At first, Falcom didn’t seem to be really on board with the Nintendo Switch. At the time, the enduring fantasy RPG studio chalked it up to a matter of experience and logistics. It made sense; Falcom was a longtime PlayStation partner aside from its PC base. But it seems like, thanks to some help, the ball is rolling with Falcom and the Switch. And this month’s Trails of Cold Steel III Switch port is the second volley, and perhaps the first of a new, consistent strategy. And as I’ve spent time with the new port, I have to say that the work here is excellent, and a good sign for the future.
The port for Ys VIII had some issues, but to be fair that was a game that had to exist on Switch, PS4, and the PS Vita. There’s no winning when the Vita is involved. But to be fair, Ys is also a lightning fast action series with a lot to keep up with. On the other hand, the Trails of Cold Steel series has been much more port-friendly, moving between PS3, Vita, PC, and PS4 much more smoothly. The first two haven’t shown up here yet, and after originally playing it on the PS4 late last year, I was a bit worried. These games aren’t fidelity powerhouses, but the visual bump from the first two Trails of Cold Steel entries to this one is noticeable.
Luckily, things seemed to have worked out great. Playing on my Lite, the Trails of Cold Steel III Switch port looks exactly like I remember it on PS4. Obviously that won’t be accurate; I’m sure if I put them next to each other there would be a difference, and TV Mode especially might not match up. But from the more detailed character models to the higher resolution presentation, everything feels intact. And it runs plenty smoothly, with occasional frame drops that are barely worth mentioning. In a world of ports that feel like square pegs smashed into round holes, Trails of Cold Steel III fits its new platform like a glove.
There is one problem, and it’s a problem I recall from the days of random Vita ports. The text size in the UI is not scaled properly when playing in Handheld Mode. The UI is as high-res as it needs to be for playing on a TV, but I did notice some eye strain when reading the text, especially during combat. It isn’t as bad as playing a HD game on a 4:3 television, nor is it as bad as some Vita ports (shout out to Dynasty Warriors 8 for being the best/worse example of this). It isn’t terrible, and I’ve experienced worse, but the text and sometimes other UI elements are just a hair smaller than they probably should be for the average person, and anyone with eye-related struggles will notice (source: me and my astigmatism). An option to adjust text size would be nice!
Beyond my issue with the UI scaling in Handheld Mode, the Trails of Cold Steel III Switch port is nearly perfect. It runs smoothly, looks great, and overall feels like the game it should be, translated from a PS4 title. Falcom isn’t exactly known for cutting-edge visuals, and that’s fine. But as a longtime player here, it would be disingenuous to suggest Falcom’s titles didn’t struggle on the Vita. But on the Switch, it looks like the third-party partner Falcom has working on these ports has it mostly figured out. With Cold Steel IV and Ys IX on the way to Switch for sure, I’m feeling pretty good now about the future of Falcom and Nintendo.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III will launch for the Nintendo Switch on June 30, 2020. It is currently available for the PS4 and the PC.