The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky SC Review
Note: SC is the sequel of this trilogy, and if you haven’t play FC (the prequel), note that this post will contain FC-relevant spoilers, since the story picked up immediately from FC.
Ahh, Trails SC, I have been waiting for this shit for 5 years! Okay, maybe not that long, but close (checking the date of my review on the prequel, it’s written on August 2012, but I probably finished the game even way back). Here’s the thing though, when you waited that long, expectations will just keep building up, how would Trails SC fare against all those expectations though? Well, it more than enough met my expectations, and more, and considering how long I have waited and how much my expectations have been building up, it’s really a testament to how good Trails SC is.
Remembering his forgotten past, Joshua left Estelle on a dangerous hunt on the “society”, and hoping to bring down the one who calls himself “Professor”, the one who had been manipulating him around on the very first day. Taking some time to recover mentally, Estelle also set up on her own journey too-a journey to bring back Joshua and to fend off the society “Ouroboros”, a dangerous group of men who had been threatening the major cities of Liberl, the same society that Joshua used to be in, and the same society Joshua is trying to bring down as well.
I thought FC’s story was pretty good despite being a RPG romance with fair amount of light-hearted moments, but that was just a tip of an iceberg. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, Trails SC took it up several notches. Admittedly, it’s unfairly advantageous though, since FC had already set up all the plot points and twists, and SC just needed to follow up. Trails SC pretty much focused on the society, whom you had already met one of them way back in FC (which you probably would had remembered to be one of the hardest fight of the game). It was a nice, dramatic change of pace. Although while pacing is slow, it’s the type of story which will definitely reward players with their patience. Again, similar to FC, Trails SC also have a considerable amount of quests to do each chapter. Of course, you can skip them, but some of these quests delved so much deeper into the Trails lore, world, characters (even NPCs!) and so on, so much as if you would feel you’re a part of the world-you would definitely be missing out if you were to skip them.
And you know, the premise of Trails SC, of the main character leaving the heroine-it totally reminds me of a certain anime (*cough* Shana S3 *cough*), just that it’s much better written. What’s this done though, is that it brings some very interesting table to character dynamics and development. One of the best thing about FC was the dynamics and chemistry between Joshua and Estelle, and when one of them had left, Estelle really had no choice but to work with other characters. It was a very refreshing change of pace to see how her dynamics is like with other characters. Furthermore, one of Estelle’s main character motivations was to be stronger and not be as reliant on Joshua-which at the end of the day, was a character development she definitely achieved. It’s a journey of fighting off the society and bringing back Joshua, but it’s also just as much of a personal journey for Estelle. Additionally though, characters and relationships are developed for other characters and they too, receive conclusive arcs of their own. You barely know some of them on FC, but SC really went all out in focusing their character expositions and developments. Really, this sequel is all about character resolutions, which is why the third part of this trilogy (which I still haven’t heard any news of localization at the time of this post) is mostly regarded as a huge epilogue.
The gameplay battle mechanics work more or less the same as FC, I’ll try to brief them through. The gameplay works in a turn-based format, but with movement system integrated as well (he/she can only move to areas with highlighted blue grids). You can move/attack/cast arts/crafts. Arts are Trails’ equivalence to magic, in which you can personally customize with quartz. Depending on the way you set up these quartz, you will have new orbal arts (AKA magic) on top of increasing your stats. Crafts are like a character’s personal skills, and exhausts CP instead of EP. S-crafts are like a character’s ultimate skills which require at least 100 CP to use. Once again, a well thought out system where you will really be spending a lot of them setting up stuffs in your strategy-devising process.
A new addition to the gameplay battle system is the ability to chain crafts. By doing this, you will be able to chain craft attacks with 2 or 3 characters at once, providing both can reach the targeted monster(s). I feel like not a lot of people use this for some reason, but for my usual strategy, especially during early on, it’s a system I had been abusing like crazy, so to me, this new addition is pretty godsend.
Additionally, there are also some minigames like gambling and fishing too, which are all great side activities to do when you just want to take a break from the main story and quests. Throughout the game, you can also collect various books and newspapers which really helps immersing into the story.
As far as visuals are concerned, I really have no complains. It’s not exactly the greatest, but works perfectly in it’s context. Character models will be in their SD forms, similar to the prequel, but that doesn’t stop it from having extremely breathtaking, detailed backgrounds-which really helps making exploration around the world that much fun. During conversation, characters also have quite a considerable amount of different portraits in the dialogue boxes to express their emotions.
Estelle’s blushing faces are kinda cute, but I digress. Playing on Steam certainly helps too, since the graphics feel much more sharer and crisper than when I was playing FC on the PSP.
And then, there’s the music, which is undoubtedly top-notch. The music seems like a blend of classic RPG tunes and contemporary style. Trails series also have a weird attachment to jazz pieces-you will notice how jazzy tracks would fill your ears as you step into battles-instead of the usual rock or any “adrenaline-pumping” genres; which at the end of the day, still gets the job done satisfying so as they surprisingly fit the mood well. There’s a song I believe, called “Infiltration”, which as it’s name suggests, is the song you will hear while you’re infiltrating enemy bases. I mean, come on, jazz songs while you’re sneaking enemy bases? It can’t get any better than that.
And that’s not even including other noteworthy songs like the amazing opening, the calm, tranquilizing songs while you’re traversing outside of cities, the mysterious tunes while you’re navigating inside towers, ballads with very empathizing melodies during story-related events (dat thematic “Hoshi no Arika”) and so on. Just like what a good RPG with good OST should be, Trails SC has a huge set of soundtracks which fit their various moods respectively to a tee. More importantly, these are the type of songs which will stand the test of time and years after players had finished the game, they would remember very iconic moments simply just from listening to the songs. These are all hallmarks of a very good OST, and Trails SC definitely achieved that status.
Now that I finished Trails SC, I finally understand the hype of the game in the JRPG fandom. While FC is good, when compared to the series as a whole, it is at best, the introductory phase. SC took what had already been setup by FC, to new, incredible heights. Trails SC is an extraordinary RPG-great story, characters and music, and is a game I definitely recommend if you finished FC, and liked what you had seen of it. Trails SC is a huge emotional ride, and is one of the best JRPGs I had played to date.