When I heard about The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky, it sounded like a perfect game for me. A story-driven turn-based JRPG? Sign me up.
(The Steam port also references Ace Attorney in one of its achievements, which might be why I originally saw it.)
I played it on Steam, but you can also get it for the PSP.
Trails in the Sky follows two new junior bracers (sort of an international peacekeeping organization), Estelle and her adopted brother Joshua, on a journey across the kingdom to prove themselves worthy of becoming full-fledged bracers and also search for clues about why their father disappeared.
It has a slow-paced story, but I didn’t mind that.
Actually, I liked how the stakes felt lower early on in the game, especially because it felt oddly like a detective story at times. We were the bracers investigating crimes and mysterious events, while the larger plot slowly built.
I’ve heard that Falcom (who also developed Gurumin, which I liked a lot, and the Ys series) originally intended it to be one game, but when it became too large, they split it into Trails in the Sky and Trails in the Sky Second Chapter.
That must have contributed to the slow pace at least somewhat, so I’ll be interested to see if the pacing feels the same in Second Chapter or not.
There is also a twist that surprised me so much, that alone made me love Trails in the Sky a lot more.
But while the story is slow-paced, don’t take that to mean there isn’t a lot of it. Not only is it a story-driven game, but there is more NPC dialogue here than I’ve seen in anything else. After nearly every plot event, the NPCs gain new dialogue, and talking to everyone helps both with worldbuilding and seeing how their lives change.
In general, it makes the world feel like a very “real” place outside of events that directly relate to the main plot. There are also cute little touches, like text whenever you examine a treasure chest you already opened.
The characters were enjoyable, and there’s a nice contrast between Estelle’s hotheaded preference to whack things into submission and Joshua’s calm assessment of most situations.
(My favorite, though, has to be Olivier. That character type and attempts at humor often annoy me, but Olivier was handled in such a way that I loved him and nearly laughed out loud at some of his scenes.)
There’s no world map here, but instead you travel between interconnected regions. You’re restricted to the region you’re currently in, but you can always backtrack to places within that region – and you’ll want to, because Trails in the Sky had ridiculously short windows for certain side quests and collectibles. If you want to do everything, your best bet is to backtrack everywhere at every possible opportunity.
Combat lets move around on a grid in battles like in a tactical RPG, but it generally feels like a traditional turn-based RPG. In addition to regular attacks, you gain special skills by equipping “quartz,” and also have character-specific abilities, including special S-Crafts that let you interrupt the turn order.
The quartz system feels complicated at first, but it’s actually not bad once you get used to it. I also found the default mouse & keyboard controls to be bad, so I played with a controller.
Overall, Trails in the Sky is a solid turn-based JRPG with plenty of side content, tons of dialogue, and a slow-paced but enjoyable story that will leave you anxious to play its sequel.
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