The LEGEND of HEROES: TRAILS of COLD STEEL
Developed by Nihon Falcon
This game, in my first impression, came over as an animé version of Professor Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters meets Hogwarts.
It carries well defined and detailed characters, a long story that stands up high alongside the many and varied tales that can be found in animé legends.
This story is extremely detailed and put over succinctly but also very long-windedly. I do strongly advise you to keep with it to the end and not give up, you won't regret it.
Fie, Rean, Elliot, Gaius, Alisa, Emma, Machias, Jusis and Laura are amongst the many 'special' pupils that join THORS, the School for Select/Special Children, and find themselves placed in the newly created and mysterious Class VII. Previously Class V was regarded as being of the highest order and Class VI was thought of as a myth or a distant memory.
The game begins when Rean steps from the train ready to go to school. He notices that he is the only child of school age wearing a Red uniform. The super-rich 'posh knobs' are immaculately dressed in White & Gold while others are in a selection of 'lesser' colours. You take control of Rean for a brief moment and then he encounters a Blonde girl, also in Red, and the story begins. For the next (seemed like hours but obviously wasn't) moments of time your screen is filled with click-start conversations and auto, animated, scenes. By the time this has finished you are either asleep or ready to start the adventure, it really does take up a large amount of time with auto-chat and not an iota of action.
All the characters, male and female, are the atypical wide-eyed, wild haired (mostly the males), visuals of innocence that fight more ferociously than the majority of online and digital heroic characters of other games.
The school praises Dreichels Reise Arnor (aka Dreichels the Lionheart) the Prince and 73rd Emperor of Erebonia in the Zemurian Continent and the students strive to be worthy of the Prince's memory.
There is a lot of chatting (too much in too many large clumps in my opinion), lots of actions against some very stimulating and exciting opponents, and a lot of boarding-school charm. I didn't go to a boarding-school but I knew kids that did. The snobbery and eliteism found in THORS is so very like way many of those 'toffee-nosed' to**ers behaved; a school for highbrow elite students has been successfully recreated here within this game, making it like a St Trinians© with spells and weapons; it's amazing!
The class VII has a number of questions to answer which allow them to rise in Rank, up to Rank 15. There are also Quests given by the tutors which allow Rank upgrades. These are first discovered in the Prologue, which in this game is a chapter of mainly visual and mostly audible story-telling, long and drawn out as mentioned above already.
If you like the animé genre of story based (and biased) action games, or simply just like action-based games in general then there is no disappointment to be found here. This hits virtually every proverbial nail on its proverbial head and ticks every box for family acceptable animé. Yes the girls generally have difficulty fitting into their school uniforms and I used to think this was blatant sexism to draw younger players into the genre, but seeing how today's schoolgirls dress the girls at THORS are bordering on being over-dressed. Basically what I am saying is that any parent who bans their young teenagers from playing games like this should also ban them from going to school.
But this isn't about how the teens dress it is about their slowly getting to know each other and trust each other, leading to actually liking each other and respecting each other. It is an action tale in a world/universe beyond ours but where the angst, trials and tribulations of young teens is a major part of their growing up. Sadly though, learning about life and scholarly lessons are set alongside the understanding that being the best with various weapons and spells is the only way for themselves, and all students at the school and everywhere, will be able to survive. They are learning that there are forces in the world, maybe not even of their world, that mean to disrupt the harmony that life has to offer, they are learning to be Guardians, Heroes and Champions.
The Quests are often taken by more than one group and just like school-children they split into Boys & Girls with each group believing they are superior to the other. I controlled the Boys, leading with Rean as my main character, though there are times when you need to switch to one of the others. The idea behind these Quests is to learn how to use each character to the best of their abilities. Each one has special talents of some kind and during the exploration of the school these are tested several times against a weird and wonderful selection of adversaries. Fighting and adventuring, seeking and searching in and throughout the wonderfully created interior of Class VII's old and dilapidated (well in need of restoration) building.
Some of the Quests are very similar to those found in MMOs. Go here, go there, search for this, save that, run around from A to C and back again. As you are exploring your own school building the only characters you will meet in the classrooms are either other students in your year and class or teachers. One you meet up with is Towa, President of the the Student Union Council. Your explorations will lead to different chapters as the story unfolds.
So some of the Quests are a bit on the soft side but they are actually building you up to be able to react and operate at a level way beyond your (character's) current comprehension. Suck it up, go and complete the easy-peasy runaround quests because as you progress the enemies do so too. They get bigger, scarier, more in volume and with powers you need to overcome.
This is, from my understanding, a remake of a game from some while back that wasn't available on such an elite console as the PS4. I never played (or had heard of until just now) the original version, but if it was even 50% as good as this then it must have been great. I would go out on a limb and say that TRAILS of COLD STEEL has redefined digital animé action adventure games and is currently the peak to which others should attempt to reach.
Once the viewing and listening has (mostly) ended the action is top quality, fast, thoughtful and fun.
There is a lot of school-type flirting and youthful embarrassment which reflects teenage angst and the well known fact that girls grow up, mentally and figuratively, quicker than boys. One of the teenage boys is very much like the young Ron Weasely© and he attaches himself to Rean who he sees as his mentor. He is not as useless or wimpy as he at first appears though, and does come through heroicly unexpectedly at times.
I have never been a great fan of animé - seems I have said that a lot - but with FATE/EXTELA ® and now LEGEND of HEROES ingratiating their excellence through my thick (head? skin?) that opinion is rapidly changing. Like the other (just mentioned) digital animé game, this utilises the power and visual abilities of the PS4 Pro and I think it is this which is turning my opinions around - the graphics are so much better for this genre of game on the PS4 than they were on the earlier consoles or the PC and playing it on a large screen TV is also a massive benefit (especially as my eyes get older).
A PS4 game of (almost) perfection. Once it gets going and you are at the heart of the action you will find your adrenaline builds up to nearly unsustainable level and time flies past quicker than a Harrier Jet on a peace mission. Well created and detailed characters, enjoyable adventures and unbeatable action.