So I’ve spent most of this semester, and the month prior, playing Trails In The Sky. It’s part of the Falcolm’s Legend of Heroes series, which I know nothing about but believe that it’s a franchise with a similar age and fame to Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest. Doesn’t seem to have any iconic monsters, but I could be wrong on that count.
I don’t need to know about that sort of context to enjoy this particular game, which begins a new story that will continue in two sequels. Estelle and her step-brother Joshua look up to their father, who works a bracer, carrying out errands and protecting civilians from monsters. He is called away on a special mission the day the pair complete the final test of their bracer training. From there, Estelle and Joshua’s story snowballs into a saga of organised crime, industrial espionage, gladiatorial combat and a military coup. While containing nothing truly innovative, Trails’ story is extremely – and thoroughly – well written. The amount of detail is boggling. Think of most games as being like short stories, with Trails being The Brothers Karamazov. Every NPC gets a name, a history, everything that happens in the game has a context. Xseed’s Tumblr blog makes the translation sound mind-bogglingly difficult. This obsessive amount of detail is the defining element of Trials.
The graphics are ace. They’ve taken sprites as far as sprites can go. Lots of beautiful things to look at here. The style reminds me, like so many things, of Golden Sun.
Enemies are visible in forests, caves and other places you’d expect to meet them. They might chase you. You might chase them. But once contact is made, you’ll be wooshed into a screen that’ll bring to mind a strategy RPG. You’ll be on a grid, your enemy will be there, and you’ll take turns casting spells or beating each other up. A similar system appeared in Chrono Trigger, and the underrated classic Black Sigil: Blade of the Exiled. The fighting is not all that original, but it works very well.
If you like RPGs, and if you prioritise narratives in gaming, you should definitely get your paws on Trails In The Sky. The only sour note is that the sequel remains untranslated, with only a vague hint that it will come out before the end of the year. I can live with that.
As I’m writing this, I’m preparing to start playing the sequel to this game. I should have a review up in about six months!
And since I’m reblogging this one Valentine’s Day, I may as well mention the romantic elements of the games story. Estelle falls in love with her step-brother. Does that make you uncomfortable? It doesn’t bother me, but then again, I don’t have any step-siblings. I remember that several reviewers flagged this element as potentially distasteful.