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Trails in the Sky screenshot 1

Above: Estelle prepares to work as a bracer In Trails in the Sky.

(Warning: This review contains spoilers)

I sometimes wish that Sony hadn’t switched to a new portable system. The PSP still had some great Japanese games left, such as The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky. The adventure surprised me with one of the deepest storylines I’ve ever experienced.

I just wish I could finish the series in its entirety, because it ended on such a heartbreaking cliffhanger.

The two heroes of the game are one of the coolest adopted brother-sister teams I’ve ever met in a video game. The first chapter ends on a heavy cliffhanger, revealing that Joshua has his own dark secrets that Estelle doesn’t know about. By the end, I really wanted the protagonist, Estelle, to confess her true feelings to her friend Joshua. Their relationship may turn out rockier than I expected.

Trails in the Sky screenshot 2

Above: Estelle and Joshua take a break at the top of a tower.

Trails in the Sky is actually a trilogy of role-playing games, focusing on the relationship of these two characters. I know that some guys probably think this is a really corny love story. However, the romance is only part of the massive universe in Trails in the Sky. The first game packs in a giant collection of unique side quests. Each task immerses people even further into the rich storyline.

Along the way, Estelle and Joshua meet up with plenty of unique characters, such as academy schoolgirl and a martial arts master. Each of them play their own special part in a complex saga that plays out like a J.R.R. Tolkien novel. Some enemies hold back on revealing their true power until the final section of this game. There are also plenty of shocking surprises at the end of the game.

Trails in the Sky is very unique, because the dialogue is more realistic than any game I’ve ever played. Think of it as the slightly medieval version of Xenogears. All the characters can speak for long periods at a time, without using any clichés. They can talk about their love life or about the school play that they’re participating in. Anything is fair game to talk about.

The turn-based battle system isn’t nearly as spectacular. The battles play out like a more strategic version of the fights I’ve seen in previous RPGs, such as Lunar: Silver Story. Each character moves around on a grid. Some characters have attacks that spread out to hit a group of enemies.

The fights are a bit mundane and repetitive, until people reach the final dungeon. At this point, the game throws all the toughest enemies that can call all their buddies for backup. The final boss especially packs some really mean attacks that automatically kill off individual characters. The change was a bit too sudden. I wish that the developers balanced out the difficulty a little more evenly.

The sheer depth of the storyline is incredible, though. Players can really get attached to these characters as they grow and mature. Even though I’ve seen similar storylines in other games, Trails in the Sky has a strange way of pushing me further into the lives of these characters. The two heroes participate in all sorts of wonderful social events, such as the Royal Jenis Academy’s school play. They also periodically rescue friends, such as the photographer for the Liberl News. The game’s unique cast of characters immersed me even further into the culture of the game world of Liberl.

I know I shouldn’t harp on about an incomplete series of games. I should probably just wait for a new Japanese RPG series to sweep me off my feet. However, The Legend of Heroes series has some of the best dialogue I’ve ever read in a fantasy adventure game. I’m not surprised that the developer, Falcom, announced that they would create a high-end spinoff of the Trails series for the PS3.

Trails in the Flash screenshot 1

Above: Screenshot of a battle in the upcoming Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Flash game.

I’m pretty sure that The Legend of Heroes will never gain the same popularity as the Final Fantasy series. However, the series is gaining a much better audience than I expected. I just hope that the publisher of Trails in the Sky, XSEED, can actually finish translating the scripts for the next two games. The whole process takes an extremely long time, but I’d pay XSEED anything to finish the epic Trails in the Sky trilogy.

In the meantime, I’ll spend my time listening to the beautiful ending song of the first Trails in the Sky game.

What other Falcom games are you looking forward to in the future? Could these low-key role-playing adventures possibly gain a bigger audience in the next few years? Write your thoughts in the comments below.