights to the actual voiced dialog but not the script, if that is the case they could just have NIS publish 1 and 2 with japanese voices only and English subtitles... assuming this info is accurate.
I jumped in with Trails of Cold Steel 3 on Switch last year and it was phenomenal. Took half an hour, sat down and read the story summary provided from the main menu and it was off to the races. Fantastic game and a much better jumping in point than many told me it would be.
That said, I enjoyed it so much I started playing Trails of Cold Steel 1 on Steam concurrently with Trails of Cold Steel 3 on Switch. Think I'm like 50 hours in the first game and 25 hours into the third.
I have the collector edition pre-ordered for Trails of Cold Steel IV. If they ever localize the first two on Switch, I can finally sell my Vita collector edition.
I must really be the only person alive who really dislikes this series, huh?
@nessisonett that is entirely up to XSEED, as they have the publishing right to Cold Steel 1-2, not NISA. and Falcom aren't interested in making games for any non PS platforms, so it is up to the localization companies to make ports of the games.
@Daniel36 I can understand not liking Cold Steel, it falls into a lot of anime tropes that Sky mostly avoided.
@Keiichi98 well, Sky I think was the one I played and I loathed it. But glad many people do like it.
@VoidofLight Hey, what are you even talking about? Trails is a videogame franchise. What do you mean „The books get finished“? Which books??
@Fabio_kyr1 The user deleted their account or something, but it was in relation to Game of Thrones.
@VoidofLight @VoidofLight Ah, lol I see. Thanks for the reply!
@daniel36 Yes. You probably are.
@Ralizah They actually know that they have many western fans who are waiting patiently (and way too long, and they know that) for their games. They are working with NISA on a solution. They said this is a recent interview. Let’s hope something good comes out of it.
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