The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel is a Japanese-style role-playing game in which players form part of an elite class at a military training academy, exploring dungeons, battling monsters and helping out villagers with their problems as part of their curriculum. Set in a world rife with tension between the elite nobles and the revolting commoners, your school days, which involve socialising with friends, attending classes and taking tests, are a stark contrast to some of the missions you're sent on - like right from the word go, where the intro sees you hot on the heels of an invading army, who plan to use the oversized guns in the military base to attack a peace conference in the nearby town.
When you're not busy bonding with your friends, helping locate another student's lost notebook or running errands for teachers, you'll find yourself exploring dungeons and forests, taking on the local hostile monsters in turn-based battles. With you and your team mates taking it in turns with the enemies to attack, use magic spells and heal, you have all the time in the world to strategise the best moves, and think about your turn. Whether you want to cast a spell that'll heal your party at the end of every round, concentrating your attacks on a single foe, or attacking a group of enemies that have bunched together, as certain attacks do damage over an area of effect, there are no timers to worry about, and no pressure to react quickly. Depending on how strong a bond you've formed with your team at school, certain characters can also pair up in battle to have each other's back or land bonus attacks, learning new and improved team attacks based on your friendship level.
With a fairly sharp learning curve, Trails of Cold Steel is a game aimed at older, more experienced players. At the start of the game, you'll actually find yourself in a battle with no tutorial, as the game expects players to already be familiar with role playing games that have similar sorts of battles - like Pokemon, Persona, or to a lesser extent, Ni No Kuni or Eternal Sonata. Instead, the game actually saves the explanations for what things do, and how the battles work, until you're several hours in to the game - and have already done the plenty of battles. At this point, the game gets a lot more challenging, with enemies doing large amounts of damage and you dealing comparatively little. The easy difficulty does help negate this, but you can't change difficulty mid-game, which is something players who are new to the genre will want to bear in mind - the only way to change difficulty once you've started playing is to start over. The game also features a lot of reading, and is rather text heavy, with not all of the text being voiced. Cutscenes and story sequences are also pretty lengthy, and are the only part of the game you can't save during, so if your child says they can't come off yet because they need to save, they're telling the truth!
"As luck would have it, I just so happen to have five or so hours to spare today. That should be enough for a cursory primer."
"This is the girls' locker room. If I walked in, my death would be swift. Blissful, but swift."
"I have reason to believe that strange phenomena have been occurring in the old schoolhouse of late. As such, I would like to request that one or more combat-ready students look into this and report back to me."
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel is pretty much in the middle when it comes to mature content - there's nothing hugely terrible, but some things aren't as squeaky clean as they could be. Battles are fairly tame in that players attack robots, giant insects and human soldiers with swords, bows and magic spells to defeat them, with beaten enemies simply fading away afterwards. Cutscenes can be a little more questionable, sometimes depicting violent acts and their aftermath - a man shot through the chest and bleeding, dead soldiers lying in small pools of blood. In terms of bad language, there's the occasional utterance of sh*t of b*stard, but it's not like they're dropping f-bombs every ten seconds either.
Being set in a school full of teenagers, some male and some female, there is a fair amount of opportunity for innuendos and banter, with the occasional suggestive event thrown in, although again, there's noting especially shocking or explicit though. For example, the intro scene sees a girl falling on top of the main character, with his face perfectly positioned in her chest, resulting in a bit of an argument, and him later being ordered not to think about it ever again. Dialogue can also veer into suggestive, with characters saying such things as "Show dem t*tties", "It's not like I spend all my time on the prowl for beautiful maidens to deflower" and "That makes your boobies look even bigger!" on occasion.