First off the story is divided into two parts FC and SC (first and second chapter) as in its two separate games that you have to buy. Normally I dislike this approach but for such an excellent JRPG I will overlook this. I just beat the SC today while I played FC several months ago.
If you are a fan of the JRPG genre I would strongly recommend this game. This is one of the best I’ve played and I’ve played a lot of JRPGs.
JRPGs are famous for their excellent music. I think the sound track is one of the most important elements in the genre. It brings the emotions of the dialogue to life and provides a sense of excitement to an otherwise slow paced game. Trails in the Sky has a great sound track, take a listen as you read.
The next most important part of a JRPG is the plot. Trails in the Sky excels in this element also. Trails in the Sky’s protagonist is Estelle Bright daughter of Cassius “The Divine Blade” Bright. Cassius is a distinguished war hero and the best bracer in Roland. Roland being the country the game takes place in and bracers are a mercenary guild dedicated to protecting the citizens of Roland. Joshua is the other major character beside who was adopted by Cassius after being rescued from a secret society who trained him to be an assassin. Much of the character development involves Estelle trying to support Joshua while Joshua tries to remain distant, keeping his dark past to himself.
Much of the game revolves around travelling to the various regions of Roland and helping its citizens from dangerous situations and disasters to their communities. A more sinister element catches the hero’s in an epic quest to protect their nation. The story, sticking to JRPG tradition, illustrates how the power of truth, friendship and justice overcomes evil intentions. The villains are well written and have motives that are noble in spirit but are misguided in application. I think this is important or else the story would run the risk of being overly cliched. I like when villains provide moral ambiguity challenging the hero’s resolve. Trails sticks with a tried and true formula and executes it excellently.
The game play is turned based combat and fits what you expect from the genre. Again Trails does the traditional formula exceptionally well.
Characters can Move, attack, use arts (magic), use a craft (special attacks unique to the character) or use an item in a turn based format. Just what you would expect from a JRPG. All crafts use up CP which is gained by dealing or taking damage. 100 CP lets a character use a special attack at any time by clicking the red button above the characters stats at the bottom. On the left hand side is the turn order with the Exclamation mark being a critical hit on that turn and the heart being a heal 10% HP (sucks when bosses get these). You can use special crafts to take advantage of these by allowing the character to interrupt the turn order. Its pretty much what you expect with an interesting feature thrown in.
The magic system is really well done. Characters do not learn spells by acquiring levels but by equipping orbments.
Each orbment will give a bonus to stats or provide another benefit of some kind so you will want to equip every character with the best orbments you can get. Each orbment has an elemental value, defense 4 for example provides 8 earth elements which would let Estelle cast Earth Gaurd, Earth Wall, Petrosphere and lowers her attack while increasing her defense. Every spell requires so much of each element being inserted into a single line. Every character can use magic, but physical attack characters will have more lines preventing them from getting the strongest arts. Estelle has 2 lines in the picture and the elemental values are summed at the top right. This system brings a lot of flexibility to optimizing your characters and is important to understand if you were to play on the hard or nightmare difficulties. On normal you should be able to beat the game without worrying about it to much as long as you equip something in each slot.
Trails in the Sky is a long slow paced game that just gets better and better as the plot advances. Trails in the Sky doesn’t try for innovation, it strives for perfection of the genre. I would strongly recommend it to any JRPG fan.
Research has brought to my attention that there are currently 7 games released in this series in Japan. I hope they get translated into English soon. I don’t play that many games anymore but I make exceptions for games as brilliantly crafted as Trails in the Sky. The SC was released recently (October 2015) so hopefully people are working on bringing the rest of the series over to an English speaking audience.