Review: Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky rises again like a nostalgic phoenix
Oooooooh man. So as someone who openly fantasizes over ‘old-school RPGs,’ Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky is an absolute godsend. Before you jump down my throat, yes, I understand iterations of this game have been around since 2004; yes a decade, I get that. What’s important here is that I’ve never played it before now and that’s now on Steam (PC master race).
The graphics are mighty dated, even on PC. However, and this is a mighty however, this doesn’t deter me in the least. Hell, I like the ‘old’ look to RPGs. As strange as it sounds, the traditional appearance appeals to me. This isn’t for everyone, but in the case of Trails in the Sky, you don’t have any options so just deal with it.
This leads me to the computer optimization configuration screen. You’re going to want to run some trial and error tests before you get too far into this game. Oh boy – the controls are rough. With that said though, the configuration allows you to make the controls not something you’re going to want to bang your head against. Examples? Ok. Right click on the mouse is the default to click and B on the Xbox 360 controller was forward. Get this whole situation figured out before you dedicate time. Buttons are also numbered instead of saying what they are in the case of the control pad – trial and error.
Your main character is the tsundere-tomboy Estelle. In many ways, she sort of has an Evangelion Asuka thing going, even in appearance. Raised alongside with an adopted boy of the same age, Joshua, the two seek out to join a local defense/adventurer organization called Bracer, of which their father is a high-ranking member. The early stages of the game will take you into their ‘green’ period and you’ll watch them grow as they become more skilled and the shadows behind the curtain take heed.
Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky focuses strongly on both story and combat. Duh, it’s a RPG, but the story is REALLY emphasized. Like, if you talk to a random town person you’re going to get a whole ton of exposition. Everywhere you go and everything you do their will be a lot of reading involved. After a few hours into this game, you’re going to feel like you actually know these little sprites. As someone who digs story and character development, I applaud this. If you’re more of an action player, there is a quicker conversation button but nothing that will completely fast-forward your experience. Prepare for lots of clicking.
The writing, while plentiful, is direct. What I mean by this is that it suffers from the whole ‘tell you instead of show you’ approach. Right off the bat, you get that Estelle is a tomboy by multiple characters directly saying how many tomboy or non-girlie qualities she has. This direct-theme continues throughout. While this is in fact nitpicky, it’s a negative aspect in my eyes and the excuse of age doesn’t apply.
Combat is the absolute simplest you can get in a sort of tactical genre. I would much more consider the game a pure turn-based fighting style but there is grid movement – sort of. While you can tell your character where to go and it takes less units of time to move and not attack, you can also just tell your character to melee a foe and they’ll take the direct path and stop if they don’t make it. Side and back hits don’t aid in damage and once you start a spell it locks on the target. The only time positioning matters is in the case of melee range and when certain abilities have area of effect with different centering. Characters can attack, use spells (arts), use specials (crafts), and have ultimates (s-crafts) that can interrupt the fight at critical moments – this is where the real strategy comes into play.
The entire quartz and orbment system is a bit overwhelming at first. Even though there is a forced tutorial, I didn’t feel like I fully ‘got it’ right away. Once you grind a bit and play around with it, how it works will become more clear. These aspects can effect arts and stats so you’re going to have to figure it out. The map screen on the other hand, is amazingly advanced. You can move the camera angle, hit a button to see an overlay map, and see where key locations are. The map and movements features are incredibly innovative for the game’s age.
Through the story is ultimately linear, the game gives off open world and even MMOish vibes at times for a single player game. There will always be a main mission that will progress the story but through the Bracer Guild, you choose which side missions you want to do – yes, you can just do them all. The more missions you complete will reward you more loot, money, and rank in the guild. It’s all up to you just how much you want to participate, other than the main missions that is. While the story is mostly linear, you (Estelle) will often be given options of what to do or what to say at specific times.
All in all, if you’re a lover of old school RPGs, never have played Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky before, or have been waiting to play Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky on PC – boy do I have a recommendation for you. If the more traditional style doesn’t bother you, the game is absolutely worth the bang for the dollar. At $20, not on sale, you’ll get at least 40 hours out of this puppy; I recommend it.
Historian, teacher, writer, gamer, cheat master, and tech guru: follow on Twitter @AndrewC_GZ