The Legend of Heroes: Trails to Azure from NIS America and Nihon Falcom is the latest retro entry in the franchise to land on PS4. Check our The Legend of Heroes: Trails to Azure review!
Following the events of Trails from Zero, the Special Support Section find themselves with new members and new duties. However, rising tensions in Crossbell along with pressure from two neighboring political powers threaten both the safety of their home, as well as the integrity of their team.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails to Azure from NIS America and Nihon Falcom is the sequel to The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero. It was originally released on the Japanese PSP on September 2011, then re-released on the Japanese PS Vita in 2014, and it eventually got ported to the Japanese PlayStation 4 in May 2020. The version we’re getting is the PS4 one, localized and updated with new features that weren’t available in the previous versions. As you probably know, the Trails franchise is renowned for its lengthy stories and a huge amount of dialogue.
I have taken on most of the previous releases. Trails in the Sky is the first series that was released way back on the PSP and is about the Liberl country. Trails of Cold Steel was released on the PS3/Vita and PS4 and featured students of a military school set in the country of Erebonia. Last but not least, Trails from Zero and Trails to Azure are set in the Crossbell region, which is smaller in scale and in military power than the neighboring Erebonia. One important thing to mention is that every game in the Trails franchise runs in parallel to one another, so events that happen in a game will have an effect on other ones, which is one aspect I love about this series.
One thing that struck me as I received this game for review is the actual game name. Trails in the Sky was split into two games: the First Chapter and the Second Chapter. Trails of Cold Steel were named I to IV. Since the first game of the Crossbell region is titled Trails from Zero, and this one is titled Trails to Azure, I initially thought it was a new sub-series altogether.
As you begin your adventure in Trails to Azure, you’ll be offered a short 5 minutes recap if you skipped the previous game. If you did manage to complete the game, you can import your completed save file, and some choices made in the previous game will be ported to this one. Even after the light facultative recap, the first few hours of the actual game story subtly recaps the main events of the previous game to give you some context in case you have forgotten what has occurred. I liked how the game didn’t assume every player would have full knowledge of the events of the previous game. The story begins after the dissolution of the GD Cult and the drug incident of Trails from Zero.
Once again, you’ll be helping Crossbell’s SSS – Special Support Section – and Lloyd and his crew to act quickly in crime scenes, do detective work, or take on monster hunts. If you’re familiar with the Trails series, 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 or items.
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. Be warned that you’ll be in a dungeon for 45 minutes to one hour, then you’ll be in detective mode solving mysteries and discussing with citizens for the next hour or so, then it’ll open up again to a new area, and once it is cleared, repeat. The game structure is identical to others Trails games.
In the gameplay department, this game has a turn-based battle system that is almost identical to the one found in Trails from Zero. 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). There are Combo-Crafts that felt new to this game, where two characters can bond together for a stronger attack. I also love that the battle system is fully unlocked as you begin instead of slowly unlocking with lengthy tutorials for easy-to-understand gameplay mechanics.
Like in Trails from Zero, 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 while you’re there. And you can save wherever you want, which is always a nice inclusion.
The control scheme is slightly different from what we are used to. The Square button opens the menu (instead of the Triangle button as the standard), and attacking an enemy in the field before battle to have a pre-emptive advantage is bound to the X button. I thought that this mapping was odd and, sadly, can’t be changed. I’m used to attacking with the Square button so often when I was trying to surprise an enemy to get my pre-emptive attack, I often opened the menu.
On the level design side, this one was definitively made for the PSP. Exploring a dungeon will have you going through a set of minuscule rooms tied together – which makes sense considering the source material. Some dungeons did have a confusing design, and I felt like I got lost in them. One other aspect that might raise some flags for gamers is that it recycles many locations from the previous game, which can rub some people the wrong way.
As for the presentation, you’re looking at nice 2D sprites over (simple) 3D backgrounds. The textures are in low resolution, once again showing the age of this game. It does run at 60 frames per second, which is always good news. The game is voiced in Japanese and subtitled in English, and the voice acting is top-notch. The new battle theme found in this game is great, but I still prefer the one in Trails from Zero. While you’re here, my absolute favorite battle theme of the franchise is the one found in Trails in the Sky SC.
Apart from the control scheme, there isn’t much to complain about this game except the exclusion of a text log. If you miss a dialogue, then it’s gone. I would also have liked it if the game would sometimes point us in the general direction of the objective, which is even worse by the fact that there isn’t a text log. Shelving the game for a week might cause a headache if you don’t take note of where you are supposed to go.
I’m a fan of the Trails series, and I was looking forward to playing this one since it was never released here on PSP or PS Vita. I liked the new story and setup of this game, the soundtrack is once again amazing, and the voice acting is top-notch. There are many reused locations, but this is expected since this game takes place in Crossbell. This game is easy to recommend to gamers looking for a story-rich experience. The Legend of Heroes: Trails to Azure is out on PlayStation 4 at a $39.99 price.
This The Legend of Heroes: Trails to Azure review is based on a PlayStation 5 copy provided by NIS America.