A little over four years ago, Xseed Games released what was easily considered one of the best role playing games of 2011. The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky won the hearts of many fans with its strong story and interesting and lovable characters. Players who went on to finish the title discovered the cliffhanger ending and naturally wanted to know when the sequel was coming. Four years later and what the translation team literally called “translation hell,” The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky: Second Chapter has finally arrived.
Trails in the Sky: SC picks up right where the first game left off. Even though it’s been four years since the first game released, as much as I want to discuss the story, I just can’t bring myself to spoil it because it really is that good. The good news though is the game’s great cast of characters returns for SC along with some great new faces.
One of the strongest aspects of the Trails in the Sky series is the fantastic writing. It’s easy to brush off the game’s story as a typical “young heroes stop the big bad guy and save the world.” Essentially that’s what this story is set up to be, but the themes it presents, such as child assassins, religion, military coups, and war will make you look past its initial teenage heroes.
Unlike the first game, SC takes a while to get going. The first half of the game sees our heroes traveling across the region of Librel helping the various townspeople with various problems. It’s also filled with a bit too much filler content which makes for a slow build up the game’s big events. The second half on the other hand is amazing. The story picks up pace and there are a lot of great twists that I just didn’t see coming.
As much as I praise the story of SC it does have some glaring issues. The first of which are the extremely long winded conversations. During many scenes in the game conversations drag on for way too long. It gets even worse when every character has to get their two cents in every conversation that takes place. This wouldn’t be bad if what they contributed didn’t derail the scene taking place. You know the conversations are taking too long when the characters themselves talk about how long they have been talking, which actually happens a lot. This alone will test players patience to the point where they may just quit and come back later.
The game’s combat remains unchanged from the original, and the compelling strategic combat remains just as good as it did four years ago. Characters move on a grid much like strategy role playing games, which leaves it open for plenty of strategic movements when it comes to attacking enemies and supporting your team mates. Moving your characters around the battlefield helps avoid areas of effect attacks but also allows you to line up attacks that can hit multiple enemies.
Each character has two types of abilities outside of their standard attacks, Arts and Craft. The Arts are essentially the player’s magic attacks and the Crafts are their personal skills. The Arts are determined by the “Orbments” that are equipped on each character. These Orbments not only boost character stats but determine the type of spells they can be cast. Each Orbment is comprised of a color which represents its element and what stat boost you receive. A red Orbment allows you to cast fire spells and increase your physical attack strength, while a blue Orbment gives you access to water and healing spells.
Crafts are each character’s personal skills. As the characters level up new skills unlock and older skills upgrade and become stronger. While in combat the characters “CP” gauge which is used for Craft skills increases by taking and dishing out damage. After the gauge reaches one hundred, players are able to pull of their ultimate attack but doing so depletes the gauge back down to zero.
Unlike most JRPG games, monsters do not drop a form of currency. Instead they drop “Quartz.” These small gems are used to create the Orbs used in Orbment but thankfully they can also be traded for Mira, (the game’s currency). Of course this creates a dilemma. Do you use your Quartz for Mira or to craft better Orbments?.
The other way for players to gain Mira is to complete Bracer Requests. As a Bracer yourself you accept notices from the Bracer Guild. These essentially are your side quests. You not only gain Mira but your Bracer level also increases, unlocking some rare equipment and Orbs. Outside of your simple “find this monster and slay it” tasks, most of the side quests can be quite fun and come with their own small tale to tell which makes them actually meaningful quests. One of the best ones is the continuing quest to capture the Legendary Phantom Thief as he leaves clues behind and constantly mocks the team.
When exploring the various towns and monster-infested dungeons the game for the most part does a good job leading you in the right direction. Using an isometric camera angle, you’re able to rotate the camera with the L and R shoulder buttons, while a great minimap ensures it’s almost impossible to get lost. Unfortunately there are some dungeons and regions where the map becomes inaccessible.
Exploring in these regions, I quickly realized just how important the minimap was. I found myself constantly getting lost and turned around in these areas. What makes these areas even worse is that they take place in key story locations and most are over-populated with monsters forcing you into battles you probably could have avoided with the minimap.
Graphically the game is actually quite good, especially considering it was a PlayStation Portable title when it initially released in Japan (heck you can even play the game on the PSP right now.) Character animations are quite fluid and special attacks have some nice effects to them. It may not be state of the art but it has its charms. The music, just like it was in the first title, is just as good here. Even though some tracks are recycled they still sound great.
It’s been four years in the making but fans can finally rejoice. The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky: SC is just what fans were hoping for, with a unique combat system that adds just enough strategy to keep you on your toes while allowing you to customize your characters abilities with the great and innovative Orbment system. It’s not everyday that you can fall in love with an entire cast of characters but the great writing and fantastic story ensure you get swept away in its narrative. It’s just a shame that the long winded conversations and slow pacing of the game’s first half will not only test your patience but could easily turn some gamers off.