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The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel series is renowned as one of the most popular JRPG series to date. Following the original Japanese release for the PS4 in September 2018, Cold Steel IV is the highly anticipated final entry that has made its way to North America. With the PS4 release dropping in October 2020, the PC and Nintendo Switch versions are hot on its heels with a scheduled 2021 release date. 

The story continues directly after the climatic events of Cold Steel III with the legendary Class VII Instructor, Rean Schwarzer taken captive by the enemy. Taking charge in his absence, Juna rallies the members of Thors Military Academy Class VII along with Kurt and Altina to investigate Rean’s whereabouts and uncover any conspiracies. The threat of the Erebonian Empire looms over the continent with their military conquest under Operation Jormungandr. As the rest of the world prepares a counter defensive, the existence of the enigmatic secret society, Ouroboros further fans the flames of malice and deception. Going any further in detail would spoil the surprises of the intricate plot as Cold Steel IV marks the finale to the Cold Steel series saga.         

 

Combat involves the new refinements and familiar battle mechanics with the return of the Lost Arts, a powerful Orbal system previously seen in the earlier titles. With a usage frequency of once per battle, characters may utilize their Lost Arts at the expense of an entire EP gauge. As you fight and receive damage in kind, the Craft Points (CP) gauge gradually rises to pave the way for incredibly powerful S-Craft skills. The respective team member must have at least 100 CP to initiate them at any given time. These S-Craft skills range from Juna’s Valiant Charge and Ash’s Sinner Revelry to Altina’s Solaris Bringer. Moreover, your party members now have the ability to summon mechs to the field, regardless of their lack of access to a Divine Knight. This adds more potential strategies as you assess and execute attacks against numerous foes. For those looking to speed things up, the ability to engage enemies in Auto Battle mode is an option at your disposal. 

The tactics utilized on the battlefield can be tailored to your liking by means of the party order and standing formation. Designing the offensive and supportive positions ensures the optimal party for taking down difficult foes and strong bosses when you least expect them. It is important to review combat links to verify the description and the party member associated with them. This influences the entire squad as it is preferable to keep the top allies together to give you the tactical advantage.  

 

Mini-games are a welcome break from the main campaign with a variety of activities: Poker and Blackjack, Pom Pom Party, the Horror Coaster and Vantage Masters. Located in the Entertainment District of Crossbell, Poker and Blackjack can be played within Barca, the local casino. Medals are up for grabs as the rewards which can be exchanged for an assortment of accessories and items. For puzzle fans, Pom Pom Party is a competitive game in Erebonia that requires lining up and clearing three of the same colored poms. These can be played competitively against any NPC or fellow party member to reach the coveted Pom Pom Party King status. For arcade type shooting fans, the Horror Coaster delivers a ride through a haunted mansion to shoot and rack up points against ghosts and other ethereal beings. Earning a high score opens up the possibility of additional rewards like a surprise gift. Finally, Vantage Masters is a card battling game making use of spells, unique skills and creature cards to defeat your opponent and secure victory.   

Bonding Moments display the relationships between Rean and select female members that range from outright comical to heartwarming. Despite the intensity of the main story, these are a welcome change of pace to show the deeper personality traits and aspirations of your teammates. Much like the earlier Cold Steel instalments, it’s nice to see a variety of situations in these events, even if they might be a hit or miss with the intended audience.   

 

Much of the narrative is focused on character development with an abundance of new and returning characters. It can be overwhelming at times as there are many interactions and a lot of details to take in on top of the main story. Many series fans will no doubt be joyful at the presence of many recruitable characters and the remarkable number of NPCs to interact with. There is no shortage of romantic tension and antics that run between party members that lend themselves naturally to possible bonding moments.   

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV is a grand conclusion to the Cold Steel series saga. Fans that have diligently followed the series since the beginning will find plenty to sink their teeth as the game boasts an intricate plot, engaging combat and a large cast of characters. Despite minor translation errors and some pacing issues, Cold Steel IV is an epic title that should not be missed as it stands to be one of Nihon Falcom’s finest.

 

PROS (+): Intricate Plot, Engaging Combat, Diverse Characters

CONS (-): Minor Translation Errors, Pacing Issues

 

SCORE – 8.5/10

This review is based on a digital copy of The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV on PlayStation 4 provided by the publisher.

 

 

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