The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel 3 Hands-On Impressions from E3 2019


I don’t like going into a demo expecting to see something wrong with it, but after NIS America’s repeated blunders with Ys VIII – it’s hard to ignore the company’s history when they’ve been tasked with one of the largest JRPGs in the history of gaming, by word count. Fans of the series, myself included, hold the previous title’s translations with high esteem. While NISA have released games with great translations before – even recently with Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk – nobody should blame you for worrying about how The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III will turn out when the company has had so many infamously poor translations under their belt. It might be a little harsh to say, but trying to beat around the bush would be even worse.

It’s because of that very trepidation that I’m proud to say the following: at least based off of what I could see from their demo build, Cold Steel III is getting the attention that it deserves.

If you’re familiar with the Trails series, then you already know (mostly) what to expect when it comes to Cold Steel III’s gameplay – besides an overhauled battle interface that maps each action category to a single button a la Persona 5, the one major addition to the combat comes in the form of Brave Actions. By performing combat links your Brave Points gauge will rise – and at any time you can spend those points to apply one of these “Brave Orders” – buffs to your entire party – with each of your party members having access to their own unique “order”. Ash’s, for example, will raise your attack power and break rate.

Compared to even the recent PlayStation 4 re-releases for Trails of Cold Steel 1 and 2, Trails of Cold Steel III is a massive step up from the fidelity found in those releases. Even with that upgrade, the game runs at a very smooth 1080p/60 FPS on base PS4, and native 4K/60 on PS4 Pro. Even if Falcom’s animations still feel a bit stilted compared to the competition, Cold Steel 3 is both a joy to look at and to play. Even if we’re not getting a PC port at launch, at least we won’t have to worry about poor performance.

Finally getting to the nitty-gritty of the translation side of things – well, NIS America hasn’t actually published any screenshots of the current build of the game with actual dialogue as of the making of this preview, and I didn’t have access to direct capture to showcase some examples of the dialogue myself. This makes sense – even at this stage of development dialogue can and will change, even if only in tinier increments. However, not only did the dialogue I had the opportunity to read flow a lot better than even the current Ys VIII translation, but it even retained the same sort of flavor that XSEED’s Cold Steel translations have been known for.

I’ve found a good way to tell the quality of a translation can be by checking the voice direction in a game’s English dub, and unsurprisingly – thanks to using the same director as the two previous titles, the samples I heard during my time with Cold Steel III today left me very impressed. At this point I can say that I’m no longer worried about the actual release, and feel like I can look forward to the game’s release, this September.



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