The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky

April 13, 2011

Despite having immense popularity in Japan, the Legend of Heroes series has never enjoyed the same success stateside, in no small part to the lukewarm reception to the PSP Legend of Heroes releases in the US by Namco Bandai. While The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky was released in Japan in 2004, the massive effort that localizing it would require due to the enormous script resulted in no publisher looking to bring the game stateside for years. Taking up that mantle, XSEED struck a deal with Falcom to localize Ys Seven, Ys: Oath in Felghana, Ys I & II Chronicles and the entirety of the Trails in the Sky trilogy. This is great news for RPG fans, as Trails in the Sky is an excellent showing of things to come.

Trails in the Sky takes place in the Kingdom of Liberl, a world where orbments, magically-powered devices power all aspects of daily life: from the common streetlights to airships to more complicated combat orbments that allow people to use magic-like arts. Estelle Bright, the game’s main protagonist, and his adopted brother Joshua Bright are accepted as into the Bracer’s Guild, which is a local mercenary-type group that does jobs on request for all the local citizens, with branches all over Liberl. On their journey to become full-fledged bracers, they become involved in events that affect the history of the entire kingdom.

The gameplay starts off as nothing spectacular. Combat is turn-based and takes place on a movement grid, where you can move about to deliver attacks to any opponents you come by. While early battles don’t deviate much from simply using the attack command, each character slowly opens up their combat orbments as the game progresses, giving each new slots for new abilities and spells. These are completely customizable though, as characters can be tailored to fit your individual play style. You do this with a combination of stat-boosting, support, healing, status effect among other “quartz” that can radically change what a character excels at, outside of his default parameters and unique skills. By the end of the game, it encourages you to experiment with different abilities and arts on party members and plan out fights for the long-run with tactical decisions. In addition, the game has a “retry offset” feature that makes enemy encounters easier every time you choose to retry after a game over. This can be turned off for the hardcore players, but it’s a nice feature to have nonetheless.

Trails in the Sky’s strongest point, though, lies in its narrative. The whole cast is unique and likable, and while not entirely avoiding the RPG stereotypes, it plays them out well and expands on every character instead of making them out to look completely generic. Every NPC has something to say at all times, with text changing after every minor plot point in the game. Even the minor side quests have unique dialogue between characters and are very well-written. Trails in the Sky is extremely text-heavy, almost to the point of being absurd. As a result, it’s understandable that the only voice acting is done in one-liners and grunts during combat, as fully voicing a game with more than 50,000 strings of text is something I wouldn’t expect of any developer.  It’s safe to say that you’ll spend more time watching characters say things than actually fighting, so the more action-y type of player might be put off by that.

Another impressive feat accomplished in Trails in the Sky is the sheer amount of optional content. Even during the game’s prologue, you have 15-20 total side quests available during entirety of the chapter, though a lot of the game’s side quests are time-limited. The quests are highly varied as well, with quests ranging from escorting people to locations to using a cat dictionary to catch a smoking culprit. It’s highly unlikely for one to experience everything Trails in the Sky has in one playthrough without the use of a guide. While nothing stops you from going barebones and only playing through the game’s main missions, completing side quests is the only way to get some of the best quartz and accessories in the game, making it harder to not do side quests before progressing in the game’s plot.

This being only the first chapter in a trilogy, Trails in the Sky is nonetheless well-worth the asking price. You’ve got a minimum of 40 hours worth of content, and even more if you’re the compulsive completionist type that just loves to explore every nook and cranny, talk to every single NPC and do every mission available to them. It’s an excellent starting point for newcomers to the Legend of Heroes series, as well as the beginning of events seen in the to-be-released second chapter.

Score: 5/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.