The true conclusion to the best RPG series on the PSP/PSV.
It was about four long years ago that I put down my PSP after having completed the first chapter of the Trails in the Sky series.
Even though I loved the game, the cliffhanger ending was a bit infuriating to say the least, and I began my wait for the sequel so that I might see the conclusion to the story.
Weeks turned into months and months into years, as it started to feel as though I would never be able to see ending to this fantastic series. When it was finally released some four years later, I really couldn’t believe it until I loaded up the game for the first time.
In fact, the localization process of this particular title was fraught with so many trials and tribulations that it’s not an exaggeration to say that it’s a small miracle that it exists at all.
With that in mind, let’s just say that the game had a lot of expectations to live up to, and after bidding farewell to Estelle and company for the last time, I can say with confidence that it has met almost all of them.
Before anything, it is imperative to note that Trails in the Sky SC is a direct sequel and should absolutely never be played without having completed the first title in the series.
Even though I didn’t personally review the first entry to the Trails saga, I stand by my statement that it is my favorite original RPG series on the PSP/PSV and should not be missed by any JRPG fans.
The thing that strikes me the most about Trails as a series is how well conceived its cast of characters is. There isn’t a single party member that I could coin as “one-dimensional”, as their unique personalities hide layers of drive and consideration that’s not often seen in gaming, and it’s a true testament to the excellent writing and translation.
In fact, I would say that Estelle is one of my favorite protagonists of all time. She’s honest and caring, but at the same time a bit immature and petty. It really comes across that even though she posses a strong will, she wavers in her convictions and is the person that she is through the support of the people around her.
As far as the actual plot and story itself, it isn’t anything particularly new or exciting, but it’s executed with such meticulousness that I was always looking forward to see what would happen next.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- originality and innovation is vastly overrated, it’s execution that matters most.
The combat plays out similar to the original in that it’s turned based and positioning plays a key part in victory. Many skills affect a certain radius on the field, so trying to funnel enemies together by knocking them about is a valid strategy, as is interrupting the attacks of enemies using “Impede” skills at the right time.
Keeping a close eye on the turn order and the various random bonuses associated with them is absolutely necessary during the tougher boss battles, as a big attack by the boss during an all critical turn can completely decimate the party.
There are no random encounters, as all the enemies are clearly shown on the map and must make contact to start the fight. There’s an initiative bonus to engaging enemies from behind, as well as a disadvantage from being engaged that way yourself, so it behooves the player to keep on their toes whenever enemies are present.
The orbment system returns once more, allowing the party to be equipped with wildly varied sets of skills and stat bonuses to fit any situation. There’s also a solid roster of party members after the first few chapters, and I was always bouncing back and forth between different party compositions based on what I was tackling.
As always, Team JDK absolutely kills it with their selection of music. Between the solemn, dolcet tones that pull at the heart strings and boss fight music that makes the encounter feel even more epic, it’s a delight for the ears.
My only complaint about this game is the rather extensive backtracking during quests and how much of the game’s assets are reused from the original, but given the nature of how DIRECT of a sequel this is, I can forgive it.
Trails in the SC is the satisfying conclusion to what I consider to be the best original RPG series on the PSP/PSV, and should not be one to be missed by any JRPG fan.
Fun Tidbit: Now that both games of the series are available on steam, there’s really no excuse for not checking it out.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.