The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky is the first of a trilogy, and it makes a strong case to bring the rest of the story arc to North America. Though some of the core design feels left behind compared to modern standards, the story line is very impressive and the title manages to be quite fun even as it sticks closely to traditional JRPG mechanics. If you're looking for a lengthy, meaty RPG you can take with you wherever you go, this title will make a fine option.
My previous review sounded like a crazy fanboy spitting out nothing but unconditional love, so I'm going to change it a bit.
First, let's be real, if you aren't into Traditional Turn Based Japanese RPG, then you won't like it no matter what you read here.
The game looks and plays much like classics such as Final Fantasy 6, Chrono Trigger, **** with about 10x more emphasis on the story elements, and at times the amount of reading makes me feel like I'm playing a traditional Western RPG instead (Planescape: Torment comes to mind).
If that much reading doesn't sound too intimidating for you, keep reading.
By the way, this is the first game in a long series. As of this moment, 7 games have been released and according to the writers that is about halfway through the story. It's not as ridiculous as it sounds, because they are broken up in self contained story arcs within the continuous overarching plot. For example, this game is the 1st game of the first arc.
As such, the story may appear to pick up slow for some players, not in a boring way, just means the 'plot' won't be revealed until pretty much halfway through the game. The first 10 or so hours is focused on introducing you to the world, its history, and its lovable cast.
The writing is so expansive and detailed (and well localized), with the purpose of crafting a living world, to the point where after every major story event, the town NPCs would advance within their own story arc. This is perhaps the biggest difference between the Trails series and other JRPGs.
As for the game play, I strongly recommend new players to play on Normal difficulty, this is not a game for you to prove that you got mad **** other words, unless you enjoy retrying the same battle over and over while thinking "it's not fair!", stay with Normal. It will still challenge you from time to time.
The combat plays much like Grandia II, and the Orbment system reminded me of FF7's Materia system, sort of. Style of encounter is modern (meaning not "random battles" like FF6 or 7 but more like Lunar and modern JRPGs), the game does not encourage level grinding as the exp is scaled, basically it's very hard to be underleveled or overleveled.
In short, while the combat in Trails in the Sky is not the main draw, it does not hinder the pacing of the game and can offer you some challenges. It has its place.
Music is the other huge difference I see(hear) compared to other RPGs. As much as I love the music in this series, I can't speak for everybody. Go to youtube and listen to some Falcom JDK OSTs if you are curious.
In conclusion, this game series restored my hope in traditional JRPGs, and it is the first of its kind in terms of its scale. I hope you will enjoy the game, and eagerly anticipate every released like I **** unlike how Harry Potter fans anticipated every book in the past.
(So, I probably ended up sounding like a crazy fanboy again, but at least I think I made some sense this time around. )
"This review covers not only the localised First Chapter but the, so far, unreleased in the west, Second Chapter as well."
This is not just a great Jrpg. This is a tremendous achievement in storytelling, and a crowning achievement of a small company that creates games with all its heart and soul.
It deserves the highest praise for the godly music, the deep gameplay, the breathing world, and this greatest cast of characters ever to grace a video game. This game and its sequels are reasons enough for anyone to learn japanese. Do it and you won't be disappointed.
But these flaws can't keep Trails in check for too long. The game delivers a lot of what JRPG fans want -- a long, epic story (which, it should be noted, doesn't end with this game), lots of fun dialogue, and an engaging combat engine -- and does so in a charming, enjoyable fashion. It might be a crowded market on the platform, but Trails in the Sky manages to soar well above many of its peers.
As the first entry in a planned trilogy, The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky has technically done its job. The game has built my anticipation for the next installment, in spite of itself. Granting that, I'm not interested in a rerun. A clever battle system can distract for only so long, and the value of semi-persistent society is limited by the appeal of the world in which it exists. I'm sure that it's hard for creators to not fall in love with the product of their labor, but navel-gazing is only entertaining for the owner of said navel.
It's fairly hard to add any innovation to the JRPG nowadays, but Trails in the Sky does just that. It is very story driven and the characters themselves are charming. If you're an old school fan of turn based combat, you will love this. There's enough depth to it to be awesome.
One of the finest JRPG'S to appear on a handheld console. The supurb writing makes the dailogue shine. When combined with an interesting plot and a fantastic combat system make this a game not to be missed. P.S check every treasure chest twice.
trails in the sky is the first chapter in a great japanese rpg series (still ongoing in japan), and it's a really an awesome rpg if you value a powerful story, lovable characters, great music and a lot of things to do aside from the main quest... this is the first rpg in years that has been able to really move me, I can't wait for the sequel's translation
Being a lover of PC RPGs I am mostly used to the Western Black Isle - Bioware - Obsidian school of gaming, with CdProjekt being the "Eastern" developer I'm mostly interested. I have played some Japanese RPGs of course, but since they are almost all on console I tended to ignore them till this generation, when I was convinced to explore that field too. There was a big exception, however: Falcom, the only Japanese software house that really tried to make great RPGs on PC despite that country's absurd console focus. I knew this company through hardcoregaming's articles, and if the Ys games and Xanadu Next were failrly intriguing, it was the Sora no Kiseki series that had me drooling, since it was some bizarre mix of Western open-endedness and Japanese focus on anime-style narrative with a great steampunk-meets-fantasy setting mixed in. Sadly, that series was completely out of the question for anyone who didn't have a fairly decent background of Japanese studies, so it remained a wet dream for many years and I finally forgot about its existence. Imagine my surprise when I learned that the PSP ports of the Sora no Kiseki series (now renamed Trails in the Sky) were finally coming to the USA some seven years after their initial release! At first I was a bit pissed that there was no plan to translate the PC editions, but as time passed I was convinced to buy a PSP simply because of this game, especially when Dragon Age 2 (a decent game, but a far cry from the first one) left me without any kind of interest to replay it after the ending, even if I had waited it for months.
So I finally picked up Sora no Kiseki and was thrown right from the prologue into the same addiction only great RPGs like Ultima 7, Arcanum, Baldur's Gate 2, KotOR or DAO have been able to provide me. The game takes its sweet time to introduce everything, but I wasn't annoyed by this choice since the characters and the kingdom they live in are so detailed they almost feel alive (game has LOTS of texts). The ruleset is also really enjoyable, with a good deal of tinkering and some remarkable fights that shows the PC roots of the game because of the importance of movement in combat. The world is also really big and full of things to do, with even the first town, Rolent, easily capable to surpass many RPG cities of other games (and don't get me started on Zeiss...). Graphically it isn't incredible, but the environments are well presented and the characters'sprites are really good, with many animations for minute actions. I would suggest any RPG addict out there to try this game, it's really worth the trouble.
First things first, the game is good and deserves some attention...however it's got a lot of flaws that ruins the game for me.
The good thing probably is the story, which is very very good and interesting because it could lead anywhere and has no real specific goal (except looking for you father...I'll talk about him later): that's really enjoyable and I like a good "travel story" game: anything can come and it can be done good easily.
Oh and the music is not bad either.
That's it really, because I haven't found anything else being remarkably good and I'll explain why.
For starters, the combat is not bad and it's basically a tactical combat system (basically turn based while moving on a battlefield each turn) however for one it's extremely slow because you cannot do autobattles, resulting in pressing the first command and wait until the enemies are dead and, with the exception of bosses and some hard battles, you really can just press one button and shrug it off. Second, the battles themselves are almost useless because levelling is nearly impossible due to a sort of "programmed" levelling in which the higher the level, the less exp you'll get, making combat completely useless, unless you have to grind money and sepith (basically the only way to upgrade your magic power and obtain magic spells, using a system similar to FF7 "materias"); luckily enough you can do quest in order to get money and everything you need (especially considering the items are WAY overpriced that even farming monster would be extremely long), and quests are also another good thing of the game and with exception of some quests being very obscure and telling you nowhere to go, it's still good of a feature. And third, the graphics are **** the characters look terrible considering the enviroment it's VERY detailed and also huge.
However these issues aren't what made me give this score because they're not game breaking. The real issue was the "main protagonist": Estelle. The story is revolved for a huge part on looking for his father but you'll go around the world doing other things for your training, which is fine, however she's basically the worst kind of character you could ever get: a Mary Sue, but in this case she's a character that will constantly get the attention on every scene possible. Why? Lots of reasons and one of those is literally shadowing other characters, including the second main protagonist Joshua, which until now (I'm 40 hours in and soon to the last chapter) we know NOTHING about, as well as the other characters that will join because they barely had any screen time or important backstory to tell. Or the game was focusing on Estelle complaining. Seriously, I literally don't know the characters that came and went, because the game would constantly focus the story on this whiny and annoying girl that has nothing interesting at all, leaving the potentially good characters hid in the dark until the game starts calling them out (Joshua is one example, since he's extremely skilled, smart, very calm and mysterious). Not only that she's always in the attention of the game the plot will constantly remind us that her father is like the best of the best, every-single-time, and that because of him they expect her to be as good so she gets help, even though most of the times she knows nothing (It's almost like Harry Potter, except he wasn't "that" annoying). I'm truely sorry if I'm being this harsh on one character but I really could not stand how the game just favours her in every scene but completely forgets characters around her, killing potential good characters and actual character development; in addition she's also pretty weak in battle (her stats are decent but she's best used as a support character/healer than damage dealer, while Joshua is a damage beast despite the low defense) and the game will constantly remind us she's the main character in almost every scene possible available: the gender-swapped theatrical play for no reason, the "obviously-useless" fishing scene in the hotel, the constant immature acting but excused because she's the daughter of "that guy", the obvious fanservice scene in the SPA, the nonsensical scene where she's considered more like a boy than a girl (seriously, with her ginarmous pigtails, which are also not very practical for fighting, even a boy could look girly enough). The scenes are so many that it's pointless to track down, but yes she literally destroys the plot. For me.
Infact the game is still pretty solid and I'd warmly suggest to give this game a try, especially since good RPGs on PSP are rare and the game is still pretty fluid and interesting: in addition Estelle might be likeable for others, so all of this could be pointless for you, but since she can be a distraction I thought to mention"how" she can be annoying, plus I'm sure she'll be better later in the trilogy.
Hopefully not after 40-50 hours in...