By: Brian Gunn
The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky: Second Chapter is sort of an oddity in the gaming landscape. The game is actually nearly a decade old, first released on the PC in Japan. It is the sequel to a well regarded but low selling game, at least in the west. It has a massive script and took many years to be translated, and it is somehow finally on our shores in the form of PC and PSP digital releases. Now to find out if it was worth the wait.
Developed on the PC and translated to consoles, Trails SC offers a variety of ways to control the action. Being a JRPG, a lot will of players will flock to gamepad controls, and they are perfectly fine. It’s a heavily menu based game, though, with little but movement and camera control to manage. It can also be played competently on keyboard or mouse only, or a combo of both. Camera controls can feel a little sluggish, but that’s the only complaint I have.
Launched in 2006, the graphics in this title are predictably a bit dated. It evokes the likes of early PS2-era titles, with simplified sprites and boxy environments. Still, that isn’t to say the game is ugly, it certainly has its charms, and the JRPG genre in general has always embraced the simpler aesthetics on handheld devices like the Vita and 3DS.
For those returning to the series, SC‘s appearance is largely unchanged from the original. The anime art style is in line with older titles as well, without the fan service we so often see today.
Music is a big part of any role-playing epic, and Trails SC has a great selection of tunes. From the somber piano melodies of more tender moments to the almost jazzy main battles themes, there’s a lot of variety.
Unfortunately, it gets a little repetitive, especially the more lighthearted tracks that often play during travel moments and town pit stops. Some of the music is actually lifted directly from the first game, but there are enough new tracks to keep things engaging. There’s not much voice acting; really just battle shouts and grunts, but they’re effective and help to sell the characters.
Trails SC picks up quite literally right where the previous game left off, which was a massive cliffhanger. With that in mind, it is hard to really recommend a jumping in point for the series, but it’s an exciting entry point for everyone looking for resolution.
One of the more common complaints about the first game was that it was a bit slow in the story department, and Trails SC largely corrects this. Instead of just wandering around being a general questing hero, there are personal stakes and intriguing mysteries at the forefront this time.
That isn’t to say you won’t spend any time as the typical questing hero. It’s a key part of the series, and as a member of the Bracer Guild, you will still go from town to town solving minor issues for the residents. The game’s world building is rather fantastic. Almost all of the minor characters react to nearly every major event in the story and seem to have their own lives.
This is applied to party members as well. They flit in and out of Estelle‘s life as it makes sense rather than tag along for the entire journey like most RPGs. All of these little things together make the world feel truly inhabited and alive.
Of course, what’s a JRPG without an interesting battle system? Battles in Trails SC play out over a small grid, where positioning is important. It ends up playing sort of like a combination of the Grandia series and a light strategy RPG where you can’t just attack anyone if they’re too far away, and there’s also has a battle order function that you can interrupt.
There aren’t a lot of changes from the first game, mainly just more powerful spells and abilities. The one big change is the ability to combo up with the other party members for special attacks. With all that being said, the battle system is mostly serviceable but nothing spectacular, with the story being the main reason to play.
In addition to the party member combos, some tweaks have been made in character building. Instead of unlocking quartz slots (quartz contains various spells) like in the first game, instead you are upgrading the slots in order to fit in new, more powerful quartz. These will do things like combine two passive effects into one quartz that were previously two different quartz, allowing you to essentially equip an entirely new one for other effects.
General progression is still a main quest sending you to a town, then you’ll take a bunch of side quests if you want. While this will get you to most of the story-related content, the game is somewhat frustratingly archaic in that it is easy to miss something. A quest might require you to be somewhere at a specific point in the story, or you might need to revisit areas a bunch in order to figure things out without a guide.
Aimed at fans of the original, The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky: Second Chapter makes little effort to bring new players up to speed; as such, I wouldn’t recommend this to those looking to jump in midstream. If you’ve played the first though, this is a fantastic RPG that isn’t bogged down by that title’s slow events and will draw you into its web of mysteries very quickly.