The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III launched on the PlayStation 4 last October, followed by Steam in March this year, and today marks the date that Nintendo Switch owners also get the opportunity to play this amazing game. As I’ve already written a comprehensive review of the game when it launched on the PS4 (HERE), this review will be focused on my experience on the Switch and the extra content included, rather than a fully detailed article as I usually do. If you wish to read about the mechanics, gameplay, story, and the various mini-games, please check out my original review which is linked above.
I’ve spent around 20 hours playing the Nintendo Switch version of the game, compared to over 180 hours on the PS4. I’ve not finished the story on the hybrid device but I’ve played enough to get a feel of the various mechanics and see how they compare to the PS4 edition. I feel the game doesn’t warrant a full re-review as the game is identical to its PC and PS4 counterpart, albeit with additional content which was once DLC (which I’ll go into later into the review).
However, having just re-read my own review I did last year (which I’m quite proud of), I feel that one pretty much covers everything you’ll need to know about the game without having to repeat myself in here (other than the story synopsis below).
*As stated in my original review*
Just like the previous title, Trails of Cold Steel III is a direct sequel to the previous game although this time it’s set just over a year and a half after Class VII disbanded and went their separate ways. Once again, the main focus of the game is Rean Schwarzer, the key protagonist from the prior titles, only this time he’s the teacher rather than the student. That’s right, Rean has been appointed to a new Thors Academy and placed in charge of a brand new Class VII, a class which this time is only made up of three students, rather than nine. Towa, from the Student Council previously, has also been appointed along with two other familiar faces.
Initially, once you first take charge of your students, this new Academy feels a lot like a case of deja vu. The school is laid out in a similar fashion, there’s a town just outside with a bunch of useful shops, the students all have a striking resemblance to your old colleagues (with one being a very familiar face if you’ve played those games), and there’s even an underground training hall which works just like the old school building. Hell, the comedic interactions between the original Class VII are almost perfectly reenacted with the new class unintentionally.
However, this isn’t a reboot of the original game, with Rean taking the place of Sara, you and your class are about to venture to a new set of locations as you embark on Field Exercises filled with action, adventure and excitement. Although if you’ve played the previous games, you’ll know exactly how smoothly these excursions go… You’ll get pulled into local troubles, engage with political and secret operations, clear up some unanswered questions from the previous games, and almost every field exercise involves dealing with multiple big, well-detailed bosses and formidable foes – some of which are from previous Legend of Heroes titles (so I’ve heard).
For me personally, Trails of Cold Steel III had the best story so far. Aside from growing fond of the new characters introduced within this title in the franchise, we’re reunited with characters we grew to love previously, seeing how they now live their lives and what they’ve achieved after Class VII. It’s almost like a school reunion at times, only with more monsters and political threats. This is the biggest adventure so far…
New Switch additions
As I stated above, the game on the Nintendo Switch is identical to the PS4 and PC versions in terms of gameplay and mechanics, nothing has been removed, altered, or watered down in this particular release. However, 26 (yes, twenty-six) DLC packs are included with the game by default – similar to what we got with the Trails of Cold Steel I and II PS4 remasters from Marvelous Games. However, although that number seems quite high – and it is – there were 84 DLC packs for the game on the PS4, so there are a lot of omissions from the included freebies.
The DLCs that aren’t included are mainly the packs that offered in-game items such as recipe and health additions, and a few of the ride-along and hat + tail sets.
These ‘may’ pop up over the coming days as paid-for DLC but there’s nothing on the eShop at the moment from what I can see (I hate looking on the eShop for DLC, it’s very unintuitive). I’ve just looked on the eShop via the Switch itself, there are 57 paid-for DLC packs available – Some are FREE, the others are between 89p and £2.69 each.
So, what do you get within the game for free…
1. Thors Main Campus Uniforms
2. Altina’s “Kitty Noir” Costume
3. Musse’s “Coquettish Blue” Costume
4. Juna’s “Crossbell Cheer!” Costume
5. Rean’s Traveling Outfit (Cold Steel II)
6. Rean’s Casual Clothes
7. Juna’s Casual Clothes
8. Kurt’s Casual Clothes
9. Altina’s Casual Clothes
10. Musse’s Casual Clothes
11. Ash’s Casual Clothes
12. Standard Glasses Set
13. Ride-Along Black Rabbit
14. Ride-Along Elie
15. Ride-Along Dana
16. Mask Set
17. Hardcore Set
18. Stylish Sunglasses Set
19. Rare Eyewear
20. Ride-Along School Renne
21. Ride-Along Ozzie
22. Mascot Headgear Set
23. Juna’s “Lloyd Bannings” Costume
24. Rean’s “Unspeakable” Costume
25. Faculty Swimsuit Set
26. Juna’s “Active Red” Costume”
Personal Opinion on the Switch edition
Let’s start with the positives, playing the game in portable mode was amazing. Although the game looks great on the PS4, it still looks very similar to Trails of Cold Steel I and II which were originally on the PS3 and PS Vita, so the textures and overall aesthetic is quite simplistic with its ‘Nihon Falcom-look’ to it. As such, the port over to the Nintendo Switch meant that the visual quality, albeit the resolution, stayed intact and delivered a truly portable version of the game without any compromises or obvious adjustments in quality.
If I don’t try and match the two consoles side-by-side, I can’t see any difference based on the many, many hours I’ve spent playing the PS4 version thanks to the game being 30fps on both systems (a decision I thought was a bit strange in my original review as the first two remasters were a solid 60fps). Later into the game it still has impressive real-time reflections on the very shiny floor of Marquis Hyarm’s Mansion, displaying a 1:1 inverted reflection of all the assets, people walking around and even the protagonist regardless of what silly outfit and hat you’ve got on. Ray Tracing reflections eat your heart out!
I’ve yet to see any frame drops or performance issues, the game doesn’t even flinch when I’m throwing chain attacks followed by special moves, topped off with explosive items and Team Attacks, everything runs just as smooth as over on the more powerful system. I declared that Trails of Cold Steel III was my favourite JRPG in my PS4 review, I stick to that and would even go as far as saying it’s one of the best portable JRPGs and one of the most impressive current-gen to Switch ports I’ve seen so far.
Missing and not-so-good features
There are no touch controls when in portable mode. This isn’t a big issue as I know a lot of people will just want to play with the physical controls and not resort to using any form of touch controls, but I still get the urge to touch the various menus and options as they appear in the turn-based combat, yet all it does is leave fingerprints on the screen.
Another portable-only issue has to be in regards to the font and HUD size. The majority of the game is fine, the text is readable and at a decent size for the most part, but the minimap should really be called a tinymap! If you’ve not seen the game (look at the images in this review), the game has a minimap in the top right-hand corner which shows you the location of people, enemies, treasures, and important things you need to interact with. However, when in portable mode the icons are incredibly small and almost impossible to make out. Thankfully you can push down on the fake D-pad, but this takes you out of the game and ruins the flow of things if you’re in a place that requires you to keep referring back to the map.
I feel this isn’t only down to the size, but also the rendering resolution of the UI, as it can appear a little fuzzy and not very detailed depending on where you are. To counter this, maybe it would have been clearer if the UI was always rendered at 720p, or perhaps gave us a toggle to increase the size of the minimap whilst in portable mode?
Another thing which seems to be missing, which I’ve only just realised, is the Japanese voices. Similar to the missing DLC, I’ve just looked on the eShop and the Japanese voice pack has just appeared as a FREE download which is set to go live later on today. So, if you wish to play the game in Japanese but can’t see the option, be sure to grab the pack on the eShop (and don’t forget the other FREE starter packs for a few materials, whilst you’re there).
PS4 or Switch?
This is all going to come down to your own personal preference, here’s my suggestion and opinion. If you want to play the game in portable mode and simply pick up and play wherever you are and whenever you want, the Switch version is perfect. The game is identical to the other versions, you get a bunch of free silly cosmetic DLCs, and it runs really smooth without any hitches or obvious performance issues. However, if you wish to play mainly on a TV screen, especially if you have a 4K TV, I’d say the PS4 or PC versions are the best due to the resolution when playing in docked mode. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad, but it looks like it’s around the 900p mark, so it’s quite fuzzy and not as clean as the other versions when played on a big display. Again though, no performance issues which I could see.
In terms of controls, I don’t have a pro controller so I only use the Joy-cons and I personally thought the controls on the Switch weren’t as good as the DS4 on the PS4. The very small travel provided with the Thumb-Sticks meant that once I activated ‘hyper mode’ (which you have to as the game is far too slow in regular mode), I never felt like I was in control of the protagonist, he’d be running into walls and all over the place due to how sensitive the sticks are. However, if you have a pro controller then I imagine this particular ‘issue’ won’t affect you.
My overall personal opinion, if you want to get the most out of the game, is to pick up the PS4 or Steam version. Why? Trophies and Achievements. Trails of Cold Steel III can be completed in around 15-20 hours if you skip all dialogue and cutscenes, about 40-50 if you play it normally. However, trying to achieve all of the trophies easily takes around 150 hours and two playthroughs, trophies which push you to uncover secrets, face hidden enemies, explore everywhere, and interact with everyone to get more exposition and backstory. The Switch still doesn’t have a trophy system, so I don’t feel people will be inclined to try and ‘complete’ the game as much as Nihon Falcom wants you to, as there is no ‘reward’ for doing so.
I know this is a port of the other versions, but I would love to see more developers do what others have done and implement an in-game achievement system as a replacement to the one Nintendo hasn’t bothered creating. I’m no game developer, so I’m not sure how hard it’ll be, but I imagine the ‘markers’ are already there which tell Steam and PSN when to trigger the trophies and achievements, so why not just have the same trigger unlock a new set of custom trophies in a new menu within the game? A simple addition like that would add so much to these massive JRPGs as it pushes people to do things they wouldn’t usually do and also gives people a reason to replay the game once they’ve finished.
There’s very little to complain about with The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III on the Switch, it’s an incredible port of a fantastic game. If you don’t mind the odd fuzzy visuals due to a lower-than-native resolution of the display it’s being played on, the Switch port is the perfect place to play this fascinating JRPG, a game that will easily occupy you for over 100 hours if you’re going for a full 100% completion and around 50 if you just care for the story. Despite having no switch-specific features or extras, you do get a bunch of cosmetic DLCs to dress up all the protagonists – making the cutscenes much more entertaining and surreal.
The Switch (and all other versions) of The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III contains a handy ‘The Story so Far’ segment in the main menu, which catches you up with the events that have happened prior to the latest game. However, if you have access to a PS3, PS4, PS Vita or PC, I’d strongly recommend playing all of them in order if you wish to get the most out of this brilliant series.
P.S. There’s a FREE demo for the game on the Nintendo eShop if you wish to try out the game before you buy it.
Again, if you want to read a full in-depth review of the game which covers all of the mechanics and the various mini-games and new additions to the game, check out my review of the game on the PS4 here: The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III (PS4)
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III£53.99
- - One of the best current-gen to Switch ports I've seen so far
- - A brilliant game which runs perfectly on the hybrid console in both modes
- - Includes a bunch of cosmetics so you can start your journey looking fabulous
- - Has no missing or altered content than the PC and PS4 versions
- - Bar the resolution, the game looks just like the other versions
- - No Switch exclusive features like touchscreen
- - The minimap is very hard to see without expanding it in portable mode
- - See the cons in my full PS4 review