Trails of Cold Steel

Hey guys, it’s me, Draggle, with my latest excuse for failing at anime blogging. My excuse this time is that I just finished Trails of Cold Steel.

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Premise

For those who are unfamiliar, it’s set in the same world as Trails in the Sky a couple years later. (I really need to around to playing Trails in the Sky Second Chapter). It’s a Quartzpunk fantasy world with railroads and airships and mechas but where swords and staffs are still stronger than shotguns. In short, right up my alley.

Based on the premise alone, this game sounds like it should suck. It follows a class of high school students who go on field trips. Who wants to see that…

To make matters worse, the intro hook is atrocious. It fast forwards to near the very end of the game, and has you fight the next to final boss with these random people it doesn’t even introduce you to. Lame. (Also, it feels like they totally plagiarized Final Fantasy Type-0? But that games intro was so bad I only got 15 minutes in before I quit… so I can’t say for sure.) Trails in the Sky had the same problem with the intro for me— I actually tried the game once and quit before picking it up again and loving the game.

Characters

Despite the poor intro hook and the tired school setup, I ended up loving the game. One of the main reasons is that they take this silly high school setup which we’ve seen a million times before, but they don’t make everybody in the class some generic loser. All of them have some ridiculous background, all diverse and all engaging, typically with a bit of family drama or something they’ve left behind going through boarding school. There’s a ton of twists centering on the characters, even when you think you already knew them quite well, you find out there’s a lot more to it. What’s more, all of the characters come from a set of diverse backgrounds throughout the empire. Which leads us to…

Themes

By far my favorite part of the game (which will surprise no one who reads this blog) was the treatment of the subject of the Empire. The up front conflict for much of the story is within the Empire— a faction of conservative nobles battling a reformist faction composed of commoners as social barriers collapse with the advent of industrialization. There’s also a bunch of “can’t we all get along” types represented mainly by the Imperial family.

But the students never call into question the basis of Empire itself. They visit a foreign land which their army has occupied, but conclude that everything is hunky-dory. Another group visits a country that was recently annexed (offscreen) and conclude that the people are happy there. A proxy state declares independence and the students aren’t even able to mentally process why they would not want to be part of the Empire. Throughout the game, the students are told to focus on seeing what’s going on in the country. Yet they don’t see a thing. It’s revealed at the end that they couldn’t even see what was going on in their own classroom.

What made me enjoy this so much is the use of perspectives— the player has a great deal of suspicions about the entire enterprise of the empire, but the students, despite everything they see, remain completely oblivious to what is going on in the world.

Shipping

Sadly, the shipping is not that great. They try to give the option of shipping the main character with all the girls which totally backfires. They really should have set up some of the girls in the class not with the main character but with some of the other girls in the class. The main character is a siscon anyway.

I ended up torn between student council president and ninja girl. The tsundere who seems to be the main intended ship is the worst one, sadly.

Despite this, the random side characters had some excellent shipping chemistry. Like the two hicks who competed for food stalls, or the childhood friends commoner and noble, or the fishing people. Also, not a ship, but the two twins were hilarious. Anyway, definitely all the detail put into all the minor characters are one of the strongest parts of the Trails games.

Combat

Meh, who cares. It’s not that hard and doesn’t take that long. I definitely spent way more time talking to people than fighting.

Conclusions

It’s a good game go play it but don’t be like me you should finish Trails in the Sky Second Chapter first.

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