The Legend of Heroes: Trails to Azure review

Into the blue.
Trails to Azure Header

Getting into The Legend of Heroes series is a tall-order for even the most hardcore JRPG fans. Despite boasting some of the best characters, most engrossing world-building, and sharpest storytelling of the entire genre, the franchise is made up of sets of trilogies and quadrilogies that require knowledge of every prior entry in the series to truly digest. Trails in the Sky and Trails of Cold Steel make up the iconic modern stories in the franchise, but there was always an iconic duology in the franchise that never saw an official English release – the Crossbell titles Trails from Zero and Trails to Azure. Now Trails to Azure has made the journey West.

As is the common warning with this series, if you haven’t played the prior entry Trails from Zero, then Trails to Azure will be pretty hard to comprehend and appreciate. That said, because this is merely a duology, they combine to be a great entry point for the series in general. They are in many ways the ultimate Legend of Heroes experience.

Taking place just a month after the events of the ending to Trails from Zero, we continue with Lloyd Bannings and his team at the Special Support Section as they race to solve tense situations and criminal cases that threaten to unravel the peace of the city.

Trails to Azure City Exploration

Thankfully, the forty hour run-time of the previous game is like a walk in the park compared to the lengths of other Legend of Heroes titles — is the only required reading for getting into Trails to Azure. Smartly, the incredible new localisation by NIS America sprinkles some minor changes into the writing that drop new yet necessary connections to other titles into the events of the story — namely some references to the Cold Steel series, which take place during the same time period and grow to be very intertwined with the Crossbell games. They’re nothing more than fan-pleasing easter eggs, though. If the only game you’ve played so far is Trails from Zero, you won’t have to worry about feeling left out of the loop.

If anything, Trails to Azure can sometimes feel a bit too familiar. Much like how most entries in SEGA’s Yakuza series take place in the same town of Kamurocho with minor aesthetic changes, Trails to Azure takes place almost entirely in the same locations as its predecessor. You’re still exploring the city of Crossbell and the surrounding countryside, and while the events of the story have led to some dramatic changes in characters and your plot motivations, the unchanged environment delivers a complementary double-edged sword.

On one hand, it’s incredibly immersive to navigate the same city and rely on your established familiarity, helping you feel even closer to the residents of Crossbell. On the other, the identical graphics and visuals mean that spending another 60-80 hours of exploring these same environments and listening to the same songs can get a bit tiring. The game does remedy this somewhat by almost instantly unlocking fast-travel and, later, giving the SSS crew a car they can use to quickly get to different key locations.

Trails to Azure Combat

Combat in Trails to Azure is similarly lifted from the prior game, although a couple upgrades have come into play that will be familiar to Cold Steel fans. Every character still uses Orbments, which are magical devices built to boost your combat efficiency. This time around, you can equip Master Quartz in each Orbment that not only drastically change your characters stats, but they can also be levelled up through battle to unlock new abilities, buffs, and attacks. They provide an extra layer of customisation that really helps fine-tune the strength of your party. Whenever I hit a wall in the game with a tricky battle, it didn’t require me going and grinding levels, but rather taking another look at my team and properly equipping them and upgrading their quartz.

There’s also the brand new Burst Gauge, a meter that fills up incrementally across multiple battles. When you get a chance to use it, it delivers a variety of buffs for your team that can almost immediately turn the tides of an otherwise unwinnable battle. It’s the kind of smart catch-up function that helps keep the game consistently engaging – I never felt the plateau of repetitive battles or punishing bosses because, if needed, re-analyzing my quarts and utilizing the Burst Gauge quickly restored my optimism and excitement for tackling the next encounter.

Trails to Azure Boss

Legend of Heroes: Trails to Azure caps off what easily feels like the best arc in the larger Legend of Heroes franchise. All of the dense, overly wordy world-building and narrative development the franchise is known for is here, but it’s spread across just two games. It’s a much easy story to find the time to experience compared to the larger Sky and Cold Steel sets of games, and with these two Crossbell titles boasting some of the best characters and coolest moments of the franchise. It’s an incredibly worthwhile adventure for any JRPG fan to go on.

Trails to Azure is The Legend of Heroes at its best. With some of the most enjoyable characters, jaw-dropping events and immersive world-building of the entire franchise, it's clear why this Crossbell duology has been held in such high acclaim by fans for so long. If you've struggled for ages to find the right time to get into Legend of Heroes, your wait is over — start here with Trails from Zero and Trails to Azure.
  • Some of the best characters in the franchise
  • Fun combat with new, helpful features
  • A satisfying conclusion to the set-up of the prior game
  • Sometimes repetitive backtracking through familiar environments
  • Quest design is still a bit too reliant on fetch errands
Written by
I'm a writer, voice actor, and 3D artist living la vida loca in New York City. I'm into a pretty wide variety of games, and shows, and films, and music, and comics and anime. Anime and video games are my biggest vice, though, so feel free to talk to me about those. Bury me with my money.