The Legend of Heroes Trails in the Sky is a game that I’ve been interested in playing since it originally came out way back when I was in high school.

Over the last few years I’ve heard from several different RPG-themed gaming podcasts that the Trails series is fantastic and I had been meaning to get to this game for a long time.

Well I finally managed to sit down and play through the first game in the Trails in the Sky series and it was absolutely fantastic. Exactly the sort of old school JRPG that I used to love back in the PS1 or PS2 era but surprisingly with several modern quality of life improvements.

In this review I’ll explain exactly why you need to play this game if you’re a fan of JRPGs, but first lets watch the trailer.


Cutscene screenshot

The Story

The story is hands down the best part of this game. I had heard people talk about how the script for this game was thousands and thousands of pages long and that’s not an exaggeration at all.

There is so much dialog and every time a major story event happens pretty much every NPC in the whole Trails world has updated dialog.

It’s also incredibly well written.

The story follows Estelle and Joshua who are Junior Bracers setting out to begin their Bracer career. Bracers are more or less police/mercenaries who travel the world solving crimes and helping people.

Estelle’s father is one of the top Bracers in the world and has a mysterious past. Estelle’s mother died in a war that happened ten years before the game started.

When Estelle was a kid her father was out on a mission and found a kid named Joshua who had been wounded. He took him home and adopted him into his family and Estelle and Joshua grew up as siblings.

The game begins with Estelle and Joshua taking their Bracer exam. Shortly after that their father is called away on business and disappears. They decide to travel the world looking for him but also to get recommendations from the different Bracer guilds in the different provinces of their country. They need a recommendation from each guild to become Senior Bracers.

I don’t know what it is about JRPGs and travelling around the world to collect different certifications but it certainly seems popular.

The story starts out pretty slow (like most JRPGs) but as it goes on a giant conspiracy starts to unfold and things get very interesting.

There’s also an absolutely fantastic collection of well written characters, many of which join your party during the different chapters, leave and show up again when you least expect it. The end sequences of the game more or less involve getting everyone you’ve met along the journey to join together to help save the day and it’s awesome.

I’ve heard this series described as kind of like the Avengers movies in the way the characters all come together and that’s not entirely wrong.

The ending is fantastic and wraps up the main thread you’ve been chasing but then drops a major cliff hanger that leads into the second game. I’m quite looking forward to playing that soon now.


Battle system screenshot

The Gameplay

This is a fairly standard JRPG. You travel from town to town through field maps, occasional dungeons, have lots of cutscenes and there are turn based battles.

The battle system is pretty straight forward. It’s turn based but you can also move around the battlefield on a grid although I almost never did that.

During battle you can attack with physical attacks, use special “Craft” skills that use CP (Craft Points) that accumulate as you do damage, or use Artes, this game’s version of magic that use EP (MP essentially).

Artes all have different attack radiuses which opens up some neat strategy. Some Artes will hit in a straight line, some will do a large circle of damage, etc. So you’ll want to pay attention to the turn order and try to maximize your arts to hit as many enemies as possible> Artes take a bit of time to charge, more powerful ones take longer to charge.

You can see the turn order on the side of the screen which is great and you can use different skills to interrupt that turn order to stop enemies or get special turn bonuses.

Basically they took the standard turn based battle system and added a few unique spins on it to make it more interesting.

There are no random encounters which is awesome. All the enemies you see on the map. At first they’ll be hostile and come after you (but you can run away) and eventually you’ll get abilities to make the enemies ignore you or have no encounters entirely.

You can also escape from battle at any time with no penalty.

There’s also no need for grinding which is awesome. You’ll fight a few enemies and quickly level up to the point where you stop getting much EXP and fighting isn’t worth it. Then you’re completely fine just avoiding fights until the next area with stronger enemies.

Another fantastic modern addition is a fast forward button. It works during battle to speed things up a lot and you can use it on the field. It’s great for when you’re doing side-quests and you’re running from one place to another.

This game apparently has a ton of missables which is something I always hate and side-quests have a time limit for when you can complete them. I’m pretty sure I did all the side-quests though and as long as you complete them before doing the next story objective you should be fine.

Finally I have to mention the Orbment System. Each character carries an Orbment which is kind of like a magic pocket watch. You can insert different kinds of crystals in there to improve your stats, get special abilities and the different types give you different Artes to use in battle.

For example if you want to use higher level fire magic you’ll need to equip multiple fire crystals. Different elements can be mixed and matched to unlock all kinds of different Artes and the system offers a nice layer of customization for your party members.


Farm map

The Sound and Music

Music in this game is exactly what you’d expect from an early 2000s JRPG. It’s not amazing but it made me nostalgic for these kind of games again.

The sound effects are good, no complaints here.

There’s not really any voice acting though aside from characters yelling things occasionally in battle and this is where if you’re playing on PC you’re going to want to get the EVO voices mod.

The EVO version of the game was only released in Japan for the PlayStation Vita but someone’s ripped all the voice files from that game and you can install them into the PC version.

This mod adds fantastic Japanese voice-acting to pretty much every single story sequence in the game and there’s another mod to add Japanese battle voices as well.

I started off playing the game without the mod and it’s a lot of reading. The Japanese voice acting definitely adds much more enjoyment and personality to all the characters so you’re absolutely going to want to make sure you play the game with it.


Bracer guild screenshot

The Graphics

Since this game came out in 2004 the graphics aren’t amazing but I don’t really care because I really love this style. The game has isometric 3D environments with 2D sprites and I always love how that looks.

The 3D environments aren’t super fancy but a ton of care and detail went into them. They also scale up to 4K very nicely and look nice and sharp and crisp.

The 2D character sprites look a little bit blurry in 4K but overall not bad.

There are also dialog portraits for all the important characters with different facial expressions depending on what they’re talking about and these all look fantastic. There’s a mod to add the new ones from that EVO version but I preferred the originals and stuck with those.

My only real complaint here is with the world-design. Since the entire game takes place in just one country there’s not really any fancy geography.

All your towns are the standard sort of European medieval fantasy-type towns and your field maps are all just fields, forests, mountain passes or caves. There are a few more interesting looking ruins to explore but that’s about it.

Hopefully in the second and third Trails games we’ll get to explore some more interesting environments.

But overall it’s a fairly minor complaint.


Empty chest message

In Conclusion

I absolutely loved Trails in the Sky FC (First Chapter) and if you’re a fan of JRPGs at all, especially the more old-school ones you absolutely need to pick this game up.

It regularly goes on sale on Steam or GOG for around $10 to $15.

I finished the game at around 63 hours and I think I did every side quest and talked and re-talked to a lot of NPCs. This was possibly the first game where I actually wanted to talk to everyone again and again too.

There’s also a new game plus mode and harder difficulties if that’s your thing as well.

Overall it’s a fantastic start to this series and I can’t wait to play the next one.

Screenshots from The Legend of Heroes, Trails in the Sky FC Steam page used under Fair Use