This is Rean. By some of my friends’ accounts, he’s as boring as dry toast. In the right player’s hands, however, this main protagonist is anything but dull. How uninteresting can the savior of Erebonia truly be when he’s wearing only the finest of cat ears?
When the latest game in the The Legend of Heroes RPG series released last month, I was excited to continue my adventures in the military empire of Erebonia. As a continuation of a complex story spanning many games with a huge cast of characters hailing from waring lands, I dived in—ready to tackle the military, magic, and secret society plot lines.
The series can be heavy in its themes but it’s balanced with humour, mostly likable characters, and a good amount of ridiculous anime trappings. I’m not one to dress up my characters in any game of its caliber. There’s something about heavy-handed, serious war stories (which Trails can absolutely be about at times) and wearing furry ears while discussing foreign affair policies with Heads of State that doesn’t quite fit.
Somewhere early during my playthrough, however, I earned a pair of cat ears as a reward on some quest. As I said, Cold Steel III has its share of absurdity. Changing characters’ hair colour or outfits on the fly is a series-honoured tradition. It’s not that strange for spikey-haired, bright pink-haired girls to be deadly forces to be reckoned with. Or in this case, enrolled in a military campus. That’s just the nature of the anime-inspired beast.
For me, on the other hand, I’m the one who is boring. Why would I put my main character, Rean—an instructor at the Branch Campus of Thors—in cat ears? Preposterous! But also...why shouldn’t I? So against my better judgment of playing things straight: Rean is now a cat-hybrid human. Okay, he’s not actually Taylor Swift in the upcoming nightmare movie adaptation of the musical Cats. He’s in cosplay. There’s nothing wrong with cosplay.
And so, instead of leaving all my extra, ridiculous costumes and accessories forever trapped in the digital space that is my inventory, I’ve decided that Rean Schwarzer of Class VII—the Ashen Chevalier, and tortured protagonist—shall don cat ears.
Taking that cosplay to the meeting with the royal family may seem out-of-place. But when the eldest Prince disguises himself like a
clown bard to fight alongside you, then who am I to deny Rean his feline extensions.
Do I think I should conduct grave conversations about the fate of the world in cat ears? Not necessarily but I have made a decision to see this thing through.
With some 60+ hours in thus far, I’ve been adjusting to my life as a makeshift cat. Rean, on the other hand, seems to be taking his fate in stride.
Here’s Rean on security detail at the finest of banquets. Are his cat ears clean? Will hair get into the food? Rean did not seem to care as he edged his way to the vaguely identifiable dishes laid on the table. I don’t know if they were supposed to be appealing given some of them looked washed out. Trails of Cold Steel III and its prequels’ recipes may sound delicious on paper but here, I wasn’t so sure.
I wouldn’t regret it if a stray cat hair got into the thing that looks like potatoes..? Maybe potatoes? I’m just saying.
As I mentioned, I don’t like to make use of extra costumes. Dressing up in games like these, where the changes are cosmetic, shouldn’t bother me. But it does, if even to the tiniest degree. I don’t lose sleep over it. I don’t think too hard on it either. I just play them without really giving thought to dressing up my characters, even when given the option. My Tales of series characters rarely get to change their appearances under my care. Costume packs remain unclaimed if they come as pre-order bonuses. Sometimes I wonder why I even bother getting those.
And yet, making the decision to put these extraneous ears on Rean has had me acutely aware of just how ridiculous the whole affair has been. It’s not that big of a deal when so much of Trails of Cold Steel III is over-the-top. But I suppose it’s still weird for me to separate Rean—the straight-laced war hero—from the cat cutie I’ve turned him into.
I can put other costumes on some of my other characters, too, as they navigate their mech battles, school life, and fights with characters named McBurn (whose elemental powers involving...burning all the things). Truly, silly costumed ears, and more, would fall in-line with how absurd this game can be at times. But I won’t. It still feels wrong and not within certain characters’ personalities to do so.
That’s what’s really stopping me. I’m still approaching this game as something that has been handed to me and I’m not to interfere in what’s already been formed, even if the choice is there for me to make the game feel a little more personable.
Look, it’s a process breaking away from this linear video game life of mine. Cat ears on Rean is something I’m still coming to terms with.
I also discovered the cat ears come with a cat tail. But I’ve been trying to ignore that for the past 50 hours or so. Baby steps, people. Baby cat steps.