When it comes to the third installment in a four entry series, people tend to have certain characters they know and love. Introducing new people can be a difficult feat, as you might wonder if they could ever earn the same love and devotion as the people who have been there from the very beginning. The good news is, The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III solves that potential problem with a number of good storytelling decisions. The first few are setting it after a brief timeskip and in a new location, to help provide a bit of distance from the first half. The other involves a smaller cast of characters that allows people more opportunities to get to know other characters.
Which The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel kicked off, people immediately had quite a few characters to get to know. The very first Class VII had nine members in it, though the first dungeon helped people better wade in a bit by initially having Rean venture into it with Elliot, Gaius, and Jusis/Machias. The third entry decides to run with the principle that less is more and, for the first few hours of the game, goes with a minimal number of students. You get two familiar faces in this new Class VII and two new ones. We already knew Rean and Altina from past installments. This means that Juna and Kurt, the two brand new people finding their footing in the world, have extra time to stand out.
While this benefits both characters, it is especially helpful for Juna. She has a rather bright and notable future ahead of her in The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel installments. Spoilers aside, she ends up having the same sort of leadership role in her class as Rean did for the first Class VII. (For example, she has a natural aptitude for piloting Soldats.) Plus, her inclusion is helpful for helping people better understand the Crossbell connection. Since we never received Trails from Zero or Trails to Azure, some of the series has been lost to time. Through Juna, we have a better idea of what the people of Crossbell are feeling and going through. In addition, we get to see what a person who is in a similar role as Rean, but has a very different personality and her own goals, would reach when given the opportunity to be the “lead” for the cast.
By having our first hours and missions focus on Rean and Altina, Juna, and Kurt, we also get to have new relationships established. We know how Rean interacts with people who are his equals. We saw that all through Trails of Cold Steel I and II. Here, we have a chance to see him as an authority figure and helping others out. With Altina, we have a chance to see her open up and start showing emotion. We have this concept of who and what she is expected to be, but now she’s a student like everyone else. (It’s also cute how she reacts when she finds Juna is better than her at something.) Juna gets to take her first steps toward both being a leader and seeing what Erebonians can really be like. We also get to see her overcome her pride and stubbornness, becoming a more well-rounded individual. Kurt is seeing what it is like to find a new path for himself after realizing the future he expected isn’t going to happen as he planned. He keeps seeing everyone else do better and has certain conceptions about Rean, and we get to see him come into his own.
It also helps that some of the members of the new Class VII aren’t there right away. People start out with Altina, Juna, and Kurt as the three students. However, as the introduction of The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III points out, they aren’t the only ones Rean will be working with. Ash and Musse will also eventually be Special Operations members. Again, this is a fantastic narrative decision. Both students are taught by Rean, even though they aren’t direct members of his class at the start. We’re teased with appearances from them and still get chances to interact with them around the branch campus, finding out who they are. But, but bringing them onboard in a more official capacity later, they also get their own opportunities to stand out when they really jump in.
Let’s be real here. The Legend of Heroes: Trails games have a massive cast, with people from Trails in the Sky even finding their way both with appearances and references. There’s a lot to keep up with, and people might worry about adding even more people to the roster. But The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III approaches the challenge of making even newcomers stand out and handles it adeptly. Ash, Juna, Kurt, and Musse get extra love and attention throughout the game, with the smaller class letting you really first spend a lot of time with Altina, Juna, and Kurt, so you can see the dynamic those three will have with each other and Rean. Then, it pulls in Ash and Musse, further building things up. By the time you hit the second chapter, you may already start feeling comfortable around Rean’s three charges and consider them a part of the “family.”
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III will come to the PlayStation 4 in North America and Europe on October 22, 2019 and in Australia on October 29, 2019. It is immediately available in Japan.