The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky is a Japanese role-playing game developed by Nihon Falcom for the PlayStation Portable. Published by XSEED in North America on April 6, 2011, the game follows Estelle and Joshua Bright on their journey across Liberl to find their missing father and become full-fledged members of the Bracer Guild.
The story presented in Trails in the Sky is clearly meant to be the beginning of a larger, overarching tale and delivers a heartfelt and compelling journey. The story begins slowly with a good deal of characterization and world-building, introducing Estelle and Joshua along with their various companions. However it picks up speed relentlessly during the mid-point of the game before finishing with a thrilling finale. The story is fantastic maintaining an epic scale while remaining personal by focusing on Estelle and Joshua's journey as they mature and develop. Furthermore, the world is exceptionally well realized and it is clear that the developers had grand ambitions of creating an epic tale spanning multiple games.
It needs saying right off the bat - Estelle Bright is one of the most likeable protagonists to come about in a long time. She's a confident girl who isn't afraid to speak her mind but at the same time shows a lot of depth during her journey. She's complimented by a number of other fantastic characters including Joshua who is her constant companion and balances out her headstrong nature with his reserved and calm attitude. Their relationship is one of the game's high points and is both funny and charming throughout the course of the game.
The rest of their companions are also exceptionally well realized, from the cocky Agate to the downright hilarious Olivier and the character interactions are smartly written and are simply enjoyable to witness. The secondary characters that fill the world of Liberl are also a highlight of the game and interesting characters can be found in all of the towns visited during the game.
The Battle System:
Trails in the Sky incorporates a turn based battle system taking place on a grid. The result is very similar to many other battle systems, with a few unique elements mixed in. Characters can perform standard attacks but can also cast crafts and artes. Artes use up MP and take a set amount of to resolve after the command is issued, while Crafts are instantaneous actions that use of CP which is gained when units either deal damage or take damage.
The battle system is takes some getting used to but is a lot of fun and allows for a number of cool strategic options. The implementation of crafts and artes was great in forcing players to weight their options and decide what attack is most appropriate considering the enemies as well as the player's resources. The playable characters are also wonderfully varied and balanced, allowing for a great degree of customization in terms of choosing which units to utilize in battle. It's worth noting that this game also has one difficulty level but allows players to instantly retry while cutting down the enemy difficulty. This is a welcome feature that more games should utilize as it makes the battles feel tough, but also fair as it prevents players from hitting difficulty walls, making the game more accessible.
It Takes A While to Get Going:
In setting the table for a wide-ranging story, Trails in the Sky spends a significant amount of the game introducing parts of the world and establishing characters. This leads to the story starting extremely slowly and it takes around 20 hours before the main antagonist becomes apparent. People who lose interest in stories quickly should be wary of this, but the character interactions really help bridge the gap. Especially during the first half of the game the story is really about the journey rather than the destination and once the story picks up speed during the second half of the game, the painstaking world-building really helps give the player a better sense of urgency and involvement in the story.
The story is fantastic, telling a satisfyingly character driven story in a wonderfully well-realized world. It's worth noting that the game starts extremely slowly for the first while, but it all pays off in the end.
The battle system is a lot of fun and is a blend of a number of satisfying genre elements.
The dialogue is top-notch, making characters memorable and believable. Estelle is the best.
If you love JRPGs, The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky should not be missed. The story is highly engaging, delivering both emotional impact as well as some great unexpected twists. The battle system is also fantastic, helping to bridge the gap between the story and the gameplay through its skillful use of its mechanics. While it starts off slow, all of the world-building results in a highly realized world that you'll want to keep exploring while experiencing the first part of Estelle and Joshua's journey.
XSeed has confirmed they will be bringing The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky Second Chapter to PC and PSP in 2014.
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