The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III
|The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III|
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III is a role-playing video game developed by Nihon Falcom. It is a part of the Trails series, itself a part of the larger The Legend of Heroes franchise, and is a direct sequel to The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II. The game was released for the PlayStation 4 in Japan in September 2017 and worldwide in October 2019. Ports for Nintendo Switch and Microsoft Windows were also released in 2020. A sequel, Trails of Cold Steel IV, was released in Japan in late 2018.
The game plays as a traditional JRPG with turn-based battles, similar to Trails of Cold Steel and Trails of Cold Steel II. An emphasis on speeding up battles was made as well, including making transitions into battle scenes more seamless, and being able to map out more battle commands to specific buttons rather than various menus, though the battles are still primarily menu-based. The game contains a new system called Brave Order which lets players "buff your party without expending a turn". A Break Gauge was also added, where enemies with a reduced Break Gauge are unable to act.
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The game is a direct sequel to the prior two Trails of Cold Steel games, picking up one year after the events of Trails of Cold Steel II. The story is centered around main character Rean Schwarzer, now a military professor, as well as his students, and the rest of his military school friends from the prior two entries, notably exploring subjects such as the mysterious origins of Rean's birth, and what others have been up to since the events of the prior games. The game also features appearances from Tita and Agate, characters from Trails in the Sky, a previous story arc within the Trails series, as well as Tio and Randy, characters from Zero no Kiseki and Ao no Kiseki. The game takes place in the aftermath of the "Northern War", which ended in the annexation of North Ambria. While helping protect civilians during the war, Rean lost control of his Ogre powers and became unconscious for three days, making him afraid to continue using them.
Rean is now an instructor  at the Thors Branch Campus, teaching the next generation of Class VII. The new class consists of Juna Crawford (a girl from the former state of Crossbell), Kurt Vander (whose family lost their duty to protect the Imperial family), Altina Orion (an agent of the Intelligence Division and former foe of the old Class VII), Ash Carbide (an orphaned delinquent) and Musse Egret (a noble student hailing from the Lamare province). His fellow instructors include former student council president and Thors upperclassman Towa Herschel, Randy Orlando from Crossbell's Special Support Section, and Major Michael Irving from the Railway Military Police. The former Noble Alliance general Aurelia Le Guin is appointed the branch campus principal with Professor G. Schmidt acting as an advisor.
While training the new Class VII, Rean is ordered by the Imperial government to resolve numerous conflicts arising all over Erebonia as part of the campus's field exercises, of which his old Class VII classmates assist him with. The incidents were instigated by Ouroboros in preparation to take back the Phantasmal Blaze Plan stolen by Chancellor Osborne at the end of the civil war. Also operating behind the scenes is an ancient group known as the Gnomes, now operating under the Black Workshop moniker, with their agent Azure Siegfried being present in each incident. Angelica Rogner, an upperclassman and associate of the old Class VII, investigates the possibility that Siegfried may be the late Crow Armbrust, and goes missing after discovering that the Crow in his grave is a facsimile, seemingly killed by another Class VII associate George Nome, revealed to be the Gnome Copper Georg.
During the field exercise in Heimdallr and in conjunction with the Summer Festival, Ash is possessed by a curse and attempts to assassinate the Emperor, critically wounding him. Chancellor Osborne then assumes power as the interim leader and blames the neighboring Calvard Republic for the assassination attempt, creating a casus belli for war. Rean and his friends eventually come into contact with Roselia of the Hexen Clan, an immortal witch who had been watching over Erebonia for centuries. Roselia explains that over a thousand years ago, Erebonia's ancestors waged war on each other using the Sept-Terrions of Earth and Fire. Both Sept-Terrions eventually destroyed each other and fused to become the Sept-Terrion of Steel, the "Great One". Realizing the danger of this new entity, two groups, the Hexen Clan and the Gnomes, split the Great One into seven pieces and sealed them away in the seven Divine Knights, which include Rean's mecha Valimar.
The Class VII group later discover that Chancellor Osborne, Ouroboros, and the Gnomes have allied together to unleash Great One's sealed Curse all across Zemuria, which would usher in the "Great Twilight" that will end the world. Rean and his friends attempt to stop Osborne, forced to fight their way through Ouroboros, the Gnomes' operatives, and Osborne's Ironbloods, along the way causing Siegfried to remember his life as Crow. However, after the Gnomes destroy the Courageous with Prince Olivert on board and Millium sacrifices herself to protect Rean and her sister Altina, Rean loses control of his Ogre powers through rage, transforming Valimar into an evil looking entity, as well as permanently unlocking Rean's Ogre power. Rean and Valimer then go on a rampage, violently murdering the black beast, which releases the Curse. Osborne, Crow, Rutger, Arianrhod, and Cedric then summon their Divine Knights and defeat and capture Rean and Valimar.
Intentions to create a third entry in the Trails of Cold Steel meta series were announced as early as December 2015, at Nihon Falcom's 2015 shareholder's meeting. Initial planning began in early 2016, though the development team was initially divided on which platforms the game should release on. On one hand, the PlayStation Vita was preferred, due to its larger user-base in Japan, and prior entries in the series being released there, but the team also wanted to consider using the much more powerful PlayStation 4, which could greatly help with the game's scope. Full-scale development on the title began around mid-2016. The game was officially revealed in December 2016, at Falcom's 2016 shareholder's meeting. Unlike the prior two entries, no Vita or PlayStation 3 versions were developed, however it still uses the same PhyreEngine game engine. The game was initially scheduled for a release window of Q3 2017 in Japan, later narrowed down to September 28, 2017. It was mentioned in the shareholder's meeting that a deciding factor in developing the game for the PS4 was to help ensure higher international sales for the game, with the PS4 having a much larger userbase in most countries outside of Japan at the time. This premise was reiterated by Falcom president Toshihiro Kondo:
"Foreign sales have reached a point with both the Trails and Ys series and where we can't ignore them from a development angle anymore. Ys: Memories of Celceta, for example, sold more outside of Japan than it did inside of Japan. Because Vita has kind of been on the decline for a while outside of Japan, and because the PS4 userbase is pretty established elsewhere, we have begun shifting toward PS4 development".
An official English and French localization was made by NIS America rather than Xseed Games, who were responsible for the western localizations for the first two Trails of Cold Steel games. The announcement that NIS America was taking over caused some concern among fans, due to their previous, highly criticized work on Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, another Falcom game. The game had been delayed from its original September 2019 release date in North America and Europe until October 22. A Nintendo Switch port by Engine Software was released in 2020 for Japan on March 19, for North America and Europe on June 30 and in Oceania on July 7. A Microsoft Windows version was released on March 23 the same year, ported by Engine Software and PH3 Games.
After the positive reception of the first two Trails of Cold Steel entries, journalists were generally enthusiastic for the prospect of a third entry, though many lamented the lack of a Vita version of the game. It received "generally favorable reviews" according to Metacritic.
NintendoWire reviews praised the "naturally brilliant" soundtrack, but did note it wasn't the easiest game for those unfamiliar with prior storylines in other games. Frontline JP praised the "strong narrative and exhaustive worldbuilding", as well as a "fun battle system" and payoff for long-term fans. It did criticism dated graphics, and stated previous soundtracks in the series had been stronger. It gave it a score of 90/100.
Trails of Cold Steel III debuted as the best selling game in its week of release in Japan, selling 87,261 copies. This was a significant drop from the 151,781 units Cold Steel II had sold in its first week. Media Create attributed this decline to the lack of a PlayStation Vita version. Despite this, Dengeki's sales reports still estimated that approximately 80% of the game's physical stock was sold at launch, and Falcom announced that the game had the highest digital game sales in the series as well, as of October 2017.
- 英雄伝説 閃の軌跡III, Eiyū Densetsu: Sen no Kiseki Surī
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