The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky Review

Trails Title

   Title: The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky
Developer: Falcom, XSEED
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Game Type: PSP
Download: 1.2 GB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download

EU Availability: Digital Download
PSTV Support: 
Yes

The Legends of Heroes series is something that PS Vita owners can be excited about.  Later this year, we’re getting an RPG known as The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel.  This is an RPG that looks incredibly beautiful and one that people have been wanting to have released for quite some time now.  However, Vita owners have seen the series before now.  Back on the PSP, the series got a release known as Trails in the Sky, part of a trilogy set apart from the story of Cold Steel.

Not too long ago, XSEED finally localized the sequel to Trails in the Sky, for the PSP and Steam.  Soon after, they contacted me with a review key for the massive PSP game.  I’d played Trails in the Sky in the past, but I felt it would be better to replay it and give you guys a review of the first game before heading off to do a review of the second game.  So, with that in mind, here is my retro review of The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky!

Story

Trails Story

The plot of Trails in the Sky is centered around two main characters: Estelle Bright and Joshua Bright, her adopted brother.  These two youths are training to become Bracers, more or less adventurers and guild members.  Bracers do quests for the people, such as fighting off monsters, protecting towns, and things of that sort.  Think of Bracers like the questing work CPUs do in Hyperdimension Neptunia or pretty much everyone does in Hunting games.

The storyline of the game takes place when Estelle and Joshua’s father, Cassius Bright, is called away on important business and disappears sometime later.  That has them traveling the world with their mentor to obtain official Bracer licenses, but to also discover the meaning behind his disappearance.  As their journey goes forward, they become involved in a dark, political plot to shift the balance of power.

We’re not talking about global domination plots like most RPGs are known for, but it is a good and entertaining story.  The comical lines in dialogue more than make up for the rest of the story.  Though it is noted that Trails in the Sky is only Chapter 1 of a trilogy.  Those that don’t like cliffhanger endings and don’t plan on buying Second Chapter anytime soon should know that it ends on a very shocking cliffhanger.

Gameplay

Trails Game 1

Trails in the Sky is a console-style turn-based RPG with Strategy RPG elements thrown into the mix.  You have a typical exploration of a world map with going from town to town as well as fighting monsters and bosses.  However, as I’ll explain later, the combat has some elements that melds some genres together.  It’s an RPG with SRPG elements thrown into the mix.

Progressing through the game is exploring the map through towns, fields, dungeons, and more.  There is always a story objective you need to go to a specific place for.  However, there is a substantial amount of other stuff you can do instead of the objective, especially once you get into the later chapters of the game.  To keep the story going, though, you need to go to objectives that are given to you in dialogue.

Towns have tons of NPCs to talk to, as well as various locations, like a Guild, Shops, Hotels, and more.  The majority of these places you won’t visit but story, though.  The Guild and Shops are probably the only two places you’ll go when story doesn’t require it.  Shops are useful for some basic things, like weapons and armor, but there are also shops that allow you to use Seraph that you gain in battle to enhance your skills, stats, and abilities.

Combat is the part of the game that is really unique.  When you spawn a battle, you are placed on a map with enemy units.  There is the traditional style of taking turns for fighting, but there’s more to it than that.  There is a sort of movement grid and you only have so much range with your attacks.  If an enemy is too far away, you have to use Move during your turn to move closer to them.  This strongly feels like movement mechanics used in Strategy RPGs.

Trails Game 2

Aside from that, there is the gauge for your signature attacks.  These are basically like Limit Breaks from Final Fantasy VII.  After you get hit so many times, you can use this attack.  Damage received fills up the gauge that allows you to unleash these powerful hits that are stronger than the normal attacks and skills you have at your disposal.

Enhancing your skills is a combination of the Seraph shops in towns and leveling up from gaining experience points.  You will have to always keep a close eye on enhancing your characters as much as possible.  Trails in the Sky is a nice RPG, but it’s also a difficult one.  If you start skipping the Seraph customization, the game’s normal enemies will get hard very quickly.  At that point, you don’t need to worry about bosses.  It will be hard just to get through normal enemies.

Any JRPG fan will have a ton to do in the game.  Just judging by story, you’ll be spending a good 40 hours in Trails in the Sky.  And that’s just the first chapter of the story.  With all of the sales on the game for the release of Second Chapter, it’s definitely got a lot of bang for your buck.

Controls

Controls are pretty simple in this game.  You do use most of the PSP’s buttons, but it’s nothing that’s going to be overly confusing for you.  After all, it’s just a turn-based RPG.

Movement can be done with the D-Pad or Left Analog Stick.  L and R can rotate the camera when you’re in an area where rotation is possible.  Then, we have the face buttons.  X will initiate a command or interact with an NPC or Object, and Circle cancels out of a menu.  Triangle can pull up various resources, like the game’s encyclopedia or lists of recipes for items you can create.  Square can let you see a sort of HUD for your location to see where you’re going.

Finally, the Start button is used to pull up the customization menu, so you can customize your equipment, save your game, or do something else.  One thing I would like to mention that I love about the game is the fact that you can save anywhere.  This is such a nice feature to have in an RPG and really helps balance with how difficult this game can be.

Presentation

Trails Pres

Visually, the game has seen better days.  The style of the game is pretty standard for a 2D JRPG, mostly with angles like the Breath of Fire games use.  However, on the Vita and PSTV, the visuals look quite blurred out.  The 2D models sort of look nicer because the artwork around them is more of a blur than precise jagged drawings.  When you see full cinematics, it’s even more apparent that stretching from the PSP screen to the Vita/PSTV did not do this game any favors.

Performance doesn’t have any issues from me.  The frame rate is nice and the load times are short.  This is the case with most PSP RPGs of this style, but I gotta say it, anyways.

Summary

The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky is one of the most highly praised PSP RPGs, and it’s pretty obvious why.  Past some visual blurring, RPG fans will find a 40 hour adventure that is comical and provides a unique blend of turn-based and strategy elements not seen in many RPGs nowadays. 

9/10

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