The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky
|The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky|
|Platform(s)||Microsoft Windows, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita|
The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky[a] is a role-playing video game developed by Nihon Falcom. Initially released as The Legend of Heroes VI: Trails in the Sky and later published as Trails in the Sky FC (first chapter), the game is the first in what later became known as the Trails series, and was directly followed by Trails in the Sky SC (second chapter).
Trails in the Sky was first released in Japan for Microsoft Windows in 2004, and later ported to the PlayStation Portable in 2006. North American video game publisher Xseed Games acquired the rights from Falcom, but did not release it until 2011 due to the game's large amount of text necessary to translate and localize. A high-definition port to the PlayStation 3 was released in Japan in 2012 as part of Sony's PSP Remaster line of games, while a remaster for the PlayStation Vita was released in 2015. Both were Japanese-only releases.
In Trails in the Sky, the player controls a cast of characters, embarking on a number of quests to progress the story. There are two different types of maps when navigating in the overworld of the game: field maps and town maps. In field maps, enemies roam around and a battle ensues if the player comes in contact with one. In town maps, the player can visit various shops to purchase items, replenish health at an inn and, for the major cities, take on and report quests to the local guild. In addition, the player can interact with numerous non-playable characters (NPCs) in the game; a unique aspect in Trails in the Sky is that each NPC's dialogue changes as the game advances, allowing the player to follow along side stories that accompany the NPCs throughout the game.
Combat in Trails in the Sky takes place on a grid and is turn-based. The character's turn order is determined by a tracker called the AT Bar. During the character's turn, the player can move or make an attack. In addition to the normal attack, each character also has three other methods available for action: Arts, Crafts, and S-Crafts. Arts are magic spells that characters can use to attack opponents or support teammates but must take an additional turn to cast. Crafts are character-specific abilities that are similar to Arts but can be used in the same turn; however, they utilize a special gauge called "Craft Points" (CP) for the cost to perform. S-Crafts are powered-up Crafts that can be performed once a character has over 100CP but completely depletes the CP gauge upon using it. Further extending S-Crafts are S-Breaks which allows characters to immediately perform an S-Craft regardless of when their turn order is.
If the player loses a battle, the game is over. The player is then allowed to continuously retry the battle and subsequently lower the difficulty of the battle for each retry; should the player not want the difficulty to be lowered, they can turn it off in the settings menu.
The events of the series take place on the continent of Zemuria. According to the lore, at one point in history, the goddess Aidios bestowed seven treasures upon mankind. Humanity split in different factions, each gathering around one of these treasures. This marked the start of the golden age of these civilizations which ended with an event known as the Great Collapse, a catastrophic event affecting the whole of Zemuria. Taking place roughly 1200 years before the events of the game, The Collapse led to the destruction of the ancient Zemurian civilization and plunged survivors into a Dark Age of ruin. Civilization slowly recovered with the formation of the Septian Church, a monotheistic religion believing in the goddess Aidios which became the most widespread religion in Zemuria. The Collapse also marked the start of the Septian Calendar, the standard calendar across the continent. In the year 1150 of the Septian Calendar, an event known as the Orbal Revolution took place. Professor C. Epstein invented Orbments, the equivalent to circuitry in the real world. These orbments became a central part of Zemurian civilization following the spread of the invention by Epsteins' three disciples. During the events of the game, the continent is still in the early stages of orbal development. The Bracer Guild is a non-government, continent-spanning organization created shortly after the Orbal Revolution, acting to keep the peace and protect civilians. The members are known as Bracers.
The game takes place in the Kingdom of Liberl, located in the western part of Zemuria. Liberl is neighbored by the Empire of Erebonia to the north and the Republic of Calvard to the east. 10 years prior to the events of the game (the year 1192 in the Septian Calendar), Liberl was invaded by its powerful neighbor in the north, the Empire of Erebonia. The war lasted for approximately three months, during which time the Empire occupied most of Liberl with only its capital region of Grancel remaining in opposition. A well executed counter attack by the Liberl forces using newly developed airships swung the tide of war and the Empire was driven back. With the cooperation of the Bracer Guild, the Septian Church called for an armistice, and the war came to an end. The war became known as the Hundred Days War, due to which tensions remain high between Liberl and Erebonia. The Republic of Calvard is on friendly terms with Liberl while being a rival of Erebonia. Liberl is divided into 5 major regions: The Rolent region to the east, the Bose region to the north, the Ruan region to the west, the Zeiss region to the south, and the capital city of Grancel where the royal family resides.
The story begins with the main protagonist, 11-year old Estelle Bright, waiting for her father, the former soldier turned renowned bracer Cassius Bright, to return home for the night. When he does, he brings back a young boy by the name of Joshua. Cassius adopts the boy as his son, raising the two kids. Five years later, following in their father's footsteps, now-16-year old Estelle and Joshua finish their training to become junior bracers. Soon after, Cassius receives a letter, causing him to leave his hometown of Rolent on business. During his absence, Estelle and Joshua meet a man named Professor Alba, an archeologist looking into ruins around the kingdom, believing them to be remains of the ancient Zemurian civilization. Afterwards, the mayor of Rolent's crystal, is stolen by sky bandits. Estelle and Joshua team up with senior bracer Scherazard Harvey, their mentor and childhood friend of Estelle's. They retrieve the crystal, but are unable to capture the sky bandits. They return to Rolent, where they are informed the airship Cassius was in never landed and has disappeared. Estelle, Joshua, and Scherazard then set out to Bose, where Cassius's ship was originally headed.
Upon arriving at Bose, they learn that the army has taken over the investigation of the airship's disappearance. Tasked by the mayor of Bose to conduct an independent investigation, the group gathers information and meets Olivier Lenheim, a self proclaimed famous travelling bard from Erebonia. They learn that the sky bandits were behind the hijacking of the airship, and of the involvement of men in black. Olivier joins the three to raid the sky bandit's hideout. After defeating and assisting the army in the arrest of the sky bandits, the party meets Colonel Alan Richard, the head of Liberl's Intelligence Division. They are informed that Cassius hadn't been taken hostage; he is, instead, nowhere to be found. Upon returning to the bracer guild, the party is delivered a package intended for Cassius, containing a mysterious black orbment and a letter telling him to deliver it to one "Professor R". Estelle and Joshua part ways with Scherazard and Olivier, heading to the port city of Ruan.
On their way to Ruan, they briefly run into another senior bracer, Agate Crosner. Estelle and Joshua meet a girl named Kloe Rinz, a Jenis Royal Academy student who spends her time helping a nearby orphanage. She decides to show Estelle and Joshua around the city. While there, they meet mayor Dalmore, and the visiting Duke Dunan, nephew to the queen of Liberl. Shortly after their arrival in Ruan, they hear the orphanage is burnt down. With the help of Agate, Estelle, Joshua, and Kloe investigate the incident and determine it to be arson. The culprit is eventually revealed to be the mayor himself, assisted by the men in black. Chasing after the men in black, Agate leaves the three to confront mayor Dalmore. During the encounter, Dalmore pulls out an artifact that can freeze time in a small place; he uses it to paralyze the party and prepares to execute them. Unexpectedly, the black orbment activates, negating the rod's effect. The mayor tries to escape, but is captured by the royal guard led by Lieutenant Julia Schwarz. Colonel Richard appears again and commends Estelle and Joshua for their efforts. The two then part ways with Kloe and began their journey to the city of Zeiss, home to the Zeiss Central Factory (ZCF), in hopes of learning more about the black orbment.
Along the way, they meet Tita Russell, the 12-year-old granddaughter of Professor Albert Russell. Professor Russell is revealed to be the "Professor R" mentioned in the letter to Cassius. Professor Russell begins to conduct experiments on the black orbment in order to discover its abilities and the extent to which it disables nearby orbments. When an attempt to scan it inadvertently causes a brief city-wide blackout, ZCF is attacked and Professor Russell is kidnapped by the men in black. Estelle and Joshua, along with Agate, who rejoins the group, chase after the kidnappers in an attempt to rescue the professor. The attempt goes wrong when Tita rushes into the fray and Agate gets poisoned while protecting her, allowing the kidnappers to escape. After curing Agate with the aid of Calvardian senior bracer Zin Vathek, they learn that Professor Russel is being held in a nearby military fortress. Estelle, Joshua, Tita, and Agate infiltrate the fortress and rescue the professor, with a revelation: the men in black are in fact members of the Intelligence Division helmed by Colonel Alan Richard. The black orbment was confiscated by the intelligence division, who had been searching for it all this time, presumably to use it for their schemes. Professor Russell goes into hiding with Agate and Tita, though he tasks Estelle and Joshua with telling the Queen of the dangers of the black orbment and the situation brewing in the kingdom. Estelle and Joshua then head to Grancel, the capital city of Liberl. At the same time, Kloe is kidnapped by the intelligence division.
On route to Grancel, they run into a blockade set up by the army. However, Alba had been preparing to cross it and manages to get Estelle and Joshua through it. Upon entering the capital they learn that Duke Dunan has been ruling as the queen's proxy (while himself being manipulated by Colonel Richard) while the royal guard is framed for treason and arrested, with its remaining members in hiding. A fighting tournament is about to start, wherein the winner will dine with the Duke inside the castle; the party sees in this the perfect opportunity to meet with the queen and deliver Russell's message. Estelle and Joshua team up with Zin (who left the group earlier in Zeiss to be able to arrive in time for the tournament), as well as Olivier (who happened to be visiting the Erebonian embassy). They win the tournament and thus infiltrate the castle without. Upon meeting Queen Alicia, they learn Kloe is actually Klaudia von Auslese, her granddaughter and next in line of succession to the throne. Colonel Richard is revealed to be planning a coup d'état, holding Kloe hostage to subjugate the queen. They also learn of a strange anomaly underneath the castle, which Richard plans to use with the help of the black orbment in order to gain power. With help from Lieutenant Julia Schwarz and the remaining royal guard, the bracers rescue Kloe from a nearby villa where she was held. The rescue succeeds thanks to the surprise arrival of Scherazard, Olivier, Agate, and Tita. With everyone together, they head underground to confront Richard. The party finally catches up to Richard and defeats him, but not before he uses the black orbment to activate an unknown mechanism. A mysterious mechanical monster appears and attacks. While they are able to subdue it momentarily, the monster proves to be too much of a challenge for the group and they are only saved with the timely arrival of Cassius.
A week later, the conspirators are arrested and Liberl goes back on track to being normal. Estelle and Joshua are promoted to senior bracers in recognition of their work, while Cassius leaves the guild to return to the army in order to help with the rehabilitation of the kingdom. Festivities begin to take place for the queen's birthday celebration. Professor Alba approaches Joshua alone. Joshua realizes that Alba has the abilities to manipulate the minds of others such as Colonel Richard, and that it was he who was pulling the strings behind all the major events. Alba informs him that Joshua had been unknowingly feeding information to Alba on everything the bracers had been planning ever since had been adopted by Cassius 5 years prior. In reality, "Professor Alba" is a disguise - his true name is Georg Weissmann, an Anguis of an organization known as Ouroboros. Joshua himself was formerly an Enforcer of this same organization, but Weissmann erased his memories prior to Joshua's adoption, and returns them to him now, causing Joshua to fully understand his past. Weissmann leaves Joshua before Estelle can return.
Later that night, Joshua and Estelle meet at the castle's courtyard. For the first time, Joshua explains to Estelle what his life was prior to his adoption; after suffering a horrific tragedy, he was molded into an assassin who killed countless people. His final target was Cassius Bright, who easily defeated him. Since Joshua had failed, Ouroboros attempted to dispose of him, but were thwarted by Cassius who adopted Joshua as his own son. Estelle confesses her love for Joshua. But Joshua, unable to bring himself to stay with Estelle due to his dark nature, sedates her. As her consciousness fades, Joshua thanks her and confesses his own love for her before parting ways, setting up the events for the sequel.
Trails in the Sky was initially released for Microsoft Windows on June 29, 2004 in Japan. The game was later ported to the PlayStation Portable console and released in Japan on October 28, 2006: this version of the game was released in 2011 for North America on March 29 and for Europe on November 4. The PC version of the game was released worldwide on July 29, 2014 and included a number of features that were available from the PlayStation Portable version. A high-definition version of the game, The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky FC Kai HD Edition, was released for the PlayStation 3 in Japan on December 13, 2012.
A redesigned version of the game titled The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky FC Evolution was released in Japan for the PlayStation Vita on June 11, 2015. Evolution renovated the old designs and user interface and incorporated several new features such as voice acting and animation in some scenes, additional illustrations, and enhanced battle tactics.
The North American version of the game was localized by XSEED Games, who in May 2010 had acquired the rights to bring the Trails in the Sky trilogy to North America. The length of the script for Trails in the Sky FC, which contained approximately 1.5 million Japanese characters, presented a challenge for XSEED's editor Jessica Chavez. Chavez spent nine months working on the script, with the fourth chapter of the game ultimately requiring assistance from XSEED's localization specialist Thomas Lipschultz at the last month.
In September 2013, XSEED announced a PC version of Trails in the Sky was planned to be released for the early 2014 winter season, but coding issues forced the release date to be pushed back to July 2014 instead. According to XSEED's localization programmer Sara Leen, much of the code needed to be rewritten from scratch because of technical differences between the PlayStation Portable version and the PC version; these changes frequently introduced new software bugs, further complicating matters. When the game was officially released, not all of the issues were corrected; patches since then have fixed a majority of them.
|RPGFan||Best RPG (Editors' Pick)|
|RPGFan||Best Traditional RPG|
|Wired||16th Best Videogame of 2011|
Trails in the Sky was well received by critics, according to review aggregator Metacritic. Neilie Johnson of IGN gave it a positive review, stating that, though "First Chapter is not the most original ever made, like any good JRPG it offers amusing writing, dynamic combat, interesting tasks, an absorbing narrative, and hours upon hours of gameplay" and concluded that "while the game's 50/50 balance between combat and story may not be to everyone's taste, its charm and overall entertainment value make it well worth the investment". Hardcore Gamer praised the "rock-solid character writing", noting every character has "their own history, ambitions, and social connections", every non-player character (NPC) "has their own name and motivations and interpersonal relationships with other NPCs", and the influence of Hayao Miyazaki's classic anime film Castle in the Sky on the cast and steampunk setting. They also praised the open-ended story, quest design, and combat system, and for having "one of the most complete and enthralling worlds ever rendered", concluding it to be "one of the finest JRPGs in the history of the genre".
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