The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky
Our most recent conversation about video games occurred just after I finished Persona 4 (which I’ll review later), and just as I was about to finish The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky. He had just finished playing through the demo of Dragon Age 2, and we talked while he plowed his way through twelve-year-old n00bs in Halo 3 multiplayer. Our topic: are Japanese otaku more intrinsically sentimental than American nerds? Our conclusion: possibly, yes.
Few games convey that sentimentality better than The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky, with its gentle J-pop theme song and its teenage heroes dancing around their veiled romantic feelings for each other. It is a game cast in the familiar JRPG model, concerned more with telling its story than with introducing the player to complicated game mechanics or micro-managed character progression. This seems, to me, slightly unusual for developer Falcom, as even their recent games, in spite of their cutesy art style, employ fairly sophisticated game mechanics. On the other hand, The Legend of Heroes series began with a fairly rote Dragon Quest clone.
But while the Falcom of old often experimented with their game design – look at their early action-RPG Sorcerian for a wild mixture of side-scrolling action with Wizardry-esque character/party building – the development team now focuses mostly on polishing conventional gameplay to mirror sheen. Ys 7 feels like it could be a remake of a classic Playstation era game, and I mean that as a compliment. Trails in the Sky, while originally released for Japanese PCs in 2004, feels like a classic game that has aged extraordinarily well.
pandering to a certain questionable contingent of Japanese consumers, quite unlike certain other Japanese developers.
That the characters are likable, their banter well written (and excellently translated, thanks to American publisher XSeed), and the pacing well planned help immensely. Fans have often compared playing Trails in the Sky to reading a book, which the game invites not only with heavy amounts of text, but by segmenting its narrative in chapters.