Back in 2011, XSEED Games released The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky to western audiences on the PlayStation Portable. While it's graphics might have been considered "dated" to some at the time, those who could look past that found a RPG that had a strong story and developed characters. But those players also knew the game had one hell of a cliffhanger ending and made mention of a sequel, known as The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky: Second Chapter. Four years later after a series of events and bumps along the road, the sequel is finally in the hands of players. So was it worth the wait?
If you've recently played the original, you'll be picking right up from where you left off as the sequel picks up almost right where the first game ended. Like the original game, the basic narrative is very much your typical "up-and-coming heroes stop evil and save the world in the process" framework in a simplistic sense, but how the story introduces factors such as war, religion, or child assassins into the mix elevates the narrative to a more mature level.
Similar to the first game, the narrative initial takes a while to get going. The first half feels almost as if it has a bit too much filler in it, making the overall pacing and build slower than it needed to be. This made sense for the first game, as the world was brand-new to the audience, but in the sequel the audience already has somewhat of an understanding of the world itself and detracts from the build the latter-half of the first game provided. Thankfully the second half of the game mirrors the first game in terms of pacing and surprises for players.
The battle mechanics in the original were already pretty well-defined to begin with, so they've essentially returned unchanged again in the sequel. You move along characters on a grid, so you'll need to keep track of your position to keep out of the enemy's attack range but also line up attacks so you can hit as many enemies as possible with your attacks and skills.
Speaking of attacks and skills, outside of your normal attacks, each character in Trails in the Sky has access to two different types of special abilities: Arts and Crafts. Arts are what you'd think of as "magic attacks" in a normal RPG and are determined by equipment called "Orbments". Outside of boosting stats, they also represent specific elements based upon their color which influences what abilities they'll imbue on the player they're equipped unto. For instance, red Orbments deal fire damage and increase attack power, blue Orbments give access to water and healing-based spells, green Orbments raise your evasion and give access to wind-based attacks, and so on.
On the flip-side, Crafts are essentially a character's innate inner skills they learn as they level and progress throughout the game. As you progress and level up, you'll obtain new crafts and upgrade and enhance the existing ones you already unlocked. These skills are used in battle via the way of the "CP" gauge which is gained by dealing and taking damage, but there's also the option of saving up your points to raise the meter to a full level of 100 and deal an ultimate attack, with the catch being the gauge being completely drained following its completion.
One thing I particularly liked about the first game was its side quests, as the game essentially guided the player towards them as you don't gain currency through beating enemies directly. Enemies drop "quartz" which you can either turn into currency or orbs to use to create Orbments. So essentially you're guided towards taking on side quests as they're a better source of income early on in the game, with the added side benefit of increasing your Bracer level and gaining rare equipment/orbs. Some of these were your typical "beat X enemies" fetch quests, but others had their own small narrative or eventually became a larger overarching narrative that could eventually span multiple towns and even cities throughout the process of the game, making it feel much more alive than much of the other Japanese RPGs out there nowadays. This same spark returns again in the sequel, which I was exceptionally glad to see return.
As far as map and dungeon controls go, what existed in the first game makes its return again here. The game uses an isometric camera system, with the L/R shoulder buttons allowing for camera rotation when applicable. There's a minimap available most of the time, but more than once you'll run into areas where the game inexplicably disables the minimap for no real reason and leaves the player to their own devices. Why the developers chose to do this doesn't really make sense, as some of these areas are a bit tricky and could have really use the map being available as a guide. This also was an issue in the original game as well, so it making a return again here is baffling.
As far as graphics and the musical score go, if you enjoyed the first entry in the series you'll enjoy the sequel without a doubt. It may not be a looker compared to games out now, but considering it's a PlayStation Portable title and the era it was released in back in Japan, it was pretty decent for its time. The new musical tracks in the sequel are quite excellent, with some tracks being re-used from the original where applicable.
It's been a long time coming, but fans of the original Trails in the Sky: The Legend of Heroes game will find a sequel that's been worth the wait, even if the initial part of the game might seem like it's taking a while to get started. And for PlayStation Vita or PC owners who haven't given the series a try yet, once you're finished with the first game you'll have a great game waiting on the other end for you.
|The detailed side quests from the original return again in the sequel.|
|Once the story gets going, it picks up the pace and doesn't let go.|
|The easy to use but deep battle mechanics return again in the sequel.|
|The minimap issue in the dungeons returns again in the sequel.|
|The pacing in the first half takes a while to get going, compared to the second half of the game.|
|Some might find issue with some of the musical tracks being re-used again in the sequel.|