Originally a spin off from the Dragon Slayer series by Nihon Falcom, The Legend of Heroes series has now been in active development for over twenty-five years. The latest entry in this long-standing franchise is The Legend of Heroes Trails of Cold Steel. Unlike some of the previous instalments, it has taken just over two years to reach our shores with an English translation. This time around, you can play both on the PlayStation 3 and the PlayStation Vita, and utilise Sony’s Cross Save functionality to resume your adventure from wherever you are.
Trails of Cold Steel begins a new whole new arc in The Legend of Heroes narrative, taking place at a specialised training facility named Thor’s Military Academy. Unlike the segregated environments that prevail throughout the Erebonian Empire, the nine main characters are placed into a newly established division named Class 7, which is comprised of citizens from every social class. Over the course of the game, they are forced to reconsider their prejudices, and see the world through a different perspective than that of their upbringing. The initial prologue can seem a bit long-winded on occasion, but learning about each of your team mates is a very rewarding experience, especially when you are asked to help solve disputes between them.
As you progress in the school year, you meet a wide variety of characters, and forge friendships and rivalries with a whole menagerie of teachers, students and other individuals. In a similar vein to the later Persona titles, the current date is displayed on screen below the map, and you are required to participate in lessons, in which you earn academic points for every correct answer you give, and story quests that are only accessible on a certain day. Earning academic points or AP will allow you to gain access to new areas and specific skills, as well as give you respect from your fellow classmates. Unlike Persona however, you are given more freedom to perform more side quests without progressing to the next day immediately afterwards. This more relaxed approach to the calendar mechanic makes the game world feel more organic, rather than just the backdrop of a tightly focused narrative.