As the plot rockets along, all sorts of curious folk cross the team's path, helping out or obstructing them. Some of it is ludicrous - the minute you arrest a bunch of enemies threatening world peace, you don't let one of them whip out a monster-summoning flute (twice)! Some of Cold Steel is deeply emotive, with a nomadic tribe threatened by gathering armies and young relatives used as pawns by the various powers in play.
But everything is on a grand scale, with challenge and betrayal on all sides. The epic scenery, for a Vita game, can chug in some of the cut scenes, but otherwise this is a fluid and exciting romp, and just when you think you're on the up, its back to delivering parcels for teacher!
They don't like the feel of Cold Steel up 'emI'll keep the plot vague, as that would spoil one of 2016's must-own titles, which can be played as deeply or as lightly as you like. You don't have to fight every random battle out in the sticks, you can ride or race past most of them, and the difficulty can be adjusted if you find yourself up against a new rock hard beast. Side quests can, and should be ignored, as they are basically trophy fodder with no other reason to exist.
Battle is naturally repetitive, but rarely boring. You'll need to scan your enemy for its weakest point of resistance to the best physical and magical attacks. Then, swap out your party for the most effective warriors and lay waste to them. Special links are the reason why this team is so strong, bond pairs together and you get extra defensive skills or bonus attacks dealing massive power. The main annoyance is the team's constant moaning about a tough battle that you just waltzed through, due to a slightly borked narrative. There also no link between them looking wrecked after a battle, despite the cake walk you just waltzed through.
While the first three quarters of the game is mostly fast-paced and fun, the last couple of chapters drag and drag, and drag some more. Guess the script writer was being paid by the word, but it really saps your will at times. Keep with it if you want to be prepared for Trails of Cold Steel II coming later in 2016.
This episode is easily a 50 hour plus game, and lunatics may consider it worth a second playthrough in a higher challenge mode, essential if you want all those trophies. With the sequel already well underway, expect this game to dominate Vita discussions in 2016. Not only does it shame western developers who claim they can't do much with the Vita but it is a hugely well-crafted adventure and universe that I look forward to exploring further.
Price: £29.99 on Amazon
Progress: Completed story