To begin, let’s clarify the situation. The Legend of Heroes is a long-running role playing series from Japan. The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky was originally released in 2004 on exclusively on PC and is the first game from the franchise to be released outside of Japan. Not only that, Trails in The Sky is also the first game in what is known as the ‘Sora no Kiseki’ trilogy. Still with us? Good.
The game follows the story of two young bracers, peppy Estelle Bright and her more rational, adopted brother Joshua, on a quest to become fully fledged ‘bracers’. For those of you wondering exactly what a ‘bracer’ is, it’s a sort of civilian mercenary group which answers the call of any citizen that requests their services – for a price, of course.[drop]Estelle and Joshua’s work as a bracers forms the basis of how Trails of the Sky plays out. Throughout the Kingdom of Liberl there are a number of bracer guilds, each with their own notice boards. Alongside the main story missions, a variety of side-quests are available to complete from these boards.
These vary from searching for hidden treasure and fetch quests to the more interesting monster extermination quests. It’s a robust mission system with a sense of progression; every side mission you complete helps towards increasing your bracer rank, in turn netting you better rewards.
Visually Trails in the Sky is functional, rather than outstanding. The environments are detailed but the basic design of characters and enemies looks incongruous at first glance. However, this design choice doesn’t detract from the story too much – character portraits change expression during conversation depending on their moods or what they’re saying. There’s also a tiny amount of voice acting, but only during fights.
The battle system is well crafted, with close similarities to Final Fantasy X’s turn-based scraps. Running down the left of the screen is a turn order list, which determines when each character and enemy will attack. You can use various spells and abilities to manipulate the turn order, something that proves crucial to gaining an advantage in battle. This is due to sporadic bonuses such as critical hits and free healing, which are regularly doled out depending on your character’s place in the queue.
Every character also has a CP meter, which rises when they dish out or receive damage. You can use accrued CP either for useful Craft abilities, or you can store it up for powerful S-Craft moves. S-Crafts can be activated at any point between turns, so with good timing it’s possible to make your character jump up the turn queue and swipe the bonus an enemy was potentially about to get. The moves are big, flashy and even accompanied by a cool little cutscene.
However, the novelty of these moves does tend to deteriorate after the 50th viewing.[drop2]From what’s been written so far you might jump to the conclusion that The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky is just another clichéd JRPG. This may be the case for the most part, but one area where the game really shines is the scripting.
The characters interact with each other in a jovial manner and much of the dialogue will cause a smirk to emerge on your face. The game benefits from having a very amusing and likeable cast; Olivier, the wandering bard of questionable sexuality, is the obvious highlight. Skits between characters also help to flesh out side-quests, which are otherwise often dull.
There’s also lot of really neat nuances in the writing. For example, examining an already opened treasure chest will throw up a clever quip; ‘The chest is as empty as your thieving heart’ has to be our favourite of the ones we’ve seen.
- Great scripting and character interaction.
- Solid battle system.
- Fantastic soundtrack.
- Sprite design is graphically underwhelming.
- Some side-missions are a chore.
- Dungeon designs are generally bland.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails in The Sky isn’t going to be converting non-JRPG enthusiasts and, to be honest, it would be unfair to expect it to do so. Whilst it doesn’t re-invent the wheel, it does manage to incorporate some of the best aspects of the genre, with a strong set of characters, engaging plot and strategic battle system.
If you’re still looking for a solid and enjoyable RPG experience for your PSP then this certainly is it.