The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV

released on Sep 27, 2018

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The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV

released on Sep 27, 2018

The long awaited finale to the epic engulfing a continent comes to a head in the final chapter of the Trails of Cold Steel saga!

IT'S WAR! The continent of Zemuria is dragged into conflict as the Erebonian Empire mobilizes the full force of its military. The heroes of Class VII old and new must unite to end the conflict before it consumes the continent.

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the super bowl for pedophiles

This review contains spoilers

-Written on November 28, 2020-

Cold Steel IV is the final game in the series and a cumulation of the Trails series at this point. It delivers a lot of conclusion points that have been going on since the first Cold Steel game and the game really up its stakes and for the most part, it did a fine job one uping Cold Steel III. That said I can't help but feel it hit a lot of bumps along the way when Class VII tries to end the war and the curse.

Cold Steel IV is essentially the same game as Cold Steel III in a lot of ways, with the biggest difference is you have much more freedom to travel around western Zemeria. There's still plenty of NPCs to talk to, even if a good chunk of them talk about the upcoming war, it's rather realistic. Side quests are ultimately more important in CSIV since at least half of them adds to the overall plot in some way (especially during the finale).

The gameplay is almost exactly the same as CSIII with the only difference is your Brave Orders are nerfed at the start to make the game more balanced. Doing Trails chests is fun challenge to make you overcome the enemies in certain parties and it's nice leveling up your Brave Orders for characters. Cryptids and Lost Arts from Cold Steel II also make a return and fighting these optional bosses to unlock some of the strongest arts in the game is very satisfying as well. On a small note, I enjoy the OST more in Cold Steel IV than III, considering how bad of a rep Singa gets. I especially love the boss and dungeon themes.

Cold Steel IV also relies on the previous games from Sky and Crossbell even more heavily since many more characters and story beats in past games have a bigger role in the story. In Cold Steel III, you might be okay keeping up with the story if you just played Cold Steel I and II but in Cold Steel IV, it's unthinkable to play IV without playing the Sky and Crossbell games. In the prologue alone, I counted nearly 50-60 references to past games, and huge chunks of the story of Sky SC and Ao no Kiseki get spoiled right from the get-go. Now whatever or not someone should spend like 900 hours in the series just for one game is debatable but that's a different discussion for a different day.

However, if you are fully caught up with the series, it's incredibly satisfying to know all of the references from past games and see past characters fully developed. Cold Steel IV rewards the player a lot for investing in the series with a very well pay off. It's easily one of the game biggest strengths.

That said despite many appearances from the Liberl team and the SSS, I must stress Cold Steel IV is Class's VII show and 90% of the story is centered around them. After the prologue, Cold Steel IV made it clear the main objective is to rescue Rean and end the war and that is divided into three acts and a finale.

Act I is a classic straightforward JRPG feel when you visit town to town on foot while still having a small hub world to come back to interact with the characters. One could stay it's just like Cold Steel III but without the school elements. Act I don't waste its time since there's plenty of events that go on to set up the main highlight later in the story. Act I also have a lot of good New Class VII moments and character development, even if I feel like the overall writing for New Class VII has decreased compared to Cold Steel III.

After the emotional but super shounen cheesy Fragments section, Act II offers more freedom but it's a very filtered act that could easily be cut down such as combining 2 of the 3 main missions or not making side quests required. The majority of Act II is rescuing girls that are trapped in a place. I get having a full cast of characters but it's an odd shift of priorities and pacing considering the bigger issues in play. However, the ending of Act II is what I personally think it's not only the best part of Cold Steel IV, but all of Trails as a whole. So the ending alone is definitely worth the patience, especially if you fully caught up in the series.
Act III is essentially just like Act II but the story and the pacing tighten up better and you have more characters to interact on the ship. Act III, as well as Act II to an extent, is also Old Class VII's show as some of the characters that are involved in the story start to get closure with their own character issues that have been ongoing since Cold Steel I. Because of this, I start to really like old Class VII more than I ever did. Even some of the villains became more likable around this act due to many plot and motive reveals.

After Act III, you get a fun interlude event, which is weird considering what going on in the game but whatever. This is where you get to choose who you want to romance and leading up to that is the bonding system, which is one of my biggest complaints in this game. Bonding systems existed since Zero no Kiseki and they have improved overtime. However, Cold Steel IV did a fatal flaw by locking between important character development and many personal character arcs come to an end with bonding events. It isn't like previous Cold Steel games when you just getting to know the character, no you are seeing story elements you won't get elsewhere in the game and the Crossbell games had that same issue. I know you can save and reload but considering you can't see every bonding event in one save, it's an iffy decision.

Related to the bonding system is the harem. I know harem existed since Sky and I already accepted the fact at least a few girls gonna like Rean throughout Cold Steel. However, 11 options are overkill even for harem standards. I especially hate how Rean's own students got included. The romance is especially more intense since most of the girls confess to him right from the start. However this just really ruins any sense of mature romance in the game and a huge part of me just wished Falcom never let the player have options from the start of Cold Steel.

After the interlude is the finale. There are several important quests to do that add to the story and once you start the ending of the game, which is pretty epic in scale. You will proceed to do 5 dungeons before doing the massive final one with many bosses await you. It's very similar to Liberl Ark in Sky SC, Azure Tree in Ao, Infernal Castle in Cold Steel 2, etc. I won't tell you how that goes but there are two endings in Cold Steel IV once you're done. A normal one that feels more realistic and bittersweet but betrays what Cold Steel really about and a true ending, while super duper shounen cheesy and overly happy, it couldn't be a better ending for Cold Steel and all of Trails to this point.

One thing I could not help but notice is how the morality is super black and white in Cold Steel IV and that's a bit disappointing considering past Trails games explored in grey morality. I can't explain this too much without spoilers but the way character actions are basically blamed on a single thing just feels really silly and immature. I don't like how characters are no longer accountable for their actions, save for one person. It's a really frustrating feeling that everyone that did wrong got away with it or was easily forgiven.
Trails of Cold Steel IV have plenty of amazing moments, fanservice of past games, large casts and many characters get their own conclusion for their arc.
As far as the stakes and the tension being high, and the scale being grand and epic, Cold Steel IV wins in that department in Trails. Cold Steel IV might have a lot of immature writing such as its morality and its romance and the pacing is weird at times but considering how much that was going on in the game, for the most part, Falcom kept it together. Cold Steel IV isn't my favorite in the series due to its issues but it's one of the better Trails games for sure and it's a strong ending to the saga. If you have been sticking with Trails long enough, then Cold Steel IV is a rewarding and satisfying conclusion.

a good finally to a boring arc

While fun, it has one of the worst plot devices I've ever experienced in a game and there's a lack of focus on specific characters beyond Act 1 outside of certain villains. While I still like it, it's a massive drop from the great Cold Steel 3.