XSeed is manly for taking on this game with a hugeass script. They will become GAR if they manage to localize Second Chapter. I’m playing that in Chinese and I’m already getting a headache 5 hours in. So, if you didn’t know already, Trails in the Sky is a trilogy. This one localized by XSeed is the First Chapter. I will refer to this game as FC to avoid confusions as I’m reviewing the first game only, and using the acronym TitS will get very…awkward. Ahem.
Estelle Bright and her adopted brother Joshua Bright have just become Bracers (ok well, you technically become Bracers during the game, but it’s the first thing that happens so w/e), which is like a guild of people who take on requests given by people involving escort missions, item fetching, destroying monsters, etc. Their dad is a famous Bracer, but he leaves on a sudden business trip and Estelle and Joshua take on his unfinished work. After finishing the missions, they receive news that the airship their dad was on disappeared so they set out on a journey across Liberl to look for dad and become Senior Bracers i nthe process by collecting Recommendations from all 5 major cities.
Well obviously there is going to be a more serious and epic plot, but FC is just setting up the world and the characters for the most part. The game is rather lighthearted, and things start to get epic during the last 10-15 hours or so. The real action will happen in SC where the story of Estelle wraps up, and the third game involves a different main character and expands more on side characters.
The entire trilody uses a turn-based system. It feels like a combination of a standard turn-based RPG and an SRPG, considering that attacks take distance and area of effect into account and you can move in a way similar to an SRPG. However, you still crawl through dungeons and encounter monsters rather than have a set map or stage like an SRPG. The game also uses turn orders with the frequency of turns being based on speed. Think Luminous Arc 2/3 or Radiant Historia, although the turns aren’t as easily manipulated as RH. I didn’t like the battle system at first because it felt strange, but it turned out quite fun at the end.
There is decent customization, because characters can equip orbments. They don’t have a unique set of magic spells and you can put multiple elements on anyone. Crafts are character-unique, but those use CP which can be easily refilled by dealing or taking damage. The characters are all well-balanced and you can work with anyone. Heck, I decided to be extra safe for the final dungeon and gave 3 of my 4 party members healing spells. Overall, I’d say that while combat is slow, it’s also quite fun if you like some strategy in your RPGs. The difficulty is set at normal for your first playthrough and you can unlock hard and nightmare after clearing the game. There is also an option of being able to redo a fight with reduced difficulty if you lost, but I turned that off. At normal mode, FC can still get rather challenging at some parts. You can also make the game even harder by not doing sidequests and therefore not getting extra cash, if you’re M enough.
The story starts off rather typically with our hero and her adopted brother in a quiet town called Rolent in the kingdom of Liberl. Ok, it’s one of the 5 large towns in Liberl, but Rolent is pretty rural compared to the other 4. They travel across the continent, each major city having its own incident that takes up a chapter. These incidents eventually connect at the final chapter where you get to the capital, Grancel. The story doesn’t get epic until the last 10 hours, but as I said before, FC is just setting the world up for the epic things that will happen in SC. Either way, the story is the game’s strong point, and it’s really well told even in the lighthearted first chapter.
My mind is blown at how much care is put into crafting the world and the characters. There is a lot of backstory regarding Liberl and its neighboring countries, and each city in Liberl is filled with NPCs who say different things and change dialogue often. There is also a lot of information about each town as well, down it its major industries and attractions. The cities are quite huge and eventful, especially Grancel which takes up 5 screens. The characters fit into several RPG cliches, but don’t simply end there. Each character is forshadowed to have secrets and hidden sides, even if many of them are not revealed in FC. Besides, cliches aren’t bad.
Estelle: A cheerful tomboy who is also the protagonist of the game. She wields a staff, and is very manly. Lives and travels with her adopted brother Joshua.
Joshua: A dude with unusual hair and eye color that is popular amongst the ladies. He was adopted into Estelle’s family, but his past prior to that is unrevealed.
Scherazard: Big sister who uses a whip trained under Estelle’s dad. She likes to drink and is totally an S.
Olivier: Resident pervert and wandering bard from the neighboring Erebonian Empire. The most hilarious being in existence, and has some unrevealed information.
Cassius: Estelle and Joshua’s dad. He is a reknowned Bracer who used to be in the army.
Kloe: Kind student at the Jenis Royal Academy. She’s with you in chapter 2.
Agate: Male tsundere who is weak to lolis (or just Tita).
Tita: Moe moe loli with lots of guns and a pro with machines.
Zane: Huge guy from the Calvard Republic who joins your party late in the game.
I tried to keep the descriptions very brief so as to not give too many spoilers.
There’s some memorable tracks, but most of it strikes me as quite ordinary. I’m not a fan of the regular enemy battle theme, but the battle music in the final dungeon is nice. The town and ordinary dungeon soundtracks aren’t pieces I’d remember. There’s nothing really jarring, so the music is decent on average with some outstanding tracks. I’m sure vertain fans would disagree here, but I don’t find anything special with the music in FC. Now, the SC opening theme is something I’m loving.
Nothing mind-blowing at all. Granted, this is an old game first made for the PC in 2004 and ported to PSP in 2006 so I wasn’t expecting much in the first place. The sprites are small and blurry, but they won’t hurt your eyes much. At least not in comparison to trying to make out some dialogue in a foreign language in small font on a already small screen…(crycrycry Chinese patched SC is much less fun to read than XSeed’s colorful script) The backgrounds look pretty plain most of the time, and the models don’t stand out. The town designs aren’t particularly unique and look similar to each other (light-colored stone buildings). Character art and design also feels really retro, the art style feels like 90’s or early 2000’s anime style. For someone who watches a lot of anime or plays lots of RPGs, the style definitely screams “OLDDDD!!!” at you. Then again, I guess half a decade is considered pretty old for games…
I was skeptical about buying this since I heard some bad things about a different trilogy in the Legend of Heroes series and the character designs looked old (not to mention the graphics), but my doubts are all cleared. Awesome game is awesome, and from what I’ve been hearing, SC is even more awesome. I guess a experienced company like Falcom (despite suffering long cases of not being localized) will produce high quality RPGs compared to new companies. I wasn’t sure whether the story would be good since I heard their signature series, YS, had barely any story at all. Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky has a humongous script and requires lots of reading through walls of text, but the battle system is also quite fun and interesting English text is a breeze compared to reading Japanese visual novels. Also, the Chinese translation of SC already has my head spinning so hard I want to run to XSeed’s arms. TitS has a pretty retro feel, and the political issues kinda remind me of Suikoden (I is the only one I played aside from Tierkreis). I liked Suikoden, but I could only play the first one on the PSP since I couldn’t find any of the PS2 ones. It’s not an awfully challenging game, but the storyline was good and I liked it despite it’s old graphics.