The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky the 3rd Review
Trails in the Sky the 3rd, as it’s name already suggests, is the third and last part of the Trails in the Sky trilogy. It’s a… weird addition to the series, as the entire thing feels like a massive fandisc. That doesn’t mean it’s not good though, far from it, it’s just different.
Despite the fact that Liberl has finally attained peace, life goes on for Kevin Graham, hunting down people consumed by power and greed who claimed the powerful ancient artifacts as their own. Something went wrong with his latest mission however, which sent him and his childhood friend and newest recruit, Ries Argent into another dimension, dubbed “Phantasma” by mysterious enemies. Thus another journey begins which will force Kevin to face his dark and troubled past head-on.
While the epic adventure prior which took the entirety of 2 games were finished, Trails 3rd follows a different protagonist — a certain green-haired young man whom you may have met on the previous game, a certain Kevin Graham. Just like the change in the protagonist, the story also took a more character-driven approach than the last games.
And indeed, characters — they are always one of the best things about this series, as charming as the world was, the characters are always every bit just as endearing. If anything, it’s the characters that made the world. It feels extremely nostalgic to get back to these characters you have been following around for so long. Trails 3rd is all about tying up loose ends, and putting the spotlight on secondary characters you may not have as much chance to get into, as both Estelle and Joshua were always the pivotal point of the story before.
While the approach in storytelling may be different, that doesn’t make it any less effective. Sprinkles of Kevin and Ries’s backstories are shown to you along the way, and their excellent development along the course of the game as their pasts came back to haunt them. In fact, the different, less-draggy approach may make Kevin’s story appear even better than Estelle and Joshua’s which require 2 huge games to wrap up.
Most of the gameplay designs in this game is also centered around the story’s more character-driven approach. The beautiful, immersive worlds of previous games have now been replaced with a massive dungeon called Phantasma. Yes, Trails 3rd is a dungeon-crawler and is one of the reason why the game feels so weird. And yes, sadly, that means there are no towns, NPCs, Bracer side quests and so on, part of what contribute to the series’s charm in the first place. The story progresses the more you explore the dungeon, and along the way, you will find out characters from past games have also been trapped in this realm.
Following the character-driven theme, the dungeon also has various magical doors situated throughout the place. If you meet the criteria to open the door, you can view various side content — side stories focusing on specific character, lore, mini-games and so on. Some of these can be a hit-or-miss but the character-centric side stories are definitely spot-on for me. Some of these are pretty much scenes during the aftermath of SC, and while some focus on backstories which show how a character’s demeanor came to be or reaffirm his or her relationship with other characters. It’s an excellent way to flesh out the secondary characters of the series, whom may have tugged your heartstrings in the previous games, but still haven’t seen enough of.
With an entire cast of old characters making a comeback, and with the addition of some new ones — there are a whopping 16 playable characters in this game, all with their own roles, styles and niches in combat.
Except for Josette I suppose, no matter what I do, I swear she’s useless in battles. Combine that with more accessible ways to obtain high level quartz — strategizing against bosses and party/orbal setups is more flexible than it has ever been. As far as gameplay is concerned, I think I spent way more time figuring out orbal setups than fighting monsters, which to me, is another fun part of the game, as there are just so many setups for your preferred fighting strategy. The actual battle mechanics remained largely the same from SC, so I’ll just keep it short. In battle, you control 4 of your party members, and a large part of what you will be doing, especially against bosses, would be figuring out the optimum crafts/arts to use (i.e. buffs, healing arts, impede to cancel casting, AT delays, etc…).
The graphics is largely the same as previous games too. And at this point, a lot of the visual components in Trails in the Sky like the SD character models have pretty much become the series’s own distinctive charm. It’s going for the “minimalist” look and it works well, what’s more it’s unique, so not a lot of complaints from me on that front. Music is also just as top-notch as it has ever been. Longtime followers of the series will be glad to know that the music in Trails 3rd is just as good as the prequels in evoking all kinds of feels.
Fandisc, fanservice, glorified fanfiction, super extended epilogue — while all these are apt descriptions for Trails 3rd, it is an incredibly good game nonetheless. It must be said that Trails 3rd is definitely for those who have played FC and SC, as the whole thing is just a love letter for players who loved the series and characters. If you happened to like FC and SC though, then despite all it’s faults, Trails 3rd is a great game that will conclude your favorite characters’ stories; and for those who have been following these same characters along their journey since the beginning, nothing is more rewarding than the chance to witness that very conclusion.