It’s a little too obvious that Legend of Heroes Trails in The Sky SC is a nine year old PSP game. That is perhaps its greatest flaw. The cheesy MIDI soundtrack, the shallow “press the win button” combat, and the sub par animation all attribute to this. On the other hand, there are definitely a couple things to like, maybe even love, about this game. But, to put it bluntly, I just didn’t enjoy my time playing Trails in The Sky SC.
The best way I can describe Trails in The Sky to anyone who hasn’t heard of it would be to call it a Japanese WRPG. Much of the game consists of picking up quests, completing said quests, and then turning them in. Many of the quests are actually fairly unique. Outside of the occasional bounty quest, I don’t think I was ever asked to go out and kill X number of monsters, or collect Y number of materials. Moreso to the game’s credit, the quests are structured in such a way that they help direct you through the open world. While that may sound like a weird compliment, once you get through the somewhat lagging introduction and the world opens up, you’ll be thankful when you’re told where to go, rather than taking a wrong turn, ending up mercilessly slaughtered by a flower.
The main story isn’t nearly as interesting as these quests, unfortunately. As mentioned, the introduction is incredibly long and slow. In fact, in the time it takes to complete the introduction, you could play some other games to completion. This emphasis on game length would be awesome were it well-paced and interesting. Unfortunately, Trails of the Sky is neither of those things. Everything feels unconnected and reads like melodramatic anime nonsense. At one point you’ll be talking about the protagonist Estelle’s love interest/adoptive brother (I don’t know..), and the next moment people completely unrelated to the current situation will be talking about some looming war that has nothing to do with the main characters.
At least so far. I’m not done with the game. The damn thing is massive. I’d like to compare it to the likes of The Witcher where there’s just so much to do and see that I don’t want to end the game. But, no. As much as I like the quest structure, they just kind of go on and on, and I never really feel like I’ve accomplished anything. The ridiculously long, and silent, cutscenes don’t help either. I’ve seen estimates that this game will take around 60 hours to complete, but that seems pretty generous at the rate things are going.
As mentioned, there’s no voice acting, at least outside of battle. It’s not that big of a deal, but in some of the longer scenes it felt like a chore to have to click through absolutely every dialogue box, especially when the scenes rival Metal Gear Solid in length. The music is all digital and MIDI. There are some nice pieces, regardless of this fact. The battle theme in particular is a cool jazz joint, while some of the town music is pretty relaxing. Then some songs feel like they were literally lifted out of other games. Other songs are just plain bad. In contrast with the regular battle theme, the boss theme is a really horrendous minute loop of half-assed butt rock, for example.
Gameplay is fine for the most part. There’s an interesting mechanic where you equip orbs to build your character. The combination of orbs determine what spells you have access to. There’s actually a ton of depth to what you can do here with the possible combinations. In addition, each character has their own individual skills, and they can even pair up with each other to attack simultaneously. Unfortunately, it becomes quickly apparent that both this combo attack, and certain builds that emphasize AOE damage spells are the literal win button. You can more or less power your way through using these strategies without much of an issue. It’s unfortunate how shallow the game can be, because otherwise it’s a cool system that more RPGs should take advantage of.
I played the PC version of the game, and ended up dealing with a lot of problems as a result. First off, controller support, while available, did not work for me. I could freely move my character around, but menus wouldn’t work without a mouse. I also had to deal with constant framerate stutters, despite running on a practically brand new, bleeding edge rig. The game is also prone to crashes. If I lost a battle and chose the retry option, for example, the game crashed. Every time. I haven’t seen any reports of problems with the PSP/PSVita downloaded version, so that is definitely the way to play as of right now.
Trails in the Sky has a lot of fans. There’s absolutely no disputing their love of the game, despite my less than stellar experience and personal opinion on the game. As a result, I’m not going to say it’s a bad game. I can definitely see glimmers of an awesome game here and there, and can totally understand why so many people consider it a masterpiece. But, it just wasn’t for me. I would strongly urge those who haven’t played it to consider my opinions here, but still give it a try for yourself. You may find a series you truly love. Or you’ll just be down here with me thinking it’s crap.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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