The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III (Nintendo Switch) Review
Continuation of all the best aspects of the previous entriesIntriguing characters and politically driven plot that keeps the player engrossed60-100+ hours of gameplayNow portable
Hardware limitations are noticeable, particularly in visuals on the original SwitchIf you're not into character and story driven RPGs or are averse to turn based combat, this won't be for you
94%Nintendo Switch
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Made for This

The Legend of Heroes saga is one that I hold dearly. It’s full of memorable characters with incredibly personal and interesting growth and plot lines that engross. For all of that incredible content – typically 50-80 hours worth dependent upon how you play – I always had difficulties playing through long sessions. Having the initial two Trails of Cold Steel games launch on the PlayStation Vita was a lifesaver. It meant that I could play at my own pace whenever I wanted for however long I wanted (and Trails in the Sky on PSP before that). When Trails of Cold Steel III launched on PS4 last year, I still thoroughly enjoyed my time with it – it just felt like more of a chore to get through, especially when I had other titles to work with.

Now, Trails of Cold Steel III is portable again – readily playable on the Nintendo Switch and Switch Lite. This offers players the ability to play docked on a television or in whatever comfortable position they’d like. I’ll be the first to admit that I discovered a newfound love for the game that I didn’t realize was there – especially considering that I have a difficult time playing through games twice. There’s a bit to unpack here, especially when comparing the quality of the game on the Switch and Switch Lite. 

Before we get into that, however, we’ll re-cap the premise of Cold Steel III. The story follows Rean Schwarzer, the Ashen Chevalier and hero of Erebonia, a recent graduate of Thors Military Academy. He has been hired as the instructor of the new Class VII, a special ops segment of the academy at its newly opened branch in Leeves. Shortly into their first class assignment, Rean & Co. (and the entirety of the branch campus) discover remnant archaisms unleashed upon the world again – by the notorious Ouroborous. From there, Rean meets up with his fellow alumni as he continues to instruct Class VII. I won’t go into much more detail about the plot, as the stories in Cold Steel are really great. 

Combat is an upgraded turn based system that allows players to move and act within a defined battle perimeter. Players can use arts (magic) and crafts/S-crafts (skills/powerful, character specific abilities) alongside the newly introduced battle orders (commands that use battle points {BP} to add bonuses to the party). Chain links and attacks are still wieldable upon successful critical strikes, and the overall flow of battle feels and looks better than the previou entries. Difficulty is still pretty intense and requires a bit of grinding and strategy on normal and higher difficulties, though difficulty is easily changed after defeat and in the options menu. 

Visually, Trails of Cold Steel III is improved from its previous entries. This is where things get a little sticky, however. I used both my Switch and Switch Lite to play Trails of Cold Steel III on, and it’s not even a comparison for quality. The Switch Lite is far and above the better performing console, and its visuals are much crisper, gameplay smoother, and load times shorter than on the original Switch. To make matters worse, the Switch docked version is equally as ugly as its portable version – so much so that I discarded my original Switch in lieu of the Switch Lite. If you have both consoles and get the game, consider comparing it on both. It’s very noticeable. With that said, it’s not the fault of Cold Steel III that the original Switch suffers from lackluster hardware, and the power of The Legend of Heroes saga lies within its characters, story, and gameplay – not in its visual prowess. 

If you’ve played Trails of Cold Steel III on PS4 or PC (or both) and want another go, the Nintendo Switch port does the game enough justice to warrant a second or third playthrough. The portability of the Switch feels like the perfect pairing for the series, and I’m extremely glad it exists on this platform. I will always support the series on PlayStation, but I will also always buy it as long as I can have a portable version. And if you only own a Switch and have played the first two games of the Cold Steel segment of the Trails saga, then you have a lot to look forward to in this masterclass RPG series.