The Four Trails of Cold Steel

Trails of Cold Steel IV

It’s only been a few months since The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III released in Japan for PlayStation 4, but Falcom is already moving on to the next installment. After a short 24-hour countdown on the teaser site ended, the developer officially confirmed that The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV ~The End of Saga~ is coming to PlayStation 4 next fall. (Warning: Keep in mind that even the game’s main concept art contains serious spoilers.) It will arrive only one year after the previous game, turnover time that’s somewhat remarkable for a company so small. While that’s partly because it will use several assets and even entire locations from III, they also want to capitalize on the series’ current popularity.

The Trails games have attracted a larger audience since Falcom moved the Legend of Heroes series from PC to PSP in Japan years ago. But its poularity exploded with the first Trails of Cold Steel title in 2013 for five key reasons.

For one, this installment marked a shift in presentation from 2D sprites on 3D backgrounds to an entirely 3D experience. Second, this was combined with Falcom making sure their advertising campaign showed how it didn’t require knowledge of the previous five Trails games (though knowledge of them didn’t hurt), meaning it was approachable for newcomers. Third, the title launched on PS3 and Vita simultaneously, two platforms with sizable userbases that don’t entirely overlap. Fourth, the first game looked enough like a Persona title to attract fans of that franchise, who wanted something to hold them off during the lengthy eight-year gap between Persona 4 and Persona 5. Finally, those among the audience who hadn’t played previous installments heard about how good they were, and wanted to start here. With that combination, it’s no surprise they did pretty well.

In fact, those are also the reasons why Falcom wanted XSeed to quickly localize the first two games in the Cold Steel series, which required them to skip the third Trails in the Sky title and both Sora and Ao no Kiseki. The third game was localized for a release on PC earlier this year, and the others could be coming.

Trails of Cold Steel III

Given the large audience Falcom attracted, they took a surprising risk with Cold Steel III. Instead of releasing it for two PlayStation platforms again, they chose to release it only on PlayStation 4 due to their desire to further prioritize its visuals compared to previous installments. There was little guarantee their PS3 audience had shifted to PS4, and the chance that their Vita audience migrated or would migrate to PS4 was even lower considering it’s not a handheld. Fortunately, the game did well enough, though not on par with previous games on PS3 and Vita combined. But they’re going through with also releasing the fourth title exclusively for the platform.

As the name “The End of Saga” implies (though it should be “End of the Saga”), Cold Steel IV will be the final game in the Cold Steel series, though not the final Trails title. As such, Falcom is promising to provide a game with overwhelming volume that surpasses the grand scale of its predecessor. They haven’t gone into detail about what the game’s story will entail, but since it’s a continuation of previous installments, keep in mind all of them will include massive spoilers. These will be fun to dodge considering Cold Steel III isn’t on the horizon for western markets yet.

Notably, CSIV will arrive after remasters of the first two games in Japan, both of which have humorously verbose names. The first is The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel I: Kai -Thors Military Academy 1204-, while the second is The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II: Kai -The Erebonian Civil War-. The first game will include a “High Speed Skip Mode” to help players zoom through slower parts of the game faster, which sounds similar to a feature from the enhanced versions of Final Fantasy XII. It will also include cross-saving with the PS3 and Vita versions. Both ports will have support for 4K resolutions, and will run at 60fps.

The PC version of Trails of Cold Steel. There are no screens of the remaster yet, but it should look like this.

Unlike typical ports of this type, which don’t include many extras, Falcom is releasing them separately in Japan for around half the average price. It’s yet another risky move, especially considering they’re coming after Cold Steel III instead of preparing those who didn’t have access to the PS3 and Vita versions for that sequel. In fairness, they’re likely not expecting high sales. The ports of Cold Steel I and II will arrive on March 8th and April 26th in Japan, respectively.

The first two Trails of Cold Steel titles apparently did well for XSeed on all platforms, including the PC version of the first game, which garnered okay sales. Hopefully they can bring the remaining titles over, since they handle Falcom’s games better than Aksys Games and especially NIS America. In the latter’s case: Ys VIII’s translation turned out so subpar that they’re taking the rare step of redoing it, and the process is taking longer than expected. It would be best if the Cold Steel series is left in safe hands, and hopefully XSeed has cleared out their schedule for them.

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