Trails of Cold Steel III | Students and staff at the pool
CS3 | Logo Art
Title The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III
Developer Nihon Falcom
Publisher NIS America
Release Date October 22nd, 2019
Genre JRPG
Platform PS4
Age Rating T for Teen
Official Website

After playing through and reviewing the first two games earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to get the chance to check out the newest entry in the Cold Steel series, The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III, this time localized by NIS America. Before playing Cold Steel III, I had been reading online in old threads that the later titles of each series arc in The Legend of Heroes franchise are where it starts to connect to the larger overarching story. A lot of people who had played the Japanese versions already, or simply have more knowledge of the whole franchise, had recommended for others to first play all five games covering the Liberl and Crossbell events, before starting CS3. As you may or may not know, this was something I was worried about as a newcomer who’s only experienced the first two Cold Steel games before now. Nonetheless, I was excited to catch-up on Class VII’s latest adventures.

CS3 | Rean & Towa on the first day of the new school year
Rean isn’t the only familiar face at the Thors Branch Campus.

Trails of Cold Steel III picks up over a year after the end of CS2. The civil war has ended and due to the turmoil caused by the nobles during the war, they find their power slipping away. While the rest of Class VII graduated a year early and moved on to follow their own personal goals, Rean stayed behind and completed a second year at Thors Military Academy before graduating. By the time CS3 begins, yet another school year is starting. But this year Thors has had its curriculum completely restructured and a brand new branch campus was built in Leeves (a small town near Heimdallr). Rean takes a job at the branch campus as the instructor of a new Class VII. Other events which recently occurred in Erebonia consist of the annexation of both North Ambria and Crossbell. Oh and one thing I want to note before we continue on, is that you cannot carry over any completed save data for extra perks, you’ll have to start fresh.

CS3 | Northern War
Some flashback art of the Northern War which is referenced pretty often.

At the start of the game, I was a little bit lost with everyone constantly referring to this war in North Ambria which led to its annexation. On top of that, there are many significant cameo appearances made by characters from Liberl and Crossbell. In fact, one of the Thors Branch Campus’ students was a party member in the Trails in the Sky series and one of the school’s instructors was one in the, currently Japan only, Crossbell located games. Crossbell is a very important location during Trails of Cold Steel III. It’s referenced a lot more heavily than Liberl and you even get to visit the newly annexed province. Fortunately, I don’t think those past games are as much of a must play to understand CS3 as everyone makes them out to be. Yes, you’ll most definitely appreciate all of the cameos more so if you have played them. And at times you might feel like you’re missing information. Regardless, CS3 is full of info covering what you need to know. Throughout the story you’ll briefly learn more about what happened in those arcs and a little bit about the people who come from them. Also, if for some reason you decide to jump in for the first time with Cold Steel III and you don’t play the initial two entries, there’s a backstory menu on the title screen which is packed full of most of what you need to know from them. Though I do recommend at least playing Cold Steel completely and not hopping into the middle of it. Still, the game is loaded with flashback art which pops up regularly during the story and plenty of must know stuff if you get far enough into it.

CS3 | A practice battle at the academy
I found Panzer Soldat/Divine Knight battles to be the most fun battles in CS3.

As someone who has played CS1 and CS2, I absolutely loved how much they upgraded everything in CS3. You can really tell the difference between the games made to fit on a PlayStation Vita and this new entry created exclusively for the PS4. Everything is so shiny and new. Even the character models, while not the best on the system, look much better than they did before. For example, everyone’s hair is less stiff and seems to have more life to it. I also enjoyed all the new gameplay additions and other little features added here and there. Battles are still the same turn-based affair as before, what with the equipped quartz giving your characters a variety of skills and stats, and being able to link everyone together through their battle orbments as well. Once again, more features have been added in. This time around you can spend your BP in battle to pick from various orders which last any number of turns. Some of these orders’ functions include doing extra break damage, reducing the damage your party takes, healing your party, raising stats, etc. Not only that, but there are a ton more mech battles to have fun with in Cold Steel III. Oh and I can’t forget another minor, but super important addition – optional sidequests actually being marked on the map. In the previous games, there were always occasional hidden quests throughout and you only found them by randomly talking to people around towns and stumbling upon them. This is no longer a problem in CS3. You’ll find green symbols on the map, either labeled with an exclamation point or a star, marking numerous optional quests and story events. I didn’t happen upon any quests that weren’t marked on the map. Thus I do believe they got rid of the hidden aspect and it’s much easier to complete every optional quest if you wish, by thoroughly checking each area’s map as you progress.

One other thing I feel was an improvement made in this third entry is the soundtrack. A good amount of the soundtrack is reused or very similar, since it is another Cold Steel game after all. However, there are a decent handful of brand new songs and personally, I like the new songs added to CS3 a lot more than the ones added in CS2. The other games don’t have bad soundtracks whatsoever, I merely preferred most of the new music in Trails of Cold Steel III. Up above you’ll find a small sample of it.

CS3 | A street in Heilmdallr
I occasionally experienced minor framerate lag in Heimdallr.

Finally, I’d like to discuss the one thing I know fans of the franchise are going to be worried about, the fact that this title was localized by NISA, a first for the series. To be honest, I’m not as knowledgeable about the franchise as other fans and I’m also not that picky of a gamer when it comes to JRPGs. The most I can complain about with this localization is that there were various typos and other similar mistakes which I encountered relatively often. Now you should know that NIS America does know there are some mistakes and have already planned a day one patch. But the list of what they’ve already got covered, and mistakes I happened across myself, are completely different. They definitely should’ve either had more people reading through and fixing typos, or delayed the game further until it was perfect. That aside, I didn’t experience anything more serious than that, Cold Steel III never once froze on me or crashed during my playthrough. Chapter 4 did have a lot of framerate drops and lag in certain more crowded areas, which shouldn’t be an issue now that we’re on the PS4 exclusive half of the series. But I imagine that’s no different in the Japanese version, it doesn’t seem like something that would be accidentally added in localization.

CS3 | Millium, Elliot and Jusis
The unfortunate recast of her voice actor, didn’t make Millium any less lovable.

Apart from the typos and framerate issues near the end of the game, I don’t have any other grievances. Well, besides Millium’s voice actor being recast, but no one likes a recast voice actor when it comes to their fave characters. Overall, I adored Trails of Cold Steel III. Even without any experience with earlier story arcs, as a Cold Steel fan, this game felt like it was just for me. All of the characters are overflowing with charm and personality and the continuation of Rean’s journey one-hundred percent sucked me in. Honestly, I think this is the most well paced title in the Erebonia arc so far. It didn’t feel like it dragged on forever in the beginning and it kept a good pace the majority of the time. CS3 is around a hundred hours long when doing optional quests but rushing through battles. It’s just as long if not longer than CS2, which I admittedly complained a bit too much about in my previous Cold Steel review. In the end though, I had a ton of fun and suddenly realized that I’ve found myself having to wait for the next game, which is going to be quite agonizing. I only hope I get the chance to play it eventually and then I can finish this series of Trails of Cold Steel reviews. Don’t let the change in localization companies scare you away. While it isn’t ideal, if you’re a fan of The Legend of Heroes, or Cold Steel alone, I highly recommend picking this one up anyways.

Review Score

Review copy was provided by the publisher. You can get your own copy for $59.99. Or you can buy the Thors Academy Edition exclusively from NIS America’s store for $99.99.

Jenae R
Jenae is an RPG enthusiast who also enjoys cats, humidity-free warm weather, Dean Koontz books, Riichi Mahjong and a select handful of non RPG series and games. Two of her all-time favorite games are the original Shadow Hearts and Final Fantasy IX. She loves to ramble on about her numerous gaming opinions and is fortunate enough to be able to do it here at oprainfall.