The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III juggles characters from different series in its lore and brings them all together to tell an epic tale.
In cinema, the success of franchises such as the Marvel Cinematic Universe has revolutionized how both consumers and movie directors think about film. Continuity has become a trend over the past few years, and I love seeing storylines develop over several entries in a franchise. The Trails series is fantastic at introducing plot elements that are referenced throughout its various games and weaving them together.
Trails of Cold Steel III picks up about a year and a half after Cold Steel II. The protagonist, Rean Schwarzer, has become an instructor for a branch campus of Thors Military Academy, where he was a student at the main campus during the first two games. His friend and former classmate, Towa Herschel, joins him as a fellow instructor. Additionally, the game includes a third instructor, Randy Orlando. Randy was introduced in the Trails of Zero/Ao game on the PlayStation Portable as part of the main cast called the Special Support Section of the Crossbell State Police Department. However, in Trails of Cold Steel III, he remains unplayable and supports Rean as a colleague.
This is one of the first instances of continuity from previous games in the series, with many more to follow. In the early chapters of Cold Steel III, Rean and his students visit a location that harbors a great tragedy and is inexplicably linked to the main characters of the Trails in the Sky games, albeit a few years later in the series’s timeline. A few more main characters from both the Zero/Ao duology and the Sky trilogy make supporting appearances in Cold Steel III, either as Rean’s colleagues or associates at the branch campus.
Those who have played Cold Steel I and II, as well as the Zero/Ao duology and Sky trilogy, will swell with joy at the many references and easter eggs to the previous games present in Cold Steel III. For those who do not understand the references, this is not actually the player’s fault.
The Trails in the Sky series was only ever localized for western audiences on PC and PlayStation Portable/Vita due to logistical and financial considerations. Meanqhile, the Zero/Ao duology was never officially localized into English releases. Originally PSP games, no financial incentive exists for any publisher to pick them up. Community fan translations are the only way for players to experience the duology in English.
Additionally, both the Zero/Ao duology and Sky trilogy received enhanced re-releases complete with voice acting on the PlayStation Vita, dubbed ‘Evolution’, but they are handled by an entirely different publisher, Kadokawa Games, instead of Nihom Falcom in Japan. Currently, no indication of the ‘Evolution’ versions coming westward exists either.
Trails of Cold Steel III finally made its way to western audiences in October. The publisher of that version has announced that Cold Steel III is coming to the Nintendo Switch, but the previous two games are not. That raises the question, will western fans, such as myself, ever experience the full Trails series in an official localized capacity?
As someone who has actually only played the Cold Steel series, I can say that Cold Steel III is perfectly enjoyable without having played Sky or Zero/Ao, but I probably would have enjoyed it much more if I had. I definitely scratched my head at some references, but that actually has me excited to go back. After completing Cold Steel III and meeting characters like Randy, I can frame Zero/Ao as prequels, and I am curious to see the events that occurred during the Crossbell arc that led Randy to join the Thors Military branch campus along with Rean.
Nihom Falcom president Toshiro Kondo expressed interested in bringing the Sky trilogy and Zero/Ao duology to the PlayStation 4, so hopefully that could breathe new life into the Trails series in the west. Trails of Cold Steel IV — the End of Saga, has not been announced for localization yet, but in OnlySP’s interview with NISA at PAX West 2019, the publisher expressed delight at the possibility of bringing it over . The game has even more characters crossing over from Sky and Zero/Ao as it is the grand culmination of the series and will bring it to a satisfying close. I am absolutely excited to see where the Trails series goes in the future, as well as its growth in the west come 2020.