Disposed Hero's Blog

Posted on Mar 26th 2018 at 08:00:00 AM by (Disposed Hero)
Posted under Retrospective, Legend of Heroes, Trails in the Sky, Falcom, Xseed, RPG

Last summer, I posted an article here about my experience with The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky, a game that has achieved near unanimous praise amongst the niche JRPG community.  In my review of Trails in the Sky, I stated that it is indeed an above-average JRPG but not quite worthy of the immense hype it has cultivated over the years.  Since then, after nearly nine months and over 200 in-game hours, I have played all three Trails in the Sky games that have been released in North America and would like to reflect on this series as a whole.

One of my major criticisms of the first game was how slowly the story develops and how long it can take before becoming invested in the story.  I still stand by this sentiment, but I believe the payoff of the engrossing story you get for the second half of the first game and the entirety of the second game is well worth it.  These games also feature a large cast of interesting and colorful characters that help keep things entertaining even during the early parts of the story when not much is really happening.  These are also some of the most well-written games I have ever played, and the quality of the writing is consistent across all three games.  I loved the banter amongst the characters, particularly the interactions of certain pairings such as Estelle and Olivier or Agate and Tita.

Estelle's reactions to Olivier's dialog are always amusing.

The third game picks up six months after the events of the second game, and while it does feel like the third game was a bit pointless in the overall narrative and mostly only exists for fan-service, they did a good job of leaving themselves a loose thread at the end of the second game to pick up for the third.  To put it simply, every main character is forced back into one long dungeon for the entire game (although there is a lot of variety to the dungeon, so it isn't as boring and repetitive as it sounds), and they must work together to figure out what is going on and how to set things back to normal.  The whole scenario is a bit bizarre, but it was nice to see what all of these characters were up to after the events of the second game.  As a whole, the third game is not as good as the second, but it is still well worth playing for fans of the series.

In terms of side content, I mentioned in my previous review that side quests can either be found at job boards in the towns or hidden in the wild, and the second game works exactly the same.  One thing that I will mention is that if you are a completionist (like me), in order to find all side quests and get the maximum rewards you can from them, you will NEED to use to a guide of some sort.  It is practically impossible to reach the maximum Bracer rank otherwise.

Checking treasure chests a second time gives you an amusing quote that sometimes includes pop culture references.

The third game works a bit differently with its side content.  Having a job board or NPCs to give you side quests wouldn't make much sense due to the context of the third game, so instead there are magical 'memory' doors littered all throughout the game that grant access to different scenes.  While some of these are minigames that will have you doing things such as fishing or participating in a Trails themed trivia game, the vast majority of these are story events that show you what the main characters have been up to between the events of the second and third game.  While some of these actually have the typical gameplay elements that will allow you to explore and/or engage in combat, most of these are on-rails stories with just dialog, and some of these can be quite long.  I would normally hate sitting through long scenes of dialog, but as mentioned previously, the writing of these games is so well done and the characters are entertaining enough that I would seek out and look forward to completing these scenes.  The concept as a whole is a bit contrived, but I enjoyed these memory doors as a diversion from the main game, and the rewards for completing them are usually well worth it.

While there are minor additions to the combat system with each successive entry (SC adds Chain abilities which serve as combo attacks between party members; 3rd adds new power-ups to the timeline), combat remains largely the same throughout the series.  However, since I greatly enjoyed the mechanics and depth of the combat system in the first game, I don't consider this to be a bad thing at all.  Despite fighting literally thousands of battles across all three games, I never felt like combat became tedious, and I never really went out of my way to avoid enemies in the environment.  However, I did play the Steam entries for all three games which feature a turbo function to speed-up nearly every aspect of the game, most notably the battles.  To my knowledge, other versions of these games do not have this feature, and I suspect that battles could become tiresome without it.

An example of Chain attacks that were added in the second game.

Another thing I mentioned in my previous review is that the soundtrack of the first game was fairly mediocre overall.  I am happy to report that Falcom has remedied this nitpick of mine and that the overall soundtracks of the sequels are much improved over the first.  It is also worth noting that the graphical presentation is identical amongst all three games, so if you are put off by the visuals of the first, don't expect them to get better with the sequels.  I personally enjoyed the presentation of all three games and even compared it to the art style of JRPGs from the PS1 era in my previous review.

Overall, I would find it hard to recommend a single game from the Trails in the Sky series since the first two games really need to be played in tandem in order to get the full experience, and the third game should only be played by those that are already fans of the first two.  However, if you're willing to invest the time and are able to endure the first game's fairly dull opening sections, I would highly recommend the first two Trails games to any JRPG fan.  If after completing the second game you still feel like you want more, then by all means play the third game, just keep in mind that the experience as a whole isn't as good as its predecessor.  As for me, The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky series was one amazing adventure that I'm glad I took part in. 

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I enjoyed reading this in-depth article, though I must admit, I haven't played a single "Trails" game, of any branch in the series.  It's good to know that one should commit to the entire trilogy, however, rather than try to just pick one.
Thanks for the review.  I've recently moved this one up for consumption this summer (that or Dragon Age: Origin).  I only have the first though, but if I enjoy it I will likely get the SC for play next year.  Thanks for the heads up on Turbo Mode.  I read up on it and it might be implemented on the GoG versions, but it just isn't talked about.

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