The embers of war have become a full-blown flame. Now, Erebonia’s greatest hero, Rean Schwarzer, has gone missing. The world has drastically changed, afflicted with an unknown curse, and something much more sinister. With all hope appearing to be lost, can Class VII bounce back after the defeat they suffered and save the world? Let’s take this final journey with Class VII and other heroes from the world of Zemuria in our review of The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV!
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV
- Genre: JRPG
- Developer Nihon Falcom
- Publisher: NIS America
- Release date: October 27, 2020 (NA, EU)/ November 3, 2020 (ANZ)
- Platforms: Playstation 4; PC and Switch confirmed for 2021 release
*Special thanks to NISA PR for providing a review key*
*Note: This review may have image spoilers, but nothing written*
From the official website, below is the prologue to Cold Steel IV:
“Now, Rean. Let us Begin. Together, we shall write the end to this wretched fairy tale. In ink, black as despair.”
Languishing in chains as dusk falls around him. A guiding light swallowed by the darkness, in an empire shrouded by its curse. Filled with regrets that will never cease. Plagued by questions that will go unanswered. Unable to protect that which he held dear, lost in despair over mistakes that cannot be undone, he listlessly awaits his fate as a “Sacrifice.” This is what has become of Rean Schwarzer, the Ashen Chevalier.
As he sits in darkness, the world edges ever closer to its demise.
The Erebonian Empire, the country with the most powerful military in recorded history, is now poised to swallow up the entire continent under the banner of its largest invasion plan yet—Operation Jormungandr. In response, the rest of the world rallies together in a last-ditch effort to fell this mighty serpent, no matter the cost.
Blind to the fact that they are playing right into the hands of the secret society, Ouroboros. The mysterious group continues to fan the flames of ruin, all for the sake of fulfilling its leader’s long-sought plans…
“That’s why someone… Someone needs to find him, grab him by the collar, and shake him until he snaps out of it! To tell him that he’s wrong! That it wasn’t his fault!”
“Wasn’t that supposed to be our job?!”
Those words brought a flash of light to souls lost to despair. Thors Military Academy, Class VII. A group of exceptionally talented young men and women that transcend the boundaries of status, creed, and even nationality. Both its first and second generations now fight against the oncoming night. Together, they rise, to stand against the end of all things. Together, they will keep moving forward, to bring light and hope back to the world once more.
“Now, everyone. Let’s get started. We’ll bring an end to this damned fairy tale. Together!”
From the PR email:
The long awaited finale to the epic engulfing a continent comes to a head in the final chapter of the Trails of Cold Steel saga! The Erebonian Empire is on the brink of all out war! Taking place shortly after the ending of Trails of Cold Steel III, the heroes of Class VII find themselves against the full force of the Empire in an attempt to stop its path of total domination. Further, the hero of the Erebonian Civil War and Class VII’s instructor, Rean Schwarzer, has gone missing. Now, the students of Class VII, old and new, must unite with heroes from all over the continent to create the only chance the world has to be spared from total destruction.
Trails of Cold Steel IV aims to wrap up the story that has begun several years ago. This game is the conclusion to the Cold Steel Saga, and by extension serves to close up some questions from the other games in the Trails saga. Heroes from the other Trails games will make their appearance striving for the same goal as Class VII.
That goal is to save their missing instructor, as well as figure out how to save the world as they learn more about the Great Twilight and how to counter it. The odds are stack against them, but it is up to Class VII (old and new) and all of their allies to do this. Otherwise, the world is lost.
In terms of story delivery, it is done well in Cold Steel IV! The game has several questions to wrap up for the conclusion of the saga and does so for the most part. There may be new questions that open up for future titles, but for the most part, the story of Class VII is completed in this game.
Note: This game brings in characters (both heroes and villains) from other games in the Trails franchise (Trails in the Sky and the Crossbell games), plus there are references to events of those games. I suggest looking in the database section on the title screen and catching up on some events. It is not a deal-breaker.
In the first playthrough of this game, I had no knowledge of the previous titles and still understood the story. After playing the previous titles, its cool to get the references and seeing these characters again, but still didn’t take away from the experience when I didn’t know.
The gameplay in Trails of Cold Steel IV is the exact same as Cold Steel III. There is the addition of some new battle moves and new game modes, but the core gameplay is still there.
Cold Steel IV knows what was done well in previous titles and makes sure that it follows that same formula in this game. It works well and serves its purpose. With the addition of a new minigame (Pom Pom) and how fun it is, Cold Steel IV does its job of having easy gameplay with a good story.
Note: save data from Trails of Cold Steel 1, 2, and 3 provides unlockables for this game. Trails of Cold Steel 3 does unlockables based on the save data, instructor rank, thors rank, and Rean’s level. It is awesome that developers had every game in the saga unlock something in Cold Steel IV.
Audio and Visual:
Similar to Cold Steel III, the voice work and soundtrack are fantastic. Some key voice roles have been replaced (Osborne and Laura come to mind), but to be frank, I did not notice they were replaced until someone mentioned it (and getting confirmation in the credits). The new VAs do a great job and they really aren’t noticed they are different.
One thing I can chime in on though, is while this game is heavily voiced, it is done well especially during a pandemic. Most of the VAs have a home studio to record their lines, and the production team mixed it well. If that doesn’t jive with the player, happy news to report, the game also includes Japanese Audio. Players can have English subs and Japanese Dubs if they so wish.
Visual wise, the game looks the same visually as Trails of Cold Steel III. That isn’t an issue as the game looked great. Cold Steel IV looks great as well.
The replay value of Trails of Cold Steel IV is high for completionists. To get a platinum trophy, the game requires two playthroughs for it. This does not include doing all the quests, beating everyone in VM and Pom Pom, and bonding events.
Trails of Cold Steel IV is fun for the final game in the saga. From hour 1 to hour 112, I enjoyed my time with the game. Even as writing this, I want to go through another playthrough of the game.
I will keep it short and sweet. Trails of Cold Steel IV is masterful story telling to wrap up a fantastic saga. It also leaves hints about future titles and things that may pop up in future titles. However, one thing is clear here. The story of Class VII ends in this game. Trails of Cold Steel was always the story of Class VII. This game ensures (while we know a future title will include them) that the story that has progressed since the first game ends here.
Trails of Cold Steel IV is a possible Game of the Year for me. 2020 has had some great games, with I am sure more on the way. However, this is in my top 3 for this year. Hats off to the developers for taking their time on this story, and hats off to NISA for obtaining the license and doing fantastic work with the localization and publication. Love and hard work were put into this game, and it shows.
*Special thanks to NISA PR for providing a review key*