The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky, by Nihon Falcom, is a JRPG for PSP that is being released across Europe by Ghostlight.
The game revolves around two characters, Estelle and Joshua Bright in the town of Rolent, who wish to train and become experienced bracers, a sort of public officer that can be called upon to help with various tasks. Estelle’s father is an experienced bracer who unexpectedly disappears without warning and the pair set out on a journey to find him. A political story unfolds which rapidly turns into a conspiracy.
The game begins quite serenely as we find the two characters enjoying each other’s company. Estelle and Joshua are complex and memorable characters who share constant witty and sarcastic banter between each other. Their relationship and their crusade to save their father is paramount and the charming tale unfolds into a memorable story. Exploring each town opens up new scenarios and situations that will require the pair’s urgent attention.
You begin your journey in the small town of Rolent and meet with Scherazard Harvey in the Bracers Guild Headquarters, where she spends a vast majority of her time reading tarot cards, who provides your first level of training to become an established bracer. The Bracers Guild has branches across the vast continent and manages the affairs of the bracers in each region. In the story you learn about the kingdom of Liberl, sitting on the western half of the Zemuria continent, which is abound with native and deep rooted traditions. Liberl is a place that is very proud to be one of the leading producers of Septium (a type of mineral) on the continent and is well known for its high level of technology used to develop orbments. It was ten years ago, when Liberal was attacked by the Erebonian empire and it was the use of orbal powered airships that eventually saved the kingdom from defeat. The relationship with the empire is very sensitive, but thanks to the Queen’s political finesse Liberl enjoys its peace and freedom.
As a bracer, you’ll receive training along with a bracer notebook and you’ll receive a certain number of bracer points. These points are necessary for working up the levels of becoming a bracer. The notebook records the current statistics of your current jobs, anything you may have recovered or found and where it first appeared. Players will need to visit the bulletin board each day, which gives a job description and current objective. In return for completing these jobs, you’ll earn mira, the in-game currency and experience.
Your first experience as a bracer begins when Scherazard insists you must search the sewers beneath the town of Rolent and recover the contents of a chest. Once inside the sewers, you’ll find monsters to exterminate and an orbment charging station, which are recovery points that enable you to rest and get your HP and EP restored. The Battle system is tactical and turn based, placed on a 7 x 5 grid. Each character can attack the enemies and you can change the formation of how characters are played out through battle by simply pressing the X button. Moving and attacking enemies is dictated by how far your character can move and reach, both with close combat and ranged weapons. Each character can select one S-Craft or S-Break which enables players to disturb the turn order and make off with an enemy’s bonus before it’s undoubtely used against you. The battle system is a complicated one which has similarities to some of the past Final Fantasy games.
Characters can be customized by using the orbment system in the Orbal factory in Rolent. In the orbal factory you can modify your orbments and synthesize support quartz to eventually use orbal arts. There are seven types and all have various outcomes. Inserting water quartz enables you to cast healing magic, while inserting wind quartz unleashes a series of whirlwinds. All of these spells are dependant on your quartz level and supporting abilities to strengthen your characters.
While the RPG game is made up of a series of attacking monsters and carrying out simple objectives, it is immersive and has an impressive level of game play that is solid and well balanced. Each scene and environment is detailed and charming, accompanied by a pleasant soundtrack which adds to the stunning picturesque scenery. Walking through each town is an extradionary experience as you look in awe at each detailed building, giving the game a feeling of openess as you begin to explore each street and wander into a selection of the well stocked shops. Each mission and battle is satisfying and leaves you yearning for more. While the main story follows the journey of Estelle and Joshua as they search for their father, there are a fair amount of side quests in each of the towns that can be taken on, or the player can simply bypass them to concentrate on the main storyline. Combat is good and offers a nice selection of magic for players to experiment with. Although I found the battle system a little complicated at times, it was more interesting than some of the battle systems I have had to endure.
Ghostlight, the company responsible for distributing this game across Europe, have seen fit to throw in some impressive goodies with the game. The Collector’s Edition includes five gorgeous art cards and the CD soundtrack from the game.
Without any doubt, The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky is one of the most impressive and submerging JRPG games that I have experienced on the PSP. It may have taken a while for this game to be released in the UK, but it would seem that the wait was worth it. This highly polished JRPG is an essential buy for any PSP-owning role-players.