The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero from Nihon Falcon Corporation and NIS America is the latest installment in the long-running franchise. After Trails in the Sky which was about Liberl citizens, and Trails of Cold Steel which was about Erebonia, Zero is set in the Crossbell region. Check our The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero review!
Welcome to Crossbell, where culture, commerce, and dreams collide. However, beneath its pristine surface, the city-state hides a darker side teeming with crimes and secrets. What dangers await Lloyd and his comrades within the unknown reaches of Crossbell?
Originally released on the Japanese PlayStation Portable back in 2010 as Zero no Kiseki, and later ported to the PlayStation Vita in 2011 as Zero no Kiseki: Evolution, this game is now already more than ten years old. An English fan translation was released in 2020, and NIS America has used it as a base for the official version which I’m reviewing today. As you probably know, the Trails franchise is renowned for its lengthy game story and a huge amount of dialogue, which is not a bad thing!
For the first time in the Trails franchise, a game will be completely set in the Crossbell region (although Cold Steel did go into this region periodically). I was enthusiastic about discovering more about this new cast since, after playing and completing the entire Cold Steel sub-series – Cold Steel I to IV – I had spent more than 200 hours with Rean! Since this is the first game in a new sub-series of the Trails franchise, this could be a good starting point for newcomers to the series.
In this new Trails release, the story begins with the creation of an elite police force known as the Special Support Section – SSS. If you’re familiar with the franchise, then you shouldn’t be surprised to hear that the SSS is basically a Bracer unit that takes on jobs. What is a Bracer, you ask? It is a term to describe people that accept jobs like hunting quests, fetching quests, or helping citizens in need in exchange for money. As the SSS was founded, the higher-ups did not believe in this project, but as you can guess, you’ll eventually prove them wrong. Chronology speaking, this game is set quite early in the Trails timeline, being set a few months after Trails in the Sky the 3rd – which only recently got released on PC – and before Cold Steel’s events.
Having played all the previous Trails games (from the Trails in the Sky and Trails of Cold Steel subseries), I liked seeing some new faces – although I had seen them in previous releases of the franchise. In this game, the SSS is composed of four main members: Lloyd Bannings (a detective), Elie McDowell, Randy Orlando (who was a regular party member in Cold Steel), and Tio Plato.
I liked how the approach to the game’s story is slightly different than the usual Trails formula. Since Lloyd is a detective, the writers took the opportunity to dive deeper into the mystery and find the source of the issue, which was refreshing after spending so many hours with Rean, who had a more straightforward approach. Speaking of which, solving story mysteries or through the SSS optional quests will award you Detective Points – which are very similar to Cold Steel’s AP – and will give you bonus items as you progress through the chapters.
I already teased it earlier in my review, and I just want to reiterate that the Trails games are text-heavy, and this one is no exception. The prologue lasts around 3 to 4 hours, depending on the game’s difficulty, and you’ll be on the battlefield for less than one hour in this timelapse. Luckily once the prologue is completed, the game opens up, and you’ll have more freedom to take on the main story and the optional sidequests. And the ability to save everywhere is also really nice as well!
In the gameplay department, this game has a turn-based battle system that is very similar to the one found in Trails in the Sky. You’ll be able to attack enemies using a regular attack, Arts (magic spells), Crafts (special attacks that consume CP), and S-Crafts (similar to limit breaks, available once your CP reaches 100). One thing that is also worth mentioning is that the battle system is fully unlocked right away, which is an approach I like since it skips having to sit through lengthy tutorials for easy-to-understand gameplay mechanics.
The battle system is as fast-paced as ever in this game, and the inclusion of a highspeed mode available at the press of a button allows you to speed up the game three times. I played most of the game with this activated. The battle system also features an auto-battle-ish mode that is activated by simply keeping the X button pressed. Most random encounters can be completed with auto-battle, and you can use these to grind some extra level-ups in dungeons.
Playing Trails from Zero felt like playing a game older than it really is since it was originally released on PSP in 2010 and then on PS Vita in 2011… which is the same year as Uncharted: Golden Abyss! With upscaled 3D backgrounds and new character sprites on top of it, it is easy to see how this is a game from a previous generation. I was, however, surprised at how clean it all looked on my 55″ TV. The backgrounds are definitively lower resolution, but the game’s look does have some charm to it.
In the audio department, the game has Japanese voices with English or Japanese text. As mentioned before, the localization for The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero is based on a fan translation of the game, which was certainly unexpected! The soundtrack is good (although not the best of the series), and I really like the catchy battle theme!
This version of the Trails from Zero is, however, left a bit behind when compared to the PC port, lacking some of the quality-of-life features. For instance, there isn’t a text log, so if you missed a sentence, then it’s gone forever. I would also have liked to see the main objective on the mini-map or add markers for points of interest that could be explored later. I would also have liked to have an option to change the controls since they’re not like other Trails games, with the Triangle button opening a drawer instead of the options and the Square button opening the menu instead of showing us the map like in other Trails games. Nothing major, of course, but they were minor annoyances.
As a fan of the Trails series, I was looking forward to playing The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero on PlayStation 4. After spending more than 200 hours with the Cold Steel subseries, the retro look for this game and the battle system – which includes a highspeed mode – felt very fresh. If you’re also a fan, then you’re to love this one, and it’s an easy one to recommend to JRPG fans in general. The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero is launching on PlayStation 4 on September 27 with a $39.99 asking price.
This The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero review is based on a PlayStation copy provided by NIS America.