Even if this playthrough ends up being invalidated by an official release, at least the wonkiness of the translation will give it some uniqueness.
Not to give the devoted souls behind this any grief, of course. It’s not like I need a full explanation as to what “Easy” difficulty entails.
Moving on to the actual game itself, we open in medias res, just like the first Cold Steel (get used to hearing that a lot). Though the biggest difference is that we only see a full party of four. No extra party members, no NPCs.
That said, the flash forward in CS1 wasn’t the most accurate, so things might change.
On a technical level, it’s sprites on top of rendered environments, with the party following the leader. (in this case, the aforementioned Lloyd Bannings) Later on, when the combat is shown, it has the same Strategy RPG elements as CS would go on to have, like characters only being able to move a certain distance per turn to get in range to attack.
Looking back, it makes the future games’ systems look more like refinements of the original intent, rather than change for the sake of change. Plus it makes going back way easier.
The flash forward ends without any combat, and the party ready to go down a hole (measured in the universe’s own units of measurements, naturally) to fight what appears to be this world’s equivalent of a Satanic cult.
Side-note: Given what I’ve seen of this world so far, I’m curious how they’ll handle this setting’s Goddess Aidios.
Is it going to be like Dragon Age, where there’s no definitive word as to whether The Maker exists or not, while leaving evidence for either argument?
Or is it going to go full Fire Emblem, boldly declaring “God is real, and she’s a dragon MILF!”
Maybe it’s already been told, but I’m not in a hurry to find out. Otherwise I would’ve peeked at her wiki article while I was checking her name while editing…
Lloyd then goes on to state every party member’s name, their group name, how many they are, and their motivations, which only serves to remind me of how jarring it was in Cold Steel whenever a character was introduced with their full name and some kind of title.
At least this time it didn’t end on a cliffhanger that ended up paying off in a ridiculous anticlimax.
The game properly starts, like Cold Steel and many others, with our hero on a train to the new setting.
Lloyd mentions being away from Crossbell for a long time, so at least it won’t be too jarring when he starts asking questions on behalf of the player.
(Pictured: How XSEED gets its players caught up on the state of the world)
In the opening moments, he shows himself to have a lot in common with his successor. Showing what a Good Boy he is early on, demonstrating his humility by laughing off earning his credentials as “just luck”, and even more apparently, showing up for work only to find out he’s getting put into a group nobody seems to know exists and thinks there was some kind of mixup, only to be sorted away by a cool-looking authority figure.
The three other party members have already gathered. That was easy.
I can already sort them into categories: Randy, the fun one, Tio, the mysterious one, and Elie, the girl.
Don’t take that as a knock against her, though. Knowing my square-ass track record, she’ll probably end up being my favourite. Lloyd already appears mildly smitten with her, but that may just be me.
After some brief introductions (including a kind of jarring moment where Lloyd seems flabbergasted by the concept of a cell phone) Sergei, the chief, drops us off outside the first dungeon to clear out some monsters. Not exactly what Lloyd expected his job to be like, but Randy thinks it’ll be fun.
Sergei makes Lloyd the leader, which only raises the question as to how the others got here, then I remember that that’s actually a good question cause this is the kind of series that bothers to answer things other creators normally want you to shrug off.
As Sergei takes off, the party gets a chance to compare weapons before heading into the Geofront dungeon. This was part of the character introductions in Cold Steel too, and the focus on the character’s weapons made it look like replacing them with new gear would just be unbecoming.
That was, of course, me not realizing that the focus was on their weapon styles, not the specific gear. This isn’t like Cloud’s buster sword. Rean can Study the Blade even if it’s not the one he came to school with.
Speaking of Rean, another parallel crops up with Lloyd’s weapons. He has a pair of tonfas, which are specifically described as “Eastern Weapons” just like his successor’s sword. The key difference is that Lloyd’s weapons are focussed on defence rather than killing. Elie even describes them as a “typical policeman’s weapon”, which reminded me of Astral Chain’s creative goal of trying to have a positive depiction of the police to serve as an example.
On to Elie, her weapon is the most mundane being a gun (albeit one powered by the world’s ‘orbal’ energy, but that powers everything from cars to streetlamps so it comes off as pretty bog standard for the setting). Randy fills in his big guy role by using a halberd that shocks things, not a lot to expand on with that. And finally Tio uses a technological staff.
And it’s a prototype, just like it was with the staff users in Cold Steel. At this rate, I may have to write off CS1 as being even more creatively bankrupt than I thought at first.
Mean? Maybe, but that arc’s already got its hooks in me, so I don’t think it’ll mind.
On top of weapons, there’s also quartz for magic and passive buffs, and crafts, which are a character’s unique abilities. What caught me off guard was how you learn the hyper-flashy S-crafts by the end of the first floor.
Though I was more surprised that Lloyd’s S-craft was the only one that only affects one target. Probably so he can demonstrate growth later.
(In a way, issues like this makes me respect the translators more. They try to bend a Japanese sentence to work for us and it kind of breaks.)
Anyway, the tutorial needs some way to raise the stakes, so it turns out two kids went and got themselves into danger exploring the monster-infested labrynth. We find the first one easy enough, along with Elie’s skill at talking to them since the female lead talking to animals is too high fantasy for this story.
Surprisingly, the final encounter ends up just being a large mob trying to get the other kid, since the obvious boss monster gets taken out in a cutscene by a Bracer, which was the organization the heroes of the earlier games were from. So in a clever move, they’ve taken a group of people longtime fans would naturally side with, and turned them into buzzkills who only exist to suck up whatever lingering good PR our faction has left.
(Pictured: How XSEED introduces major NPCs)
It’s so overt that not only the kids that we personally saved, but also the press are all too eager to ruin our day. Though as it turns out, our party of do-gooders was formed specifically to do the Bracer’s jobs and get public opinion back where it rightfully belongs: in government institutions!
To be fair, the kids do come by later to actually thank us, and I recognize the reporter from CS2 and she seemed pretty reasonable there. I suppose it’s all a matter of character growth.
Aside from that, its quickly made clear that a lot of people in the police have it out for our group and Sergei in particular. It all comes off as the cartoonishly petty villainy you see at the start of many JRPGs before you get to the supposedly high-minded late-game antagonists. That said, it makes players more likely to accept Sergei as ‘the good cop’ if they weren’t immediately sold on the idea of police as the heroes.
I mean, how can you hate the guy? While you were busy getting chewed out by nearly everyone in earshot, he moved all of the party’s stuff into the detached office. Same general setup as the dorms in Cold Steel 1, but it’s an easy way to know where your party members are.
(The Special Support Squad HQ: As openly disposable as its inhabitants.)
Speaking of which, the first day comes to an end with the cast establishing the start of their character arcs.
Lloyd initially doesn’t feel like slumming it as a glorified errand boy, since he wants to live up to his departed older brother.
Randy, on the other hand, sees this job as the perfect escape after getting kicked out of his old job as a border guard after chasing too many women blew up in his face, though he’s also sympathetic to Lloyd not wanting to let his credentials go to waste.
Elie seems to accept the job as a political publicity stunt, but she’s still sticking around cause she wants to get a better read on the people of Crossbell. Unlike Randy’s position, she openly wants Lloyd to stay because they both seem to be the most green, but she also values him as a leader, so she seems to be one of the few people who appreciates his presence outside of Sergei.
Finally, Tio doesn’t seem to pay Lloyd much mind. If anything, she’s irritated that he can’t seem to grasp the concept of the internet. She also mentions being here as part of an unspecified deal, so there’s a mystery for later.
(The Legend of Heroes: Thunder to Steal)
When all is said and done, Lloyd seems unsure of what he wants out of life besides being a detective, which may be yet another character trait XSEED would go on to revisit in Cold Steel, it’s manages to stay distinct with Lloyd having entered the workforce as opposed to Rean still being in school. For now, Lloyd’s motivated enough to stay thanks to a visit from the kids the party saved, so it’s clear enough that his reluctance isn’t that he sees the job as beneath him, just that he’s skeptical as to how this job will help to honour his late brother.
We’ll have to see how easily he’ll take to the day-to-day when we take on Lloyd and co.’s first real day on the job next time.