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The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III Review

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III Review

Disclaimer: This is a continuous series spanning many games and is my first entry in the series. Playing the previous games may alter your experience with this game.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III is the latest in a long running series of Japanese RPGs from developer Nihon Falcom known also for the Ys series. Starting in 1989 with Dragon Slayer: The Legend of Heroes its popularity rose in the west thanks to 2011’s PSP release The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky. The series finds itself telling the story of the country of Erebonia from the perspective of many different characters through different wars. Though the whole series is interlinked it is split into several arcs or chapters, similar to watching your favourite series of anime. The Trails of Cold Steel arc focuses on a young man named Rean Schwarzer, the military school Thors and particularly those of his Class VII.

Begins with our lead Rean starting his new job as instructor at Thors Military Academy and his adventures in training a new Class VII. If you have played the series prior you will see many friendly faces at the school, seeing classmates, main characters and even villains from previous games join your insanely large cast. Not to worry if you are new though, the game does provide a handy section on the title screen for you to read up on what happened in the previous two games and to familiarise yourself with all of the old characters while you’re there.

For a good portion of the game you will be spending time as Rean completing a set of missions with your Special Operations class of three students: Juna Crawford, Kurt Vander and Altina Orion. You will discover their opinions of our hero and the actions he’s taken throughout the previous games as well as seeing the political fallout of war through the eyes of innocents now conscripted. It is an interesting concept and works similarly to Fire Emblem: Three Houses, the biggest issue with the story though is that this is not a complete experience.

Trails of Cold Steel III spends a lot of time building its world and characters and not a lot of time telling the actual story. There are hours upon hours of dialogue, most of which doesn’t contribute to the story itself but works to build upon the characters or the world of the game. Falcom spend the majority of their time creating a realistic supporting cast to the point where it seemingly neglects its major characters for the sake of this world building element. Erebonia is a fantastically deep place, filled to the brim with well written characters and it makes sense for the game to want to spend the time building this place but it gets to the point where 40 hours in, nothing has actually happened.

The game generally plays out in a series of four chapter loops. You start the chapter talking to your students and training, you then go on a field exercise in which you are forced to do some fetch quests for citizens and kill some monsters, you get in trouble and someone off screen says “Not so fast!” or “That is not needed” and a group of existing characters turn up to save you. Rean then tells his students that they are bad and can’t come with him while he goes on a serious mission with his old friends, only his new students turn up anyway while about five minutes of actual story gets told to us and then everyone goes home, repeat.

The problem with this kind of storytelling is that while there are some exciting scenes sprinkled here and there, for the vast amount of the game there is nothing going on at all bar a series of generic anime antics followed by a fight scene and a giant mech battle. It isn’t until the end of chapter three where the story itself starts to pick up with a predictable plot twist and it isn’t until near the end of chapter four when the story really gets interesting. That’s not to say there aren’t interesting moments or characters before that point: for example, one of the students Ash Carbide begins as a fascinating character and remains that way throughout the events of the game,and his story is part of what creates the great and often darker moments. It is a shame because even though the ending scenes of the game are fantastic and the final twists and turns are wonderfully written and acted it is frustrating how long it takes to get there and how much random nonsense you need to endure to experience one of the most shocking cliffhanger endings in years.

Frustrating is the word of the day though. Not only does Trails of Cold Steel III have too many characters to keep track of, it also has too many mechanics. As well as having all of your basic equipment it has a materia-like system to increase your stats and dictate which spells you can use. In combat the game has a shield break and stagger mechanic, combat links and tactics and out of combat there’s cooking, fishing, horses, bikes and even a whole unique collectible card game. There is so much here to get your head around but hardly any of it is needed. While none of these mechanics or design decisions are implemented badly it may have been better for the developers to focus on perfecting and implementing fewer mechanics than to just throw everything at the game and see what sticks.

Other than spending time listening to people talk you will spend a good amount of your time in combat. This is very standard JRPG faire, taking notes from Final Fantasy X using a similar conditional turn-based system which sees your party’s turn order change depending on the amount of delay on your actions. For example, using items has less delay than casting a very powerful spell and so it is likely that if Rean uses an item, his turn will come around again sooner. The menu design for combat is wonderful, reminiscent of Persona 5 in that instead of trawling through text windows every action is assigned to one of the face buttons on the DualShock 4 and the combat itself is very simplistic in the way it is designed in order to make sense. You can move your characters around an arena, attack or use spells and send out orders to give your characters further buffs to increase your damage output against bosses with an enormous amount of HP. There is some challenge early in the game before you have your full party,as well as late game when the bosses become tough enough to survive a round of spamming your super moves, but for the most part the combat is quite un-engaging, even in some of the more spectacular looking fights.

Visually, the game looks fine: it is clearly not taking advantage of the power of the PlayStation 4 but the character models are crisp and well designed, even if some of the environments are lacking texture and details. The animation as well mostly exists to serve a function and is fine, a lot of the characters seem particularly stiff though not in every area. Clearly a lot of detail has gone into each individual character’s super move, each one looking like it has been stripped straight from a manga or anime show. I must take a line here to say that there are also breast physics in this game. Take this how you will, but most of the men are built the same way while the women are either children or walking around with spine destroying watermelons strapped to their chest, some are both.

In terms of audio presentation the soundtrack is also mostly unimpressive, though there are some standout tracks in the final area and in other places it again is mostly functional. The acting is usually quite good however the game can’t decide whether it wants to do voice acting or not. Some scenes having acting and others being text only is not new and there is no issue with this being the case, however there are plenty of scenes in the game where some characters are fully voiced while other characters are not. It isn’t a huge criticism but the inconsistency is strange to hear one character say something and then have to read the reply due to lack of voiceover.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III is a frustrating game; there are very high highs but the general makeup of the game seems designed to merely waste your time. There are other games that can tell the exact same story in 10, potentially 20 hours where this can take up to 40 hours for even a hint of story to be told. The focus on world building is admirable and they do a very good job of creating a world that feels inhabited with well defined characters, but it is very difficult to recommend this game because by its very nature the payoff never arrives. If you are already into The Legend of Heroes series then it is likely you will already know whether or not you’re getting this game. If you are not, I wouldn’t recommend you start here unless you like hours of frustrating dialogue with no pay off.

6.00/10 6

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III (Reviewed on PlayStation 4)

Game is enjoyable, outweighing the issues there may be.

If you are already into the series then it is likely you will already know whether or not you’re getting this game. If you are not, I wouldn’t recommend you start here unless you like hours of frustrating dialogue with no pay off.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Adam Hurd

Adam Hurd

Staff Writer

Official person who does things, probably likes the weird games you don't.

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COMMENTS

CactuarFan
CactuarFan - 10:06pm, 23rd October 2019

I don't know why you were the person to review this game when you have no background in this series. Your entire review sounds like someone who wanted to rush through the game as fast as possible because your boss shoved it onto you, so you just put it on easy and went on your merry way. You complain about jumping into an 8th game out of 9 interconnected games so far that constantly build on top of each other and not understanding what makes these characters so likable and great. I'm sorry you had to suffer through this fantastic game and I hope your boss doesn't force you to play another game in a series you have zero knowledge in.

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Veldt Falsetto
Veldt Falsetto - 10:37pm, 23rd October 2019 Author

I, foolishly, picked up the code when I saw no one else was taking it because I'd heard great things about the series and wanted to try it out. I'll admit that if I was already familiar with the series and characters I'd probably get more out of it but that doesn't change the game's pacing issues and lack of closure. A 6 is a positive score and I was leaning towards a 7 but, I think by the nature of the series, it's never going to be a standalone experience and I could never recommend it to someone new to the series. It's a 6 because unless you're already invested in the world, you shouldn't buy this and the quality of the world building doesn't save it.

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CactuarFan
CactuarFan - 11:18pm, 23rd October 2019

A 6 is above average in a normal person's mind(5 being average) so ya I would say it's a positive score.

At least you are honest about your lack of knowledge regarding this series and why you were the one who did this review and for that I commend you. 

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Donald
Donald - 03:53am, 10th February 2020

There is a correlation between "not playing any of the other games" and the score that you gave. You atleast need Cold Steel I and II. The "unnecessary" things that you mentioned are things that are established in the first game and built upon in the second and third games. Likewise with the combat and the people. Technology advances over the course of the game. The gameplay builds upon itself to account for the technological advances and the power boosts of the characters (to stay consistent with the story). So no nothing was just thrown in to see what sticks (and some of those were optional mini games anyway). Not to mention that you wrecked some awesome twists for yourself from the two early games. Lastly, the story and the world building is the biggest seller for this series. It is a game with a large story spanning entire countries and as of CS3 is not done yet. You started in the middle of a book and stopped before reading the end of it. The dialogue (not all voiced as it is incredibly text heavy) is very important to the game going as far as allowing you to figure out the future of the story before it is directly told to you.... if you remember and pay attention. And you have a problem with anime and their cliches despite reviewing a JRPG... All of that aside, atleast you did complete the game. If you do actually enjoy JRPGs (instead of only suffering through them because work) I suggest that you atleast give Cold Steel I and then Cold Steel II a try. You will appreciate Cold Steel 3 better and catch alot of foreshadowing that you missed. Even the ingame books are relevant. No other game provides an entire experience for the price of $60... and we have too many shady business practices in the gaming industry to not give credit to the ones who do it all right. IMO the Legend of Heroes series delivers a great overall gaming experience in all areas that no other game nor gaming company even comes close to. And I play a lot of games of all types and I only discovered Falcom's games last year.

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Ace Zero
Ace Zero - 01:40am, 24th October 2019

"This is my first entry in the series" Alright imma head out

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Emi
Emi - 09:41pm, 26th October 2019

Hahahaha my thoughts exactly

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Ng Kai Teck
Ng Kai Teck - 03:22am, 10th November 2019

TLDR: NIS America is a liar. Bad marketing towards the Western market. One can't start trails of cold steel 3 before previous games. Heck, it's not even Cold steel 1&2. One is expected to play all the previous 7 games. In the middle of Cold steel 2, there is a chapter hinting that you should play Zero&Ao before continuing as it will be a direct sequel. It is not just 'may alter', it is 'definitely alter' the experience.

You're definitely lost. Cold steel 3 is not even a slow game... There are so many things going on that you have to process it with the knowledge of the previous games. It's not just needed to understand Cold steel 3 game story, but also the stories back in Sky and Crossbell as their stories have not ended yet and Cold steel 3 is meant to be the sequel of them.

I'm not exactly sure why you'd start with '3'. Majority would at least google'd if they have to start with '1'.

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Veldt Falsetto
Veldt Falsetto - 03:29pm, 12th November 2019 Author

There's definitely a point about NIS America's marketing stating you can or even should start with this game, that's 100% not the case and I'm sure anyone can tell you that too.

I do have an issue with the company wanting you to play every game in the series in order to "get" the story (not that it's particularly complicated) especially when at least two of these games are Japan only and tie into this game directly. Even moreso when (during my research) the game expects you to have finished new game + of the previous game to even start this one. I have some very strong opinions about that being terrible for this being a standalone game.

I was definitely not lost, I read the summaries of the previous two games that are included with this game as well as familiarised myself with the important characters. What I was, was bored. The game spends a lot of time in unimportant dialogue sections, especially towards the start of the game. It has taken some people 40 hours to finish chapter one and in my experience about 75% of chapter one is just dialogue about how Rean feels uncertain in himself as a new teacher and 15% is just the same dungeon three times.

6 is a positive score and I gave this game a positive score because I can see through the flaws at the very obvious good points in the game but as an overall, stand alone product, it is very difficult to reccomend and this comments section is proof of that.

For anyone who has already made up their minds, there is no point in this review even existing. I'm not here to just agree with you about a game. I'm here to advise people who have never heard of this game before whether or not they should buy it and in my opinion - "Game is enjoyable, outweighing the issues there may be." - the caveat is that if you haven't played the previous games and have some intelligence, you will probably spend most of this game bored and feeling patronised by the way it tries to conceal characters you already know.

I played 3 first because I had heard of the series and this was up for review and nobody else was taking it. I treated the game impartially and judged it as a stand-alone product. Not sure how else I should have approached this, I even did my research.

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Ishmelga
Ishmelga - 01:00am, 5th December 2019

Amen brother

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Ishmelga
Ishmelga - 01:03am, 5th December 2019

Oops wrong comment chain. CSIII is amazing. You need to play the previous games before playing it.

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Ishmelga
Ishmelga - 01:59am, 5th December 2019

"The problem is, a significant portion of the game’s time is spent dealing with the fallout of events that happened in previous games. Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 lose a lot of impact if you haven’t played Trails in the Sky and the Crossbell duology respectively. They’re still enjoyable in their own right, I’m sure, but what might not feel like padding to me – due to having the context behind these events – might just feel like padding to someone else, that just wouldn’t resonate with them nearly as much. "

- https://www.rpgsite.net/review/9078-the-legend-of-heroes-trails-of-cold-steel-iii-review

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ChrisNeffa
ChrisNeffa - 05:31am, 24th October 2019

I can see how scoring this game would be tricky. There's really no way to recommend it to someone who hasn't at least played part I & II, and it's better still to have played all of the previous 7 parts. I just don't like the idea of holding that against it in review score. ... Paticularly when you've got JJ Abrams going on about how Rise of Skywalker needs to be a stand alone movie that anyone can enjoy with no preivous knowledge. No, it's part 9 .. go watch the other movies first. The trails series might acquiesce a little bit, but it goes on pretty full with the need for familiarity. I applaud that. ...also, having recently played Tales of Vesperia for the first time and experiencing all the massive dialogue bloat in that, and how common dialogue bloat is these days, I've come to appreciate how well written the Trails games generally are on this front.

I'd give the battle system full marks too. I did a replay of Suikoden II a few months back and beat it on Autobattle save for some bosses. It's still a masterpiece of a game, but really ... sometimes rose tinted glasses cover for just how many RPGs new and old lack much actual strategical depth. The Trails combat is well above average compared to its peers.

I would submit that the key element regarding the graphics is art design. I don't want to slag on the Tales games too much, but they can sometimes be the bleeding definition of average grade art design. The trails games certainly aren't Final Fantasy VII, but it's above average ... and I might say the same fot the music. At the very least, it strikes me that I can remember character names, and the look of places, and hum tunes in my head from one game or another in the series even if I haven't played it in months or years.

I mean really, how often do we ever remember the names of characters unless it's Cloud & Barret and co?

I suppose 6 is technically above average, but it just feels a bit like if this is a 6, then what is a 5? A lot of pretty solid games I don't remember nearly as well.

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Veldt Falsetto
Veldt Falsetto - 07:21am, 24th October 2019 Author

I think that I should hold it up for not being standalone. I'm not reviewing this game to backup the opinions of people who already love it but to advise people whether to buy it or not and I just can't recommend it because it doesn't have a beginning, middle and end. I appreciate the overarching narrative but I agree that it's important new people are able to enjoy something too, like the Marvel movies. You're perfectly able to jump in at Infinity War and get a full standalone film with these overarching plot points and cameos but with actual story structure. It's fantastic that Trails does this but it's a double edged sword. I feel like Cold Steel III has a serious pacing problem. There is bloat in games like Tales of Vesperia but it still gets into the story quicker. Yuri needs to go get the water blasts, stuff happens along the way. Cold Steel III never has that. Rean is now a professor, go do some dungeons while we throw characters at you. There are big story moments at the end of each chapter but until the end of chapter 3 they're just a different set of bad guys messing with you for reasons that'll be made clear at the very end of the game. When the story does get going, the end of chapter 3, end of chapter 4 and final chapter, it's great. I was really drawn in to the links between what's happening and the new characters but then the game just ends, mid scene. I found the combat enjoyable but I didn't think it was massively interesting or above the curve. I like the way it kind of evolves the way Final Fantasy X did things but I didn't get that strategic depth, maybe on hard mode it's there. I played on normal. See, the main cast here like Juna, Ash and Musse I will probably remember well enough but I feel like I've already forgotten half of the old class VII because they exist in this game as super powered cameos and not much else. None of them receive any development, they just turn up, help you beat up the bad guy and leave. Taking it back to Tales, the sound design there is usually forgettable but I still remember every character from Symphonia, Vesperia and Xillia and even Berseria to some extent. There are other Tales games I think don't work, I keep calling two or three different characters Asbel and I can't even remember their actual names. Old class VII doesn't matter to me because I never played I and II, and they don't do anything interesting here to make them matter. I think Cold Steel III is a good game. I personally was leaning towards a 7 but after re-reading my review and gathering my thoughts about the game, the way it sometimes treats the player as stupid by making characters we already know say something off screen and pretend we don't know who said it or the way it ends abruptly during a very exciting scene with no actual closure or proper ending, I just found it more frustrating than enjoyable. I get that I'm approaching the game from an angle that doesn't work due to the series history but considering Falcom's comments saying this is a good place to start, I'm sure there will be people who do start here and I want to show that it's a valid perspective. If you played and love the games before this one you don't need a review because you're already going to get Cold Steel III and IV and I think new players need to be warned or prepared that if they do buy this game first, they'll likely be disappointed.

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Ishmelga
Ishmelga - 01:07am, 5th December 2019

Falcom did not recommend new players to play CSIII as their first entry. NISA did.

Their rash decision of marketing this game to new players is understandable in terms of economics and income, but utterly stupid in a story perspective

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FireFistYK
FireFistYK - 06:11pm, 24th October 2019

I'm gonna be blatantly honest here, you shouldn't have played the 3rd entry in an arc in which this is its 8th game in the series. Heck, the problem with new people getting into trails is that the community always tells people to play 7 games prior to this, which is a turn off I'll admit. 

But a game, in my opinion, should be judged on what it is and what it tries to do and not on what it is not. It is not a game that you would enjoy as a first in the series because most of the enjoyment comes from prior knowledge and the 100s of hours you've put into the world and its characters. The lord of the rings is a LONG novel and you can't expect it to entertain you if you jump into the third book, because this is what the series is. 

The trails series doesn't set out to revolutionize the industry and it's not a masterpiece at first glance. What Falcom has done that's so amazing is that they've created a more alive world than you'll ever see in another video game. All of the NPCs have a life and their own story that you can explore if you want to, the world is ever-changing, throughout the games you see certain events from different countries' perspectives which can alter your thoughts and feelings towards certain events. 

A valid point that you have is that the series overall has pacing issues, but honestly, I didn't feel any issues with the pacing in this game. And again, this has to do with the fact that I have played all the games in the series so far. When you get the Hamel in chapter 1 for example, it had a huge and I mean HUGE emotional impact on me because one of the main characters of the previous games was a survivor. And the same thing can be said for Crossbell because the previous arc was set in the Crossbell state. 

I'm not gonna sugar coat anything if someone wants to see why people hold this series in such high regard, you will have to play all the games. If you don't want to put so many hours into it, it's completely understandable and I'm fine with that. But you shouldn't expect to understand why this series is so highly regarded than because I said already. You can't jump into a story halfway through and expect the payoff to be the same for you as it is to fans of the series. This is also why the games will always remain niche. 

The least you could do is play cold steel 1 and 2, but just jumping into the 3rd one and expect it to deliver on all fronts. Sorry that's not gonna happen

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Eosh
Eosh - 07:34pm, 24th October 2019

Totally agree. Before diving into a third entry it's recommended someone play the first two. Bare minimum, watch a story synopsis to get a sense of what you're getting into.

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Veldt Falsetto
Veldt Falsetto - 08:50pm, 24th October 2019 Author

I still enjoyed the game to a point, it just didn't blow me away as I was expecting from what I've heard. I did read the two in game summaries of the story so far so I did have an idea of the characters and world but of course no emotional connection. I do praise and acknowledge the work made on the world building and NPCs though I feel this game doesn't go far enough with its main characters. For the sake of spoilers I'm not going to mention but the Hamel thing should have worked because even our new characters have a connection. Juna's from Crossbell and all that really means is she doesn't like Rean so much at first. Even later on in the game her own personal narrative isn't explored deep enough considering how big a deal it is for her character, the same can be said for Kurt who only really gets a little bit of character development and is mostly just along for the ride. I may in future at least play the other two Cold Steel games cause I can see the good parts of the game but I do think there are still underlying issues here that bother me, I'm assuming Cold Steel IV fixes one or both of these big issues but then again it may not.

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Ishmelga
Ishmelga - 01:05am, 5th December 2019

Reading story summaries is completely different from playing the game itself.

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Acelister
Acelister - 06:19pm, 24th October 2019

It's unfortunate that this isn't more "newbie" friendly when the bigger-named JRPGs create their own self-contained stories, resulting in a much more accessible experience.

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Ace Zero
Ace Zero - 10:58am, 17th November 2019

Kingdom Hearts exist.

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Veldt Falsetto
Veldt Falsetto - 12:17pm, 17th November 2019 Author

And this is a huge part of why Kingdom Hearts III was disappointing. The best games in that series, II and Birth By Sleep, have their own very well contained stories that just so happen to link up well with an overarching narrative. Kingdom Hearts is at its worst when it does exactly what my issues about this game are.

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Ace Zero
Ace Zero - 02:37pm, 17th November 2019

I don't really have any problem with the pace and still enjoying it all the way, the dialog can drag on for too long but i'm already used with this type of heavy text game. I can see your point, but your criticsm is ridiculous. I mean whose idea is it that you can just jump into the 8th game of the series and the 3rd sequel of Erebonia arc without even played any of the previous game? What a misleading marketing. I know many people will complain about it, but hey, sometimes you just need to make that comitment if you really want to follow a series. Cold Steel 1 was quite unpleasant for me at first, but the game slowly got me hooked with the franchise and i can't help but to play all of the previous title after that (totally worth it). The problem is that you see this game as a standalone experience instead of a continuation of the third arc of Zemuria story. Even after 9 game, the whole story of this series is not even 50% done, so the slow pacing is just a way to get people more infested with the character interaction and development.

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Veldt Falsetto
Veldt Falsetto - 04:53pm, 17th November 2019 Author

I think, particularly in video games, that it's worth pointing out that this isn't a standalone game and seeing the value of the game fall because of that. I'm looking, specifically would I recommend this game in a vacuum and I can't say I would, even though it is enjoyable. I still think I'd have issues with it if I was invested, the game isn't this perfect masterpiece people seem to suggest it is. Glad you're enjoying it though! The game really gets interesting towards the end. If you're invested I'm sure it'll be doubly so for you.

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Ishmelga
Ishmelga - 01:22am, 5th December 2019

If you have time, I would recommend you to go and play the entire trails series (from sky Fc - CS II) [Crossbell included]. 

I have finished all trails games (including CSIV) and I can tell you that Trails series is equal to, if not, better than persona series, except for persona 3.

Persona 3 is too special of a game to be ranked.

CSIII was designed to be a game for people who already played the previous titles. The "meaningless content" that you continue to complain about are actually quite significant if you actually understood the plot. 

For example, the "saving of Rean and his students when they get in trouble" is quite the negative trope, but its significance still stands as introductions of older, more grown up old Class 7 members. After the melancholic ending of CS2, old class 7 was disbanded and only Rean was the only class 7 member left in Thors military academy main branch, so these sequences in CSIII are highly significant and evokes emotion in old players. (If you're new, then you'll just be like: "ok cool, but why should I care?") The problem with this is that most of the old class 7 members had their developments in the previous games, so they are not really developed in CS III (That being said, the cliffhanger ending has evoked more character development for old class 7 members, but it can only be appreciated by people who played the previous games. Example: Millium's death. Old fans would tear themselves apart and cry themselves to sleep while new players will just be like "ok that happened."

Yes the formula is a bit repetitive (getting in trouble then using mech at the end), but it makes a lot of sense in a story point of view. (Can't say why or else CS IV spoilers) 

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Ishmelga
Ishmelga - 01:41am, 5th December 2019

Another example is Rean and others visiting "Hamel village" in chapter 1

You might not know this but it is extremely significant to the plot of trails series. 

1. It is directly related to the plot of trails in the sky. Both Joshua (mc of sky) and Loewe (can be considered as  central antagonist of trails in the sky as well as fan favorite character) hail from Hamel. Sky described the tragedy that occurred here in brutal detail, and it is intrinsic to the plot of Sky. Needless to say, if Hamel did not exist, trails in the sky would have never had happened

2. The broken blade in front of the stone in Hamel is a callback of when Loewe sacrificed himself to help Joshua and Estelle defeat Aureole-Weissman (main antagonist as well as final boss).

3. Ouroburos members paying their respects to Loewe also serves as important developments to their character arc. On one hand, you have Duvalie. She is portrayed as a prideful, arrogant, and somewhat-tsundere type of a character who can be considered as childish. She was mainly a comedic character in CSII. This scene, however, reveals to the player that she was also in a similar situation as Joshua and Loewe, adding more character depth and development, showing that even a comedic character like Duvalie can have tragic pasts. Second of all is Shirley Orlando. This is extremely important to her character arc. In ao no kiseki, she is portrayed as a senseless killer who disregards morality and values to "have fun" in the battlefield. She never hesitated to kill people and even committed the atrocity of cutting down a chandelier to drop it onto innocent Crossbellian dancers from Arc en Ciel with the intent to kill them (Sully and Illya), just to enrage another dancer from Arc en Ciel called "Rixia Mao", whose secret identity was "Assasin Yin" of "Heiyue", to attack her and "have fun in the battlefield". In the end Illya saved Sully but was gravely injured. After committing this terrible act, Shirley did not flinch and laughed as she battled the now enraged "Rixia Mao". Such a senseless character right? Seeing even Shirley paying her respects to Loewe made greater developments into her character.

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John Smith
John Smith - 04:10am, 25th October 2019

Well thought out games with interesting stories and characters get a 6 but cliched open world cash ins like GTA V get a 9.5 from the site. I guess you have to pay the bills somehow so it's disappointing to see game journalism fall so low. Have a little more respect for your profession.

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Acelister
Acelister - 08:22am, 25th October 2019

If any company had ever paid for a good review, don't you think that someone would have blown the whistle by now?

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Veldt Falsetto
Veldt Falsetto - 09:36am, 25th October 2019 Author

Hah, my review for GTAV would be far more controversial than this as I don't really like GTA. It's just a matter of different reviewers having different opinions. My GTAV review would be different than the one already on the site, just as your Cold Steel III review would be different from mine.

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Ishmelga
Ishmelga - 01:45am, 5th December 2019

What you don't get is that your "opinionated review" brings down Cold Steel 3's overall metacritic score

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Wowky
Wowky - 09:02am, 6th December 2019

If a reviewer is reviewing a single game in a series, why is it their responsibility to go and buy and play ALL the other games in the series before hand? They've been tasked with reviewing THIS game. 

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Michael Novack
Michael Novack - 01:58pm, 6th December 2019

I think it was irresponsible in part of his bosses to task him to review this game, and illustrates the site's credibility and lack of awareness of how the series is structured. As i've mentioned numerous times in this thread, multiple other--and far more established game media sites--chose to simply publish an article stating that the game should not be played without playing previous entries in the series. Moreover, unlike this site, they didn't slap a mediocre review score to the title to illustrate that point, like this site did.

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Danreb
Danreb - 04:08pm, 6th December 2019

He wasn't tasked with it.  He volunteered to do it.

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Michael Novack
Michael Novack - 05:06pm, 6th December 2019

And? He could've told his superiors that he couldn't, in good conscience, provide an unbiased review without at least playing previous entries. Or, as I've stated in every post, wrote an article simply stating that it's not a "buy" without playing previous said entries.  I'm sure those other reviewers who from other sites took this exact route were tasked with doing the same, in lieu of slapping a negative review that does nothing  but incentivize click-baiting.

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Veldt Falsetto
Veldt Falsetto - 05:22pm, 6th December 2019 Author

I'm gonna be real here. What I've done is write an objective review, with absolutely no preconceived bias towards or against the series and because what I've said doesn't line up with the people who already love the series and have a very strong bias towards it I'm "out of line", "click-baiting" or just plain stupid as some of you are inferring. That's not the case. Reviews are not here to back up what fans of a series already think, it is to inform people whether or not they should buy or play this standalone product. I believe I have made it very clear in my review that this, as a standalone product, is good but has issues and that if you were to play this game, you need to do it after playing at least the other two, which I feel is not a positive to the game.

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Michael Novack
Michael Novack - 05:23pm, 6th December 2019

Which is worse, and speaks volumes. It showcases his lack of credibility as a reviewer.

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Veldt Falsetto
Veldt Falsetto - 05:33pm, 6th December 2019 Author

(Sigh), not really. I did a lot of research before starting the game and familiarised myself with the story as much as possible. It's important that I approach all my reviews in the same way, as unbiased as possible. That's what I did here but the fact that you expect me to just agree with you and that a 6 isn't positive, says a lot about what game reviews are like right now. I took an unbiased approach to a new game, I used the full 1-10 scale when attempting to grade it. If other platforms have not done this, it is them who's credibility should be questioned.

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Michael Novack
Michael Novack - 05:49pm, 6th December 2019

I'm not saying that is what other reviewers have done. I'm saying that other reviewers who received a review code, and who hd not played the other entries in the series (same boat you were in), chose not to review it.  In lieu of a review, they wrote in an article explaining that, in good conscience, they could not provide an accurate review without experiencing previous entries. To me, that is a far more credible course of action to take than the one you chose.

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Michael Novack
Michael Novack - 05:53pm, 6th December 2019

That, is the true unbiased action to take. You, yourself even admitted that you were foolish to review it in hindsight, yet you did it anyway.

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Veldt Falsetto
Veldt Falsetto - 05:57pm, 6th December 2019 Author

I don't think I need to play every game in a series to accurately review a game. Also, I was foolish because for my own enjoyments sake it would have been nice to experience what you guys did. I actually really like JRPGs, I play a lot of them, probably played most of the titles released this generation. It's sad that I couldn't find the 10/10 this game clearly is...

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Michael Novack
Michael Novack - 06:06pm, 6th December 2019

As someone who has plaid the entirety of the series, it's a solid 8.5 from me. If you look at rankings from fans of the series TOCS III is consistently rated the highest to second highest in the TOCS arc.  Just researching the backstory really doesn't do it justice. It's hard to summarize what equates to 1.6 million characters of text within a single game, without experiencing the other 2.4 million characters of text within the previous two entries.

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Danreb Victorio
Danreb Victorio - 03:11am, 26th October 2019

I applaud your honestly in having said you've never tried the series out, but if this was on a volunteer basis, there's no harm in passing.  It's not like there's a lack of good games to play, and any Trails fan would applaud you willing to try it out, but like any good series, there's a foundation.  I review games as well.  When I found out I was doing the Crisis Core review, I went back and played FF7 and didn't feel that strongly about it.

You mention that you can jump into Infinity War and still be entertained.  While that's true, there's no possible way you'd enjoy yourself or appreciate it as much as someone that actually invested the time and money to the other games. MCU is the wrong comparison.  This is pretty much like jumping into Lord of the Rings: Two Towers having not seen Fellowship.  It's just head-scratching, and it feels like you're punishing the game because of a decision that you made yourself.

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Veldt Falsetto
Veldt Falsetto - 11:57am, 26th October 2019 Author

I thought it was important to mention that it was my first time because I did a bit of research and did go over the story of the last two games at least. In my original draft I mentioned that I was also reviewing this game from that position knowing there would be other people out there, interested in the game but who had never played the series before. I suppose I am "punishing" it a bit for not being a self contained story but I think when it comes to $50 purchases, I need to be very clear that you should not buy this game if you haven't at least played the previous two. I think that comes across in the review.

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Lmao
Lmao - 03:43am, 26th October 2019

Well...cs 3 is the damn prologue...the real game is cs4....just like cs 1 is the prologue for cs2...so yeah the story kinda slow but im cs4..the story will become more fast

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Veldt Falsetto
Veldt Falsetto - 11:58am, 26th October 2019 Author

Not trying to be silly but it does kinda feel this way and I don't think that's a positive in it's favour. It may make Cold Steel IV better but it doesn't help Cold Steel III.

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Ishmelga
Ishmelga - 01:58am, 5th December 2019

The problem with your view is that 

1. Players should NEVER start with CS3

2. Even though CS3 cliffhanger will make you want to play CS4...

Playing CS4 without knowledge of the previous entries is pure suicide. 

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Michael Novack
Michael Novack - 01:10am, 27th October 2019

At least Kotaku had the integrity not to push out a review for the very reasons you held against the game in your review.  Their resident "Trails" expert, Jason Schrier was out on vacation.  So instead of rushing out a review by someone unfamiliar with the series, they wrote an article simply stating it's not reccommended for new comers. Moreover, they stated that it's nearly impossible to get into without playing the previous entries in the series, which is true; any Legend of Heroes fan knows this. Reveiws affect sales. Yeah, fans of the series will purchase and play it despite your review that shouldn't have been your review.  However, it also can prevent new comers trying this remarkable series out.  Review should have never been published. 

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Veldt Falsetto
Veldt Falsetto - 10:37am, 27th October 2019 Author

Although I've never played any of the Trails games before, I would classify myself as something of a JRPG expert and I know what makes a good game and what doesn't. I have issues with the game that aren't affected by me not playing the previous games and I think that having not played the previous games you shouldn't buy this one. I say in my review "don't start here." Yes, I feel as though the game not being a complete product is an issue and I feel like having to buy 3 other games at least is not a positive. I'll state here for you. If you've an interest in Trails, don't start with Cold Steel III. Play Cold Steel I and if you dig it buy the next three.

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Michael Novack
Michael Novack - 04:05pm, 27th October 2019

I totally agree with you, as well as numerous others out there, that this game shouldn't be played before the other titles in the series.  However, you ignored what I noted in my previous post that a simple article (that numerous other publications have done) would have sufficed in lieu of a review. Heck, the first two games in the Trails in the Sky trilogy were originally planned be be released as one game that needed to be released as two because it was so massive. A touch of research would have told you what this series is about and what it demands of its players. While I do agree with you that the slow plot-buildup is definitely not for everyone, the undertones of your review seemed to be more focused at pointing out that it's a garbage game because you have to play the others in the series.  I stand by my previous point by suggesting a simple article in lieu of a review would have gotten your point across.  Instead, you indicated this by giving the game a mediocre review score, which could turn away future newcomers to the series. Finally, let's  be honest by pointing out that no consumer looks at a 6 and sees it as an "Above Average" review. You could state that it is one until you're blue in the face, but no one sees it as such.

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Veldt Falsetto
Veldt Falsetto - 04:23pm, 27th October 2019 Author

If it answers your point, we were given a code for review, it didn't occur to me to write an article on the game because it was outlined as for review. What I would suggest is that Cold Steel III is not content rich and pads its length out with unnecessary dungeons and makes the cameos of previous characters more important than the story it is trying to tell. I came away from the game thinking that unless IV is particularly intensive, Cold Steel III and IV could have been one game and been a lot better for it by focusing on the pace of the narrative and some heavy editing. This isn't a four game story, at best it's a two game story. I did my research, I read up on the previous games and in my opinion this game could have been half the length and not suffered for it. This is also not a review of the series as a whole but as this one standalone $50 product. I don't think it's a problem to tell people, "This game is good but it suffers as a story because it doesn't have a complete narrative arc within. Never did I say it was garbage, not once have I said the game is even bad and I'd suggest people read the review instead of the score. I've only ever said it's a good game with a lot of story issues that would potentially be sorted if they had deigned to complete a narrative arc within one title as opposed to releasing a game where nothing happens because it's either already happened or it will later.

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Wowky
Wowky - 09:04am, 6th December 2019

If you need to play all the other games in the series before this one and that fans would buy it anyway, then how would a review stating that you can't start with this game affect sales of the game? Surely someone potentially interested in the series would just start with the first game based on what has been said here, and eventually arrive at this entry.

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Michael  Novack
Michael Novack - 04:39pm, 27th October 2019

That's a fair point, I suppose. I will admit, there are times within the series, that they could have cut down on plot for any entry within the series. There are times when it can be rather exhausting to get through. Additionally, I believe budgetary constraints are an issue for Falcom, so packing everything into one game wasn't an option for them. It's also fair to say that the series is rather niche, even within the RPG community. It's formula is largely based upon heavy exposition, that requires patience to get through, to view it's juicy story bits. At time the pay off in each chapter can come rather late.  As a fan, I'm loving the call-backs to characters and locations from previous series entries,  as it's rather cool to say "holy crap, that's such-and-such from Trails in the sky 2." That feeling is largely lost on newcomers that deign to dive in head first out-of-order.  Anyway, I appreciate the expanded rationale on your review.  I know that most publications don't allow a lot of wiggle room in that regard.

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Veldt Falsetto
Veldt Falsetto - 04:50pm, 27th October 2019 Author

I praise the game for it's ambition and what it does well with world building. I think Trails is a fantastic example of creating a world that feels lived in that has deep and interesting NPCs and I really enjoyed the big story bits but I felt they were too few and far apart. In regards to the call backs, I get why the old class or even Randolph from the (Japanese exclusive) Crossbell games are very cool to see but it becomes very heavy handed when it starts to conceal the identities of characters we already know from earlier in the game, like Rean's sister, only to reveal her a few seconds later. Thank you for your comments.

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Michael  Novack
Michael Novack - 04:57pm, 27th October 2019

Thank you for allowing them.  Most publications don't anymore.

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Bruno Silva
Bruno Silva - 01:57pm, 28th October 2019

Its almost as if you need 400 hours of story and character development from multiple previous games to appreciate a direct sequel, i have only played the demo so far which is the first 1 to 2 hours of the game and that alone is full of callbacks to the other games that you just wouldn'd understand if you didn't play them, i don't mean to just shit on the review or on you tho, this is just a result of an unfortunate situation and you did the best you could do with what you had.

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Veldt Falsetto
Veldt Falsetto - 04:49pm, 28th October 2019 Author

Basically yeah. Think that whether or not you've already put the 400 hours into the story or not is going to change how you view the game and I think that, unfortunately is an issue that's going to be difficult to overlook.

Thanks for being kind though!

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AJ
AJ - 10:36pm, 28th October 2019

Please play the leadup games or delete this trash review.  You were so lost, that is the only reason you felt the pacing was wrong.  You have no right this is not a entry point into this game.  Sorry you got stuck reviewing this but your review is god awful.  The reason it felt like 2 large of a cast is you didnt know a solid 80% of them from previous entries into the series.  I agree no one should pick this game up as a start point into the series, but your review is horrible, play the games leading up to it, or don't review it.

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Veldt Falsetto
Veldt Falsetto - 10:45pm, 28th October 2019 Author

I wasn't lost, the game is quite simple and easy to follow. It's just slow. The cast is large but that's not the issue, 80% of the cast don't provide any role in the game's plot and for the most part aren't even permanent party members until the game ends. I feel like a review from the perspective of someone who doesn't know the series is valid, the majority of the world would be looking at this game not knowing if they should buy it or play it and in my opinion "it is a good game but unless you are already acquainted with the series, you shouldn't buy it." This, I think, is valid criticism.

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AJ
AJ - 12:02am, 29th October 2019

No the stuff your complaining about in the review is the very reason you feel it is slow.  You missed so much, play the leadup games then try to defend that statement, thats all im going to say.

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Ishmelga
Ishmelga - 01:02am, 5th December 2019

Amen brother

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Michael Novack
Michael Novack - 02:34pm, 5th December 2019

Again, that is not a valid reason to slap what most view as a negative number to a review score. Moreover, it's irresponsible to do so. This series isn't arranged as Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy; each numbered entry is self-contained.  You don't feel like the characters are developed enough, because you haven't witnessed their growth throughout the previous entries in the series. Knowing 100% of the context of the in-game character dialog would have dramatically improved your outlook for the title.  Again, multiple media outlets simply published articles without a review score indicating that it is paramount to play the prior entries within the series. You stepped over the line by ignoring this caveat and attaching a mediocre score to what most fans of the series feel is an outstanding entry to the series.

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Poweredupsunflower
Poweredupsunflower - 05:56pm, 13th April 2020

I played trail sky 1,2,3, trail zero(half way) and CS1,2. I love this series very much. Totally a fan. But now, I’m in Chapter 3 of CS3 and I happen to feel bored. I asked myself again and again what’s wrong with me. Why am I feeling so tired to keep going. So I came here looking for review. I feel the same way with the other so far. Still love the game but hate how inefficient the story telling is during chapter 2,3. Btw I love Joshua Bright. He’s so my type.

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Poweredupsunflower
Poweredupsunflower - 06:27am, 14th April 2020

I misspelled 'author' to 'other' there, big mistake. 

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--1593121803
--1593121803 - 10:56pm, 25th June 2020

I played CS I and CS II and stopped there, i'm not the kind of person who would waste another 90+ hours of endless dialogues just to get the 2.5 hours of real story related events. I think this review is exactly what the game deserves.

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