Translation and localization are big topics for fans of massive JRPGs, and it makes sense. These games are heavy on narrative and character development, and good localization can make or break an experience. The Trails games have had exceptional localizations, mostly thanks to the work of XSEED. Unfortunately what doesn’t quite measure up to that level of quality is recent localizations by NIS America (looking at you Ys VIII).
Well, the good news is that after spending nearly an hour with Trails of Cold Steel III, it seems like the game is going to hit the same quality as its predecessors, and NIS America is clearly dedicated to getting it there.
Our demo dropped us partway through the game with a party of new Class VII members around level 35. Although I, obviously, didn’t get to know these new characters, like Ash or Musse, they instantly felt right at home in the Trails series.
The dynamic reminded me of the first Trails of Cold Steel, with classmates with clashing personalities stuck working together. The voice performances were quite good, both in terms of inflecting emotion and just providing basic combat voices.
Outside of a few very small text issues, like a dropped letter, absolutely everything in the game was translated thoroughly. From the loads of menus, to the small unvoiced text sequences.
Travis Shrodes, marketing manager for NIS America, talked to me about how important getting the translation right was to them. According to Shrodes, the company was well aware of fans’ worries when it was announced that NIS would be handling the localization. They’ve been quick to try and assuage any worries that fans might have by being open about communication and using their Discord.
A huge step in boosting fans’ confidence was bringing on key members of the localization team from the first two Cold Steel games; former XSEED games staff Brittany Avery, Ryan Thomson, and Kris Knigge.
As Shrodes explained to me, the three are much more easily able to help coach the voice actors returning to their roles, and make sure that the game’s compendium and logs have accurate information that match the past games. Speaking of voice actors, Shrodes was able to confirm that most of the original voice actors for Trails of Cold Steel will be returning, but not everyone, although I didn’t find out exactly who.
More good news is that I was able to confirm that Trails of Cold Steel III will have a “catch up” segment to bring players up to speed, like with the second game.
Trails of Cold Steel III also starts up introduce characters from Zero No Kiseki and Ao No Kiseki, two games in the series never released in the West.
While the stories of Zero and Ao won’t be summarized, NIS did confirm that there’ll be proper dialogue to introduce and give background on these characters as the appear.
On the gameplay front, Trails of Cold Steel III is about what you’d expect from the series at this point, but with a few nice enhancements. The fast-forward button is now mapped to the touchpad, letting you simply touch the left side to speed things up. At the same time, you can press the right side of the touchpad to enter auto-battle, definitely something useful for grinding sessions.
My favorite thing new thing, however, is a slick new design for the battle UI that makes menus pop up off of characters, almost like in Persona 5. You can use the face button and the D-pad to select the action you want to take, for example crafts are on triangle while the basic attack is on X.
It’s a system that looks fantastic aesthetically, but also simplifies the menus so it’s easier and faster to access everything, instead of having to scroll through everything.
Obviously, my time with Trails of Cold Steel III is just a short snippet of a probably 100-hour game. Still, for the time I’m definitely hopeful for how the localization will turn out. All of the steps that NIS America have taken so far are signs of good faith, and Trails of Cold Steel III looks like it’ll be another epic JRPG for fans to tackle.