Short Version: This game is incredible. I absolutely loved playing it. As a fan of the previous Trails in the Sky games, this feels like more of that, but taking it to a completely unexpected direction that sets it apart from its predecessors. You don’t even have to know all that much about the previous games to understand it either. If you’re interested in this game, just buy all three Trails in the Sky games on Steam and take in the world and the fantastic writing in chronological order.
Long Version: The Legend of Heroes franchise is one that completely took me by surprise. I had never known about it until I heard people gushing about the release of Trails in the Sky SC for PSP. Out of simple curiosity, I went ahead and purchased the first game in the trilogy, and I was automatically hooked in a way that I never expected. I was so utterly captivated by the experience I had that it truly felt like a world I wanted to live in. All the characters felt real, the battles always meant something and adventure was the mantra you lived by when playing. This is a feeling that I rarely get when playing RPGs, let alone video games in general. I’m happy to say that these emotions still ring true with Trails in the Sky the 3rd, the final installment in the trilogy. However, there are some pretty enormous differences here that set it apart from the previous games.
After Happily Ever After
Developed by Falcom and brought over to the west by XSEED Games and Marvelous USA, The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky the 3rd is essentially an epilogue to Sky 1 and 2, but not necessarily a sequel. Sure, they make many references to things that happened in the past, but they are not detailed enough to be spoiled or confused about what’s currently happening. In a strange turn of events, this game feels more akin to Persona 3: The Answer than anything else.
I make this comparison because, structurally, they are almost exactly the same; even in the way that they break their respective routines. Both games even have the same glowing doors that show people’s memories and everything. In Persona 3: The Journey, you had your life management, high school life gameplay with dungeon crawling right after. However, The Answer completely breaks that by giving us a new protagonist, an even darker tone, and a much bigger focus on the dungeon crawling with brutal difficulty, steering away from the life-sim elements all together. This is pretty much exactly the same thing I can say about how “Sky the 3rd”break the formula of Sky 1 and 2. This is not necessarily a game about a fun tale featuring adventurers trying to help people and do the right thing. Instead, it decides to make it a lot more intimate and personal, focusing on the inner workings of the individuals at play here.
Visitors from Afar…
You no longer play as Estelle and Joshua, but instead move forward half a year from the second game and play the role of Kevin Graham, a priest who embarks on a mission to retrieve a mysterious artifact. In their efforts to do so, they find themselves in a new and mysterious realm that examines the backstory of many of the characters in the cast throughout the trilogy. Some of these pieces of backstory can range from fun and vibrant banter to “Did I just accidentally load up a horror game?” kind of territory. This is especially true about the final side quest available. You really, REALLY need to be mentally prepared for what you’ll see there…
There are many stories here that lay the characters completely bare, in a way that you would never see in the previous whimsical and adventure-focused predecessors. The game is definitely not afraid of taking a darker tone with any of its characters, especially our main protagonists. However, there are many instances where they maintain the same sharp banter and sense of humor from before, so it can leave some people conflicted about what one is suppose to feel at that moment. Yes, the tone can be over the place, but there’s a pretty good reason for why that is as you keep on playing.
[I originally posted this review on The Buttonsmashers. You can read the rest of the review by clicking here or just listening to the video version above.]