The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky is the first game in this strategic JRPG series to make it to Western shores. And if this robust and utterly charming PSP release is anything to go by, I truly hope that it isn’t the last. While extremely short on surprises and innovation, this is a game extremely rich in both quality and character. The start of the game does drag on a bit in that classic JRPG fashion, but once the story actually gets going, Trails in the Sky’s surprisingly layered tale and eccentric cast of supporting characters really start to take hold. The brilliant story does a great job of keeping the games epic 50+ hour running time ticking along nicely, but it’s the deceptively deep and consistently challenging battle system that will keep you genuinely hooked right up until the final credits and beyond.
Although rather twee in appearance, with cutesy character design and charming locations in abundance, Trails in the Sky does offer up a very solid challenge throughout. Battles take place on a simple grid system with what initially appears to be a rather basic selection of inputs. However, as the game progresses and you begin to realise the depth allowed by the robust Orbment system and the brilliant interplay between random battle enhancements and the powerful S-break attack option, Trails in the Sky soon proves itself a significant but always fair challenge. Add to that the game’s extremely competent AI and its liberal use of crafty tactical options and power-decreasing ailments, and you’ll soon find yourself having to use every aspect of you not inconsiderable armament to come out on top.
As great as the battle system may be, it’s a real shame that the majority of said battles take place in such boring looking dungeons, but the fact that the enemy design is so varied and the challenge provided so consistent does make this issue much easier to bear. Luckily, while the dungeons are something of a graphical and artistic bore, the world above is anything but.
On your epic journey of political intrigue, adventure and young love with the extremely likeable Estelle and Joshua, you’ll come across a variety of beautifully drawn and regularly striking locations as you traverse the majestic kingdom of Liberl. Sure, the visual style itself falls somewhere between PSOne and PS2 era graphics in terms of technical proficiency, but while it may fail to amaze from a technical standpoint, it proves consistently impressive from a more traditional artistic perspective.
Trails in the Sky is a criminally slow starter, but once Estelle and Joshua become fully-fledged members of the Bracers (think civil servants who just happen to have monster killing as part of their job description), and begin their journey to find Estelle’s missing father, the game truly comes into its own. The tale expands naturally into a genuinely interesting tale with numerous double crosses and surprising twists along the way. The gentle love story between the game’s two leads is also well handled, and despite some clunky and often heavy-handed dialogue (this is a JRPG after all), proves a memorable and even touching account of young love. The battle system is enjoyable, the enemies are varied and the visuals mostly charming. Why this series is only now finding its way to the East is beyond me, but hey, it’s a great game in its own right and yet another reason to dust off the good ol’ PSP.
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