The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky

The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky

released on Jun 24, 2004

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The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky

released on Jun 24, 2004

In the kingdom of Liberl, a man named Cassius Bright serves as one of the land's greatest Bracers, a freelance organization dedicated to keeping peace and helping those in need. When he is called off to business in the neighboring country, his daughter Estelle and his adopted son Joshua take on his work as upcoming Bracers. But when the airship he was traveling on vanishes, his children seize the task of discovering the truth behind the incident, and rescuing their father. From the makers of the Ys games comes a series of RPGs telling a legend of adventure, political intrigue, and mystery, with a tale of growing up at the core. With a mix of turn-based and strategy combat, and an equipment system blending traits of famous games like Final Fantasy 7 and Chrono Cross, battles will cause unique builds and plans to handle many different situations and allow for different play styles. Wonderfully detailed characters abound, even to the smallest NPC, and the player will find themself taking the world in at every turn. Trails in the Sky sets a new standard for making an enjoyable and immersive RPG.

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The gameplay here is immaculate. Pure JRPG goodness, if a little on the easy side. No wasted mechanics, winning is fun, losing is fun, random encounters and boss fights are all fun. The money/equipment economy feels balanced all the way through, which is incredibly rare for this sort of thing. There’s no minigame chaff except for one unbelievably bad stealth section. Normally immaculate gameplay should guarantee a three-star review, but this clearly /wants/ to be a story-focused game above all else, so I have to underweight the fighty stuff.

I can see where people get confused and think this is a good game, story-wise, because it has the structure of a much better game. There’s a lot of sort of baseline stuff that suggests a lot of care went into designing this as a game that could tell a complex story through lots of different kinds of scenes. PCs swap in and out as the story demands so it’s not stuck to the “adventuring party” format; there’s a certain deftness to the blocking with the little sprites that gives a lot of flexibility to the talky bits; and it’s /very/ talky—these games are famous problems for localizers, I guess, because every little JRPG-type man-on-the-street interaction is a novel and changes contextually every time a character so much as sneezes. It’s all suggestive of a game that’s very patient, that does a lot of “worldbuilding” and character work, and is setting up something more complex than the normal get-the-boys-together-and-fight-God JRPG plot.

But it’s not! The story and the character work are, in practice, /incredibly/ bad here—pretty bad even by video game standards. A comment you’ll see about this game is that it’s unfortunately a bit boring because it’s doing all this patient worldbuilding and setup work rather than getting to the story; this is false. In fact, at the end of the game the kingdom has been taken over by sinister conspirators whose palace coup is actually a front for an apocalypse plot involving retrieving an ancient doomsday weapon from a secret prelapsarian robot palace beneath the castle. This is actually where most JRPGs end up after forty hours. What seems to be giving players the impression that this is not in fact happening—that the two main characters are still walking around meeting different Mayors and battling small-time Sky Bandits at the end of the game, as in the beginning—is A) this sort of ambience of “slow-burn” that the game projects and B) the fact that all of this is so completely dramatically inert.

I’ve never felt an RPG journey from “let’s go to the sewers for some training!” to “the A U R E O L E has been unleashed, and the R I N G G U A R D I AN has awakened” to be so free of conflict. These characters never really struggle. The story structure revolves more around them being /delayed/ then thwarted—there’s never really a point where they don’t know what they’re going to do next. They are constantly encountering and re-encountering incredibly helpful, friendly people who have the exact information they need. The next step in the quest is often, “let’s go to the bar to talk to X about this,” or, “Y wants to meet in the morning, so let’s go back to the hotel.” Characters do a lot of checking in on each other and relaying information, sometimes along roads full of monsters, and then eventually they find where the bad guy is and go proactively to bring them to justice.

All of this would work out fine if the scenes of characters hanging around hotels were psychologically insightful, or compellingly naturalistic, or funny, or sexy, or anything like that. Other reviews of this game on this website will suggest that this is so—a lot of “plot: 6/10; CHARACTERS: 10/10.” Anyone who thinks this desperately needs to watch an R rated movie. All of the writing here (and it’s not just the localization, which seems high-quality) is… I would define it as “sub-anime.” The “jokes” are terrible and often homophobic. Everyone’s primary character trait is how happy they are to see each other, plus maybe some plot-inert “flaw” (Schera drinks too much, but in a cool high-functioning way; Olivier is bisexual, which grosses the other characters out, but they heroically put up with it; Agate has a gruff exterior, which everyone immediately sees through to his heart of gold). There’s not a single joke that lands.

There is one main dramatic thread about which the game musters up a bit more genuine passion, and it fucking sucks: the main characters are a sixteen-year-old brother and sister by adoption, and they’re starting to develop feelings for each other. Watching this warmed-over Pornhub scenario play out completely mechanically, without an affection mechanic to jimmy or even a nominal love triangle to form an opinion on, is like a forty-hour-long sleep paralysis nightmare, in which you know exactly what’s going to happen but are powerless to prevent it. Imagine my horror when a character casually mentions that a nearby town is famous for its hot springs…

There are two other major dramatic threads: the first involve the characters’ father, who disappears in the beginning of the game. This should at least give you something to worry about, except that the game, terrified of stressing you out, keeps having characters insist that your dad is fine, or even that they just talked to him last week. He does in fact reappear at the end, completely unharmed, to tell you how proud of you he is. The other thing is Joshua’s mysterious past, which is way too vague to be of any interest, and then sort of comes out in a sputter at the end of the game. I was told that the game ends on a cliffhanger, by the way, which is such a generous definition of “cliffhanger;” a minor character reveals himself to have been evil all along, announces that everything that happened in the game was according to his plan, and then walks off with a vague promise to continue doing bad-guy stuff in the future. No cliff, no hang.

What the game is counting on is propinquity, the great ally of the game developer. If you spend enough time with these people, watching them hang out, alternately imagining that you “are” them or that they’re your friends, eventually you’ll fall in love. Clearly this has worked on a lot of gamers, and if the game were any better (say, as good as Fire Emblem: Three Houses, another game I would not describe as well-written) it might have worked on me. As it stands, I kind of like Kloe, the schoolgirl (I know, I know) character who turns out to be the secret princess and fights with a rapier and a trained falcon named Sieg. Sieg is cool, and Kloe kind of seems most convincingly like she would be friends with the protagonists. Her bit of the game includes a fascinating interlude where the protagonists are assigned (the gimmick is that you belong to “the Bracer Guild,” which is a sort of multinational benevolent fantasy Pinkertons) to attend a high school (?) to help out with a school play (??) in drag (ah, okay). I’m not sure I was ever more interested in the story than during this bit, which promises all the parapedophilic low-level sexual intrigue one expects from a different sort of game. (This is one of /two/ sequences in the game where Joshua has to crossdress, by the way; the other one involves a maid uniform, for purposes of sneaking into a palace. This all just makes me nostalgic for the edgier, more complex queerphobia of Final Fantasy VII’s crossdressing gag.) But it all fizzles out into the same chumminess as the rest of the game; all the schoolgirls agree that the siblings are made for each other and you walk around after the play meeting an array of Mayors, each of whom congratulates you on your stunning efforts.

Apropos of the secret princess, a note on the politics of this game: it’s completely unreflectively pro-royalist. The Queen of the Liberl Kingdom (yes, “the Liberl Kingdom”) is a wonderful old lady, and her granddaughter, Kloe, is a wonderful young lady. But there’s another heir, through the distaff, the queen’s nephew the Duke, who is a shitty, pampered, self-obsessed aristocrat. Kloe and the Duke have a coequal (not “contested,” just “equal,” like no one has gotten around to reading the line of succession yet, the Queen being only sixty) claim to the throne, and nasty bad actors in the military, in service to foreign interests, lock the queen in her room and abduct the princess and announce that the Duke has been made heir. Vile treason! Luckily the Benevolent Fantasy Pinkertons are here to set things to right. Now, I’m not a whiner about this stuff, and I’ll accept a benevolent princess and kindly queen, but this isn’t Zelda: it’s supposed to be a complex palace intrigue story! Maybe it should think about this stuff for even a second!

Anyway, I haven’t ruled out playing the second one eventually, because I’m a mark, and it’s supposed to be better, and the gameplay really is fun. But I’m very glad that I have regular exposure to way, way better art than this. If this is your idea of “plot pretty good, characters excellent,” I consider you a victim. Of what, I’m not sure exactly. This game, much like every villain I sliced my way through in the course of playing it,, is only the innocent pawn of something much larger and more sinister, but that I can’t spend too much time thinking about, because it’s boring and I have better things to do.

بداية جيدة لعالم ضخم التي بها القصة يثير الاهتمام كيف سيقومون بجعل هذا العالم الشاسع بخدم القصة، مع أنها مجرد البداية الا انه لم يكن هنالك توسع اكثر للعالم، على أي حال كون المقدمة لهذا العالم والقصة فهي كان لا بأس به نظام لعب جي-أربيجي مذهل وممتع وألحان ساحرة وكويستات ممتعة للعب ومع أداء السيوز أثناء القصة والكويستات جعلها أكثر متعة ومع ان الشخصيات بحد ذاتها لم تكن مثيرة للاهتمام جدا ومجرد شخصيات سطحية لا عمق بهم -الا بضع شخصيات- ، عموما خاتمة هذا الجزء كانت مشوقة لشيء لم نكن نعرفه أثناء خوضنا لهذه القصة أتساءل لما سيحدث لقادم الأحداث...

I've heard this is the worst game in the series which must mean that every other entry is a masterpiece because this game is so much fun.

Great first game for what would be one of the most detailed worlds in fiction. Tons of world-building, amazing and catchy music (Sophisticated Fight will always be one of the greatest JRPG battle songs), character writing, and NPC depth. All would become series standards that Trails is known for.

The gameplay may be very dated and slow for today's standards but it contains a lot of the series' foundation such as arts, crafts, and grid movement.

The game starts off very slow as it's the tale of Estelle and Joshua's Bright journey across Liberl to become full-fledged bracers but it will soon escalate as they have to resolve various issues from town to town. Their intimate and evolving relationship, alongside a charming cast, it's one of the highlights in the game. In fact, when you get done with Trails in the Sky, it will make you want to play the second game since the cliffhanger is so jaw-dropping and plot twisted.

If you want to get people into the wonderful world of Zemeria, always recommend people to start with this. You absolutely can not go wrong with the first Trails game since it's the layout of the series and it does not do anything wrong either.

the start of one of the greatest series