Title: The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky Second Chapter
Developer: Falcom, XSEED
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Game Type: PSP
Download: 1.1 GB (Disc 1) + 1.4 GB (Disc 2)
NA Availability: Digital Download
EU Availability: Digital Download
PSTV Support: Yes
The Legend of Heroes has its own place in the hearts of handheld gamers, specifically on the Sony side. The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky is one of the most highly-praised RPGs the PSP had to offer, and Kotaku recently came out and claimed it was best JRPG of the decade, hands-down. That’s a whole lot of praise. Even I gave the game praise in my retro review, giving it a stellar 9/10, something PSP games rarely ever get from me.
There’s one thing about these titles, though. They take a long time to localize. I played the demo for the original Trails in the Sky when I first got a PSP. The Japanese released happened way back in 2006, and didn’t localize in the West until 2011. That’s right. It took them 5 years to localize the game.
And that’s not even the best part. Trails in the Sky was a trilogy. Just recently, XSEED got a localized release of the game’s sequel. It originally released on the PSP in Japan in 2007, and it took them, until 2015 to actually localize it. That leads us to wonder how long it will be until the third game is out. But, let’s get to our focus on the second. Here is my official retro review of The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky SC (Second Chapter).
Because I know some of you are wanting to ask, I will say it. SC stands for Second Chapter. Trails in the Sky is actual one complete story divided into 3 games. SC picks up the moment FC left off, and cannot be played on its own. Not only will you be confused in terms of storyline, but you’ll also be very confused when the game directs you to places that it assumes you already know the locations of. To be short, you need to play the first game before SC.
Picking up right where Trails in the Sky left off, Joshua has disappeared, leaving Estelle Bright in a panic. Dead set on pursuing and recovering her dear friend, she goes to get special training and sets off on an adventure to find him. Along the way, she uncovers a sinister plot to destroy the world and being shown that the very people behind the plot also had a large hand in the disaster she helped thwart in the events of the first game.
The plot of SC dives much deeper into the history of Liberl as well as the organization behind the events of the first game. You see a lot of character development, not to mention new characters popping up and a story set-up for both Trails in the Sky: The Third and Trails of Cold Steel, which is set to release on PS Vita later this year.
The first game was known for ending in a huge cliffhanger. While SC does show direct dialogue and motions towards the events of the third game, they are briefly mentioned, so you don’t need to worry about having some huge cliffhanger with no word of whether or not the third game will be localized anytime soon.
As far as gameplay mechanics go, Second Chapter is almost exactly the same as First Chapter. There are some improvements and additions here and there, but this otherwise feels like the same game, just as the overall continuity of this sub-series should. As such, this is a turn-based RPG with strategy elements thrown into the mix.
The main additions made in this game lie in the combat. In addition to all of the different types of attacks and skills you could use in the first game, you can now do perform Chain Attacks, which are powerful attacks that have multiple party members attacking the enemy together. These new attacks function just like other CP attacks, but must be between party members with the same tier of Chain unlocked. Other additions are in the form of new environments, party members, weapons, etc.
Progressing through the game has you navigating an overworld map and visiting towns and dungeons. The map from SC is identical to FC, but not all areas are the same. You will be visiting a lot of the same areas you visited in the first game, though some of them will be different than before. There may be new paths and enemies in certain areas, as well as completely new areas that you never visited at all in the first game.
As you visit areas, you will still have a host of main and side objectives to fill at your leisure. Whenever you’re at a Guild Branch, there are story objectives you’re being directed to do as well as side missions you can do for some extra rewards.
Speaking of areas, let’s talk about one of the most interesting technical aspects of this game. Trails in the Sky was a 1.3 GB file in one download and one disc on the PSP. Second Chapter is divided into 2 discs and takes up almost 3 GB of space in total. The interesting part is that certain locations are tied to Discs 1 and 2. For example, Grancel is associated with Disc 1. That means that you will visit it in Disc 1 and, later in the story, you have to go back. When this happens, you have to switch back from Disc 2 to Disc 1 to revisit it.
Combat is mostly unchanged, other than the new Chain abilities. You still have grid-based movements, though your starting levels will not be back down to Level 1. You start the game in the mid-30s, further simulating that this is all just one story, divided into separate games. So, there is a much more casual feel when you’re thrown into the beginning battles. Not to say the game isn’t hard, but it has a different feel, since you already start at a decent level.
As far as difficulty is concerned, you should expect the same amount of difficulty as the first game. For the most part, you never really need to stop and grind for levels or money. There are some boss fights that are tough as nails that you will have to use some serious strategy on, but all in all, there are very few places where you may need to grind. Though, I should warn those that want to breeze through the game. Just because you select Easy from the main menu doesn’t mean those certain bosses are easy. They’re still tough on any difficulty.
Length is a pretty fantastic part of the game. If you recall, the original Trails in the Sky lasted about 40 hours. Second Chapter was boasted by XSEED to be even longer, and it is. When I reached the final boss, I had logged more than 60 hours in the game, with going out for side missions very little.
Upon beating the game, you can use New Game Plus. In NG+, you can choose any difficulty you want, and carry over lots of game elements. Money, Sepith, Items, Equipment, Information, and Levels can be carried over to a new game.
The controls are pretty much the same as they were before. Again, this is a PSP game, so the L and R triggers are extended to L2 and R2 when you’re playing on the PlayStation TV. You’ll use most of the Vita’s buttons, but it’s not too extensive.
The D-Pad and Left Analog Stick can be used to move around or cycle through menus. The L and R triggers are used for rotating the camera in areas where it can be rotated. Then you have the face buttons. X is for choosing an option and interacting, while Circle does the opposite with cancelling actions. Square can be used in battle to see enemy details, and Triangle is used to open the sub-menu for your notebook and map. Finally, Start loads the customization menu.
The controls I have no issues with. It’s pretty much exactly as it was in the first game, and that’s not a bad thing.
Visually, the game looks good and not-so-good. It looks really nice for a PSP game like this, and some CG scenes really help it look like an improvement over the first game. However, since the main gameplay engine is basically the same engine as the first game, it still has the same problem. When this game is stretched onto a PSTV or PS Vita, there is a noticeable amount of blurring.
Performance outside of this is done wonderfully. You will note that some people have commented on the load times being longer, and let’s put this to rest. I have tested both games and the load times are longer, but only by a minimal amount. When I say they’re longer, I mean the 3 second load times for a room are now 4 second load times for a room. Nothing worth worrying about.
Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky SC is something many people have wanted in the West for a long time. On the downside, it still has a bit of blurring from the presentation. Outside of that is an RPG just as grand and deep as its predecessor, and in some ways, even more so. If you’re a fan of the first game, this will not disappoint.