It ain’t easy being a priest.
When I last checked in with the Trails in the Sky series, I called its second chapter, “The true conclusion to the best RPG series on the PSP/PSV.”
The reason why I decided to use the words “true conclusion” in that sentence was because I knew that even though there was a third game, the story of Estelle and Joshua ended in the second chapter, and I had all but made my peace with the idea that the third game would likely never make it to the states.
Given its nature as a side story of sorts starring a different protagonist, along with the waning life cycle of the PSP/PSV, I didn’t think XSEED would decide to localize it. However, I underestimated how much love and dedication the fine folks at XSEED have for the Legend of Heroes series, and when they finally announced their intention to bring the final game of this trilogy as a PC only release, I was more than a little excited.
Now, almost a full decade after its original release in Japan, I had the pleasure of capping off the Trails in the Sky series in its entirety, and while I have a fair few complaints about the final chapter, I’m happy to have seen it through to the end.
Length: 45~ Hours
Half a year after the dramatic events of the second chapter, Kevin and his newly appointed squire, Ries, are sent to retrieve an artifact of unknown power when they are suddenly spirited away to an unknown world.
Desperately seeking a way out, they gather sealing crystals containing allies that could assist them on their quest, all the while uncovering the identity and purpose of the master of “Phantasma”.
Compared to the first two titles in the series, the size and scope of the third felt limited in comparison. The vast majority of the game takes place in the world of Phantasma, where one main hub world connected a series of dungeons referred to as “layers”.
These dungeons were mostly pieced together from various areas from the first two titles, like a previously explored dungeon or a town that’s become overrun with enemies. Even though I thought the second chapter had a lot of rehashed areas populated with new enemies, the third certainly takes the cake in that regard.
While it’s explained away within the context of the story, I was exploring the exact same area for the third time now, and it just felt kind of lazy, and even the new areas felt generic and uninteresting. One of the things I loved the most in the first two Trails in the Sky games was taking up optional quests and going around the various towns talking to each NPC, but that’s a thing of the past this time around.
The basic progression followed a strict structure of finishing a dungeon, getting a sealing crystal and adding another playable character to the roster, and so on and so forth for the vast majority of the playthrough, which felt a bit underwhelming after a while.
Luckily, the world and the characters presented here are still some of my favorites, and I was always happy to see a familiar face again.
The enigmatic priest, Kevin Graham was a character that played an integral role in the second chapter but very little was ever revealed about him. As the main protagonist of the third and final game, I was able to finally learn all there was to know about him and the organization he belongs to. Even though I would not say that it’s a wholly original story, it’s a tale told well and one I was thoroughly engrossed in from the very beginning.
Given that the vast majority of the game takes place trapped in the world of Phantasma, there needed to be a way to expand on the various character’s stories without leaving this prison. This was facilitated through the use of three different types of doors strewn out throughout the layers.
Moon doors were few in number but contained the most lengthy side stories, many of which lasted longer than 30 minutes. Star doors had shorter, more contained stories and lastly, the Sun doors were collections of mini-games.
While I won’t delve into specific details in the various story related doors, I will say that they serve to further expand and flush out the Trails series as a whole. Given that these were all characters I’ve become very familiar with, seeing past events in their life I never knew about helped me look at them in a new light. Not to say it’s all serious business, as there is still plenty of fun to be had with amusing scenarios that had me smiling the whole way through- it’s the kind of excellent writing that I’ve come to expect from the Legend of Heroes.
As I was often getting bored with the process of clearing one dungeon after another, locating and enjoying the story content in each of these doors was an absolute treat, and I only wish there were more.
As for the combat, it remains the same great system that emphasizes turn order and positing, where one wrong move can mark a quick game over. This is easily the most challenging of the three games even on normal mode, and until I got a handle on a good party, I was often barely scraping by. Even though there are over a dozen playable characters and the members outside of the active party don’t get experience, the exponential experience gain for lower level characters meant everyone was fit to battle after only a handful of fights.
This isn’t a game where I could manage just by picking four among them to use for the whole game, as there were sections that required the use of every character in the roster. While I would normally find that a bit annoying, I enjoyed the challenge of trying to put together different groups and had a good time switching quartz/equipment around as I needed to.
The one new addition to the combat is the use of support characters, which was as simple as assigning one additional character that bestowed a bonus depending on who they were. Even though the combat engine is still solid and enjoyable here, it definitely shows its age, especially to me since I’ve played the latest iteration of that very system in Trails of Cold Steel 2.
During my playthrough, there were some visual glitches and some lines of text that remained untranslated. However, given that those were all listed under their “known issues” document, I would not be surprised if they were all fixed already.
Trails in the Sky 3 is a departure from its predecessors in more ways than one, and is undoubtedly the weakest of the three titles. However, the foundation of what made the first two titles feel special still remains with charming, multi-layered characters I’ve fallen in love with all over again, and writing that plays my heartstrings like a god damn fiddle.
Fun Tidbit – Hey XSEED, when’s Zero no Kiseki and Ao no Kiseki? Also, can a guy dream for a simultaneous release of Trails of Cold Steel 3 in the States? COME ONNNNNNNNN~
Review copy of game provided by publisher.