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The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV (Switch)

When I told a friend I was gonna watch Legend of Heroes: Traces of Cold Steel IV, he called me crazy. No, that’s not because the game is bad or anything; on the contrary, it’s not a bad JRPG that takes the genre in a bold new direction in terms of difficulty.

The problem is that the whole trail saga is a bloated, interconnected plot that you need to have played several times to understand what’s going on. This is the kind of franchise that makes the entire MCU look like a children’s book in terms of complexity. Starting with Trails of Cold Steel IV, which many Switch players will do because of the obvious lack of fully localized Trails games for the Switch in the West, is like trying to play Yakuza by starting with the fifth game in the franchise or watching Game of Thrones by starting with the third season.

Oh yeah, this game also has mechs. Why not?

Fortunately, between the time I heard about the release of Trails of Cold Steel IV on Switch and the actual arrival of the release code, I immersed myself in the game’s complex story like a student preparing to write a thesis. When the game finally arrived, I first spent some time in the legendary menu, which is essentially In Case You Missed It, the library of information that explains every game in the Cold Steel subseries in shocking detail, chapter by chapter. NIS America and Falcom knew they had to give Switch players as much information as possible to make sure they understood what was going on before they launched the new game, and frankly I think they succeeded quite well. After hundreds of hours of playing, I was ready to start Cold Steel Trails IV.

Cold Steel IV follows just two weeks after the ultra-cliffhanger finale of the previous game. This is actually the end of the Cold Steel game Endless War Trails III. They should be treated as a single 200-hour experience. Especially since the fourth game in the series wastes no time telling you what happened before, unless you spend time in the aforementioned legendary menu. The final battle of the previous game has unleashed a cataclysm that threatens the existence of the world as we know it. Countries are preparing to declare war on each other, everyone feels defeated and, to make matters worse, the real hero of the series, Rin Schwarzer, has disappeared.

Trails of Cold Steel IV has a huge library of information to help you understand what is going on if you are a beginner.

After a brief Final Fantasy VII-esque prologue featuring the main character from the other Trails sub-series (to add an extra layer of confusion for the uninitiated), the game really gets going. At Schwarzer’s request, the player controls the former students, who set out unprepared to find the missing instructor. They will also work with their older teammates to prevent a war and stop the many plans of the villains. In this massive story, you can add FIVE characters to your team. Each is perfectly coherent and so detailed that Tolkien’s penchant for the unexplained seems weak by comparison.

Traces of Cold Steel IV may be a traditional JRPG, but fighting them is not the main focus. This franchise as a whole is highly regarded for the depth of the story. It’s hours of complex, well-written dialogue, with even the most useless NPCs having at least a few lines of dialogue each. Everything seems well-located and without the floaty factor that plagues some JRPG translations. It’s also worth noting that, unlike many anime and some JRPGs, Trails of Cold Steel IV doesn’t feel like a boring exposition dump. The characters talk to each other naturally and move the story forward in a believable way.

Yes, I’m not going to lie…. there’s some important dialogue in this prologue chapter….

All of this is backed up by a ton – and I mean a ton – of dubbing. Some are pretty good, some are terrible, and the vast majority feel ….. pretty. At first I thought I was going to get a Resident Evil level dubbing, as the first characters that appear in the opening scenes of the game are very poorly voiced. The main characters in the prologue section didn’t change my mind either. Fortunately, things got much better once the game switched to the real heroes. The soundtrack, very original for Falcom, is also very good, even if it’s not as good as some of the company’s other games.

Even though this is a game that puts story before gameplay, that doesn’t mean the combat sections of Trails of Cold Steel IV are bad. On the contrary, I like this step-by-step system, but I must say it is very complicated, just like his story.

The combat system of Cold Steel IV is super complex, but the game does a good job of teaching you how it works.

In addition to the traditional single attack, you can also perform Crafts (direct magic attacks that deplete your PC meter), Arts (magic EP attacks that deplete your PC meter and take a round to reload), Orders (passive buffs that you can activate at any time if you have enough points on your PC meter), and S-Links (ending moves that completely deplete your PC meter). As you can see, there are a lot of counters to keep an eye on at all times. I’m not going to lie, it was completely confusing at first. Fortunately, there is a way to easily remember each counter. Think of CP as a special stamina bar that fills up in small amounts each round, EP is your traditional mana, and BP is a special meter that rises as you perform team combos or exploit enemy weaknesses.

You’ll also need to constantly upgrade your character’s equipment, just like in a traditional JRPG. You’ll also need to collect and spend special gems to upgrade what is basically a special type of mobile phone. This house contains orbs that can equip your party members to increase their stats and teach them new special abilities. Are you still with me?

I love this guy. First, it has weapons similar to those in Gears of War. Second: It’s a JRPG character named Randy.

For a neophyte, this is a real mess, but unlike the story, Trails of Cold Steel IV spends a lot of time learning each of these combat mechanics in a surprisingly organic way. It doesn’t throw out all the available methods at once and tell you to figure it out. The prologue sections gradually unlock new features until you finally understand what each move and option can do, and how to combine these skills with other team members to create some insane combos. The battles are by far the biggest highlight of this game…. next to the story.

This is essentially the main loop of the game: Enter a new area, encounter different storylines, meet new characters, gain access to new team members, explore a small dungeon, reach the final boss, and on and on. At its core, it’s a very traditional JRPG, only expanded to a ridiculous level of difficulty. I sincerely respect Falcom’s design choices, but even if you ignore the barrier to entry because of the story, I have some issues with this game.

Like they know me.

The first big question is how slow this game is. I’m not talking about the plot development, but the speed at which each cutscene is presented, as well as the character movements in general and some of the other features of Overworld. If a game has a hotkey to speed up the game, you know something is wrong.

The rest of my problems are absolutely due to the Switch’s hardware. While not a very hardware-intensive game, even for PS3 (it runs on the ultra-obsolete Phyre engine, the same one used in the Ys games), Trails of Cold Steel IV suffers from very annoying performance issues at times. The game never gets over 30 frames per second and often drops off a bit when things get a little hectic on screen. The loading time is also noticeably long, probably because you have to extract hours of uncompressed audio from the game, which is otherwise quite small, about 10GB in size. Given how slow it is and the fact that the new cutters load one after the other, the long loading times irritate me pretty quickly.

Some bosses are delightfully disgusting.

You love the Legend of Heroes: Cold Steel IV’s stylistic features depend directly on whether or not you’ve played the previous games in this massive franchise. If so, you’ll really understand what’s going on and have a lot of fun with this silly, detailed story. If not, you’ll either love the game for its awesome combat system, or feel totally clueless about what’s going on. It’s a bold game, designed specifically to satisfy fans of its predecessors. I can’t help but praise Falcom for making a JRPG that is so unfriendly to beginners, yet extremely engaging, with the most varied characters I’ve ever seen in my life.

Cold Steel IV’s titles don’t push the limits of the Switch’s hardware, despite a strong art-style. It is also subject to some performance issues. The turn-based combat system presented here is quite difficult at first, but the game does a fantastic job of teaching you its mechanics in a very natural way. The fights are just the highlight of the game… if you don’t care about the story.
There is a shocking amount of dubbing, most is decent, some is excellent and some is terrible. The soundtrack is also very good, especially during the battles, but not as good as other Falcom games. Your enjoyment will depend on your knowledge and understanding of this massive story, which can rival Game of Thrones in complexity and number of characters. The story takes center stage, while the fighting, which is excellent, takes a back seat. Also the long loading times irritate me.
Last block : 7.5

A legend of heroes: Trail of Cold Steel IV is available now on PS4, PC and Switch.

Displayed at startup.

A copy of Legend of Heroes: The numbers for Cold Steel IV were provided by the publisher.

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frequently asked questions

Will the tracks of cold steel change?

Part. A legend of heroes: Traces of Cold Steel IV was released last October on the PlayStation, but now it’s coming to the Nintendo Switch! That’s right, you can have all your favorite characters on the road in April. NIS America announced the launch date of the new platform today via a tweet and a trailer.

Will cold steel 4 be installed?

NIS America’s official English localization is out on the 27th. October 2020 for PlayStation 4 in North America and Europe, and on 6. November in Australia and New Zealand.

Is Rin dying?

Rin, Crowe, Millium, Franz/Alberich, Osborne, Arianrod, Rutger, Algres and Ishmelga die at the end of the game. Meanwhile, all the Divine Knights are disappearing.

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