The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV – PS4 Review

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV – PS4 Review
DarkLunarDude
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Genre: Anime turn-based JRPG
Developer: Nihon Falcom, Engine Software BV, PH3 GmbH
Publisher: NIS America, Inc.
Release Date: October 27th, 2020
Edited by AlexKnight2005

At this point, the Trails of Cold Steel series has easily solidified itself as one of the grandeur entries into The Legend of Heroes legacy. This aside though, Cold Steel III left some open wounds to be healed, and how better a way to heal them but with one final entry to tie it all together. The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV is an action-adventure anime-themed JRPG developed by Nihon Falcom, later released by NIS America INC. This final adventure with Rean, the classes of class VII, and allies follows up on advancements made in Cold Steel III but doesn’t end on a flawless finish.

Taking on the future, the story of Cold Steel IV takes off only a few weeks after the events of Cold Steel III but doesn’t leave newer players in the dark, thanks to a backstory feature on the main menu. Out story has us, the players, in the shoes of a few different characters after the prologue kicks into gear, including some fun cameos from prior heroes series but focuses on the now brink of war for the land of the Ereborian Empire. With war on the way and no sign of Rean to be found, it falls to the students of Class VII, both new and old, to raise their weapons, alongside allies of current and past to help find him and end the war before it gets out of hand.

As a story, I feel like we took a step backward with how big of a narrative scope the game tries to cover. The story itself is deep and entrenched with lore from all of the games prior, something that is critical for some story elements, but it ultimately felt like they were trying to tie up a lot of small loose ends that became entangled into the bigger picture, making them less impactful as a whole by the end.

Stepping into the creepy abyss feel of Saint-Gral Labyrinth, the gameplay of Cold Steel IV is at the peak of the series thus far, using many of the changes of the prior games and simply adding easy access elements to them. Starting with the hub cities, you don’t get tied down as much to one set location for a good period of time and will visit several locals on your journey, so each city tends to offer similar services across the board. While in these hub cities though, new downtime options have been added, alongside favorites like fishing and Vantage Master. These new options are additional card games of poker and blackjack alongside a more interesting piece called the horror coaster.

In terms of combat and mechanics tied to it, the most additions and changes were made here. Starting with the Orbment system, The Ui was streamlined to be easier to understand, with stats orbs seeing a general improvement of how much they give and the use of second master quartz, known as a sub-master. This sub-master quartz gains no experience from being used in this slot but it allows the character to use its immediate effects, making for some pretty interesting and downright broken combos for certain weapon types and gameplay styles. You still gain skills by equipping new orbs, and slots do have to be leveled, but the overall cost of the leveling has gone down, due in part to the larger cast of playable characters this time around.

In the combat itself, the linking system remains mostly unchanged. With the latest edition from Cold Steel III, the player gets some general upgrades like auto-healing skills and counter defensive skills, based on the rank that character is with another character. The more important changes come in the form of an auto-battle system. It was a nice touch for easier battles, mech summons, a feature that can help immensely in some tougher fights, and lost arts, a form of orbital magic that can easily change the flow of a battle when used.

As with all good changes, you will have a few bad ones too, and Cold Steel IV is no exception here. Let’s start with a newer edition, enhanced state. This state is generally only used by bosses at certain thresholds, but it gives the enemy more attack and defense for a certain number of turns, alongside some stronger attacks attached only to this state. Breaking the enemy is the best way to go about this, but unless you previously scanned that enemy’s weakness, it is a gamble what type of attack will break that enemy. Following this is the sheer amount of character selection as you progress that can be used. While giving the player so many character options to build their ideal team is something I can appreciate, it does lead to a form of imbalance that may isolate one or two characters from that weapon group better than the rest.

Continuing from prior games is the visual presentation that is provided by Cold Steel IV is highly animated, being fluid, and heavily detailed. This series has shown that it has an eye for the small details thus far and continues that tradition here, with small background elements like sunlight shining in from windows inside of a building as an example of what can be done. The backgrounds and environments themselves stand out but here, but I feel like we are starting to see the “been there, seen that” feel some of the backgrounds as the series has gone on. The character models are also easily at their prime here, with nearly seamless transitions with face movements being shown off, something that wasn’t always perfect in the prior titles.

With a score that is aiming to keep up or improve upon the prior games, Cold Steel IV does so fairly well. As a soundtrack, it retains a lot of the same elements that have sold fans on the series since the first Cold Steel, keeping many of the classical elements like the piano and strings but works to add different sound textures with trumpets, xylophones, and oboe. The sound effects follow from Cold Steel III, adding in some new ones but never clashing with the soundtrack as a whole when heard.

As the last swing of a sword is had, The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV aims to be the end to a four-game series and does so as seamlessly as it can. The lore-rich and deep story, a large cast of playable characters, general enhancements to gameplay, new fun free time minigames, the longstanding anime but detailed visuals, and a soundtrack that holds up well make for a solid experience to end a series on.

Pros:

  • Easily one of the more lore-rich stories so far
  • An extended cast of playable characters
  • New minigames to add replay value
  • Visuals that have stood the series
  • Memorable soundtrack

Cons:

  • The enhanced state is too strong
  • Character strength imbalance
  • Backgrounds begin to fall flat

DarkLunarDude gives The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV a Drastik Measure of 8.2 out of 10.0 (82)

At the price of $59.99 on the PlayStation Store, this is an easy recommendation for those of the series and JRPG fans. I as always do though, I do recommend you either play the prior games to get the best experience or use the backstory feature to catch up on the story so far.