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  1. #1

    [PS4] The Legend Of Heroes: Trails Of Cold Steel III

    Technically it hasn't been announced for western release yet, but considering how well the series has been received so far I doubt that XSeed will pass on the chance to localise this one...not to mention that according to Falcom themselves this third chapter brings the story to about 60% completion, so there are at least two more games waiting to be played.

    Anyway, Sen No Kiseki III (Trails Of Cold Steel in the west) plays exactly as you'd expect from a game belonging to the series and developed by Falcom, almost to a fault in fact.
    The game opens right in the midst of the action, with no tutorials or character introduction. In fact, the group you're controlling is composed by new entries against some old and new foes. After this opening sequence SnK3 takes a break from the action and drowns the player with a long expository sequence where we kinda learn has happened between this and the prequel. I say kinda because the focus is now on Rean (the series' protagonist), Altina, Towa (both returning characters), and 2 of the new characters. After that the game shifts to an introductory dungeon, where you're explained the battle system, again; then you're shown the shops around town, again; how to fish, again; how sidequests work, again; and then a few old acquaintances join the party...for how long I don't know since I haven't played past this point.
    I get that veterans might use a refresh on basics and it's good to ease in new players, but aside from just two combat mechanics (one regarding Juna, a new character, that can shift stances in combat) there's nothing new to the system except the interface, and a lot of systems (like the sidequests) are the same throughout not just the Sen No Kiseki series but other Falcom games, and it'll be nice not having to sit through this kind of introductory parts.

    Right now SnK3 really likes its story, and of the four-ish hours I've played most have been for character development and story progression, as this game introduces a new batch of secondary characters and lesser NPCs to an already huge cast, and while I might not be interested in green-haired-girl-that-goes-to-the-swim-club's backstory (she has a name, everyone has a name, but can't really remember it), it's the kind of world building that's dumped on you rather than easing you in...and that's from someone that played the previous games.
    And yes, we're back to school with Rean serving as an instructor in the second Thors Academy for a new VII class.
    The end of the world won't be announced by trumphets, but by the absence of a end-of-class bell sound in a JRPG.

    So, I'd really like to describe how the game play but I haven't seen much, and right now I'd say "it's a Sen No Kiseki game". If you've played any of these before, or in fact previous Falcom games like Tokyo Xanadu or even the more recent Ys, you'll be immediately at home.
    Battles are turn-based, with your party and enemies alternating turns, exchanging normal blows, spells, and special attacks. Overall the system recalls Grandia and Grandia II's, with everyone able to move freely around the battlefield and special actions with different areas of effect.
    The only new thing in the combat is that Rean can spend Brave Points for party-wide bonuses, the rest (Links, Tactics, S-skills) play out the same.

    Sen No Kiseki III also marks the first game that Falcom developed for the PS4 from the ground up, and it shows. Texture work is exquisite as always, with the new and very subtle bump effect enhacing just about every kind of surface. Polygonal count has gone up from PS3/PSV games, although animations are nothing new, with walking, standby, and other basic movements borrowing from many other Falcom games. SnK3 won't win any technical awards, but Falcom's art direction continues to shine through and through. And it runs at 60fps as you would expect. The game is also PS4 Pro enhanced, I think it will render at 4K just like Ys VIII but I'm still on a standard console so I can't be sure.
    The PS4 also allows for shorter loading times and larger areas without loading screen, which is a huge plus.
    SnK3 doesn't support sorround setups unfortunately.

    Also, I think that someone requested to share video a couple of days ago while playing, but I have notifications turned off so I couldn't do that. Sorry.

  2. #2
    The adventures of the new Class VII continue, although I'm much less drawn to them any of the previous games. I'm going through the second chapter and I realy thought the story would pick up after some bad guys attacked, old cast members were made playable for a good amount of time (and apparently still are), and the game was locked into a series of dungeons (terms used loosely as they were set in a forest). Alas this was not the case, after defeating the bad guys the game first proceeded to yet another exposition dump and then gave Rean some free time to bond with the students and get some side quests done.

    And the dungeon segment was good, and giant robots finally began part of the combat equation again after a very brief tutorial some hours earlier. Unfortunately boss battles continue the series' tradition of being severe difficulty spikes compared to the dungeons before them, and this boss battle in particular has one bad guy delivering an attack that will one-hit-KO the whole party once it hits critical HP, and even if you defeat it with a string of special attacks it regains some health and still delivers that attack. This forces you in keeping one of your party members in reserve so he can resurrect and heal the party after that attack...if you have enough meter for his S-Craft of course.

    And SnKIII really, really likes to use characters as deus ex machinas: you defeat the boss, a cutscene play where your characters are all worn out by the battle but the boss is still somehow OK, new character is introduced, new character makes short work of boss. This happens with both playable characters and enemies, and I find it a very lazy way of writing characters into the story.
    As said in the previous post the cast is huge and SnKIII doesn't want to leave anyone out, often forcing known characters into positions that new characters held for a brief period of time, making me question why having new characters at all if they get replaced by someone else after a few hours.
    For example Laura, Elliot, and Fi become playable characters and even get bonding events, which is OK, but there's an entire new cast of primary (Kurt, Altina, Yuuna, Ash, Mousse) and secondary characters (Class VIII and IX) to know. As Laura & co. get introduced in the second chapter, does that mean the new characters will be developed in the fourth game? I'm probably in the first third of the game and it's hard to judge how story and character development will play out, but right now I feel that Falcom is mismanaging the cast and resorting to the new-guy-is-stronger-than-everyone clichè to progress the story forward, along with overly long expository scenes that really break the flow of the game.

  3. #3
    Can't wait for this to be localized but it really is a major problem with manga/anime in general: just way too many characters. Doesn't make sense.

  4. #4
    Just completed the game and I slammed the controller on the table due to how disappointed I was with the game ending with a huge cliffhanger. I calmed down a bit and recalled that Cold Steel I did end with a similar cliffhanger, but for some reason CSIII left me fuming. Maybe it was the infinite last dungeon with a boss rush and that half of the game could have condensed in 5 to 10 hours, but I think this is the worst of the Cold Steel trilogy (or whatever it will be when it's over) and recent Falcom games in how the story is written and paced, but I need to collect my thoughts before the a more in-depth post.

  5. #5
    OK, let's see if I can piece something together.

    As stated before I'm not particularly impressed on how Falcom handled the story in Cold Steel III. In the first half of the game (25-30 hours) you're introduced to the new students of the second branch of the Thors Military Academy, which includes one known character, Altina, and new primary characters, Yuna and Kurt; Ash and Muse aren't at first part of Rean's class but will join it later. Before they do so, the game introduces a large portion of the cast from the previous games making them plyable for a dungeon, maybe two if they're lucky. A lot enter the cene as deus ex machinas to save the party from a particularly dangerous foe, exchange pleasentries with Rean but...a lot of these meetings don't seem to carry much weight on them, only Alisa was a bit emotional, and that's because she shows some emotion. Considering the emotional rollercoaster that the second game was, character development in the first part of the game is treated in a very cold and distant way.
    Probably it doesn't help that Cold Steel III uses these hours to ship primary and secondary characters around the world vaguely setting up a storyline that never quite picks up up till the second half of chapter 4 (of 5). Events are far too diluted in the almost 60 hours the game takes and bad guys are cycled as if they were nothing. I won't go into too much detail but in the first half you're led to believe that a certain group is the main opposition but then no, it's about another group; or a coup d'etat; or an experiment to do something. I mean, I'm OK with twists but too many twists for the sake of them make things boring.
    The story in CSIII connects to the other two games, shedding further light on the events before them, and exploring the ramification of characters' actions in CSI and CSII, but for a large portion of the game is a very tenous link.

    The fact that the party will go through various kinds of meadows and forests for...40 hours? Something like that, with uninteresting dungeons filled with uninteresting monsters. I think that only two dungeons are worth mentioning for their design, where playable characters are split into two or more groups and you have to switch between them to progress. And as for the enemies, only two come out as interesting, as they are able to reflect either physical or magical attacks. The rest is the usual assortment of HP sponges that make battles more a management game for EPs and items, and CSIII gets carried away in certain areas by spamming incredibly resilient enemies that will test your patience. I've found a boss fight particularly grating as the antagonists will execute an attack that will wipe out your party in any circumstance, even if you manage to defeat them first, and will also regain half of their health. Yes, they're supposed to be incredibly strong, but it's also irritating to go through such battle. This fight coincides with a rather large surge in difficulty, something that happens in CSI and CSII as well, only that at the very least here it's well into the game where you have enough resources to pull it through rather than being an hour is or so like in CSII.

    When the story and dungeon design pick up CSIII is good, but to reach that point you have to go through a very generic and slow game that I didn't find as charming as the previous two.

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