Trails From Zero [PC Game Review]

I was a huge fan of the Trails series – yes, I know it’s technically ‘the legend of heroes’ but nobody calls it that and nobody ever will because not a single game is called anything aside “trails” in the title anyway so that’s what it’s called. Trails in the Sky 1 and 2 are some of my favorite games ever, especially the first one which spends over 100 hours just building the world all the following games take place in and establishing a lot of the main groups, characters, and politics of the world. There is a main story but it takes backseat in that first game with the focus being on loads of lore and small details setting up for everything after itself. I loved it, I had never seen something that spent so much time and work on just setting things up (of course, I hadn’t played FFXIV yet) and even growing random pointless NPC’s and their stories if you choose to talk to each of them every time the story progresses one step. Trails in the Sky 2 continued in the same areas with the same people but focused then on the main story and it was fantastic as well. I still have sadly not gotten to play Trails in the Sky 3.

If you’re intereseted I also did a video review that is basically identical especially because I fucking deleted all my b-roll footage like a retard – but you can watch it HERE if you want.

Following the release of 3, the US got Trails of Cold Steel, skipping a few games in the series to rush to the first games on console rather than the PSP/PSV – and I was super excited to play a more modern take on the series. Cold Steel however looks like shit, plays like shit, has a shit story, and most importantly every character and every line of dialogue is shit. Nearly every line in the game has “heh” or “haha” in it – and I do mean NEARLY EVERY LINE. Nothing interesting happens, no characters are likable, and for some reason aside the heh and hahas they wrote this like a shitty old harem anime. They even have the typical situation of girl falling on boy, boy doing nothing wrong, and girl then screaming and slapping him. It’s that bad. This never changes throughout any of the Cold Steel games. I lost all my interest in the Trails series from this game, it killed it for me entirely, and I lost a(nother) series I loved.

Wait, I forgot I reviewed that heap of shit:

Then just months ago Trails From Zero – which was actually the 4th game of the series, originally released right after Trails in the Sky 3 – came out in English for the first time with a slightly updated remaster. I had no intention of bothering with it, maybe if it got down to like $10 some day but even then I’d probably not bother. Then I found out about this amazon luna thing and that it’s free for prime for a few games a month. I’m not going to advertise it, but it was important to mention because they actually had TFZ on it a week after it came out and I found out about this service the same day, it was perfect timing and I had nothing else going on aside recording more Crisis Core videos so I jumped right on in to this game I had no intention of touching.

I’m glad I did too – this is no Cold Steel, this is everything that made me love Trails in the Sky and is essentially the same game in all the important ways. The art, gameplay, and writing is all exactly the same as those games and just as good. The only difference really is some small updates from the remaster, slight changes to gameplay elements, and of course an entire new place to explore and people to meet and grow along with.

Crossbell itself is a really well designed and nice looking city that feels as confusing as a real bigger city in real life but you do get the layout down pretty well over time and it becomes much easier once you can just fast travel around. Each zone in the city is a specific district with plenty of buildings and NPCs fleshing each out all the way from places with a public library and police station to a small mall and restaurant area to the seedy back streets with the mafia or the decrepit downtown with a femboy gang leader. There are several of these districts and each one is distinct both in visual design and what their purpose is, making for an enjoyable to explore city that serves its purpose as basically the only main location in the game without being boring. There’s also a lot of interesting and memorable areas outside of town, most notably the hospital which a few important story things take place in, but the only major place in the game is Crossbell itself.

The most important things about TFZ are those elements that are so similar to Trails in the Sky, especially the first one. TFZ spends the vast majority of it’s time on defining what Crossbell is and the people and politics that make it that way. One interesting twist here is that you’re actually police officers this time, though in a new unit designed to copy the concept of Bracers – whom in the world of Trails are basically your typical fantasy story adventurer, doing odd jobs for the populace ranging from switching out light bulbs on public roads to basic monster patrols. This time around, being part of the police force, you get to do a lot of that but with some fun cop style things added in – like a mission where you go around looking for illegally parked cars and ticket them based on looking at their license plates and comparing them to a list the quest giving officer gave you of who is allowed to park there or not.

Of course that’s not all the game has in store, there is a real story and a lot of development of the groups and people who matter in this and will matter in the future. The majority of this focuses on corrupt politicians, the power of the mafia in Crossbell, and the failure of police to stop it unless it endangers the public directly due to those same corrupted politicians tying their hands. Finally in the last few chapters TFZ starts to connect to the overall Trails story with “The Organization” otherwise known as Ouroboros which are a massive part of Trails in the Sky 1-3, as well as a new cult tied heavily to them that funnily enough spread ‘blue pills’ as a form of mind control. I don’t want to spoil the story especially with how little there is of that aspect within the rest of the somewhat slice of life story going on, but I’ll at least say the conclusive chapter is super exciting with a lot of big shit going down, big shootouts, and huge dramatic moments.

There are also quite a few familiar faces and mentions of others; cassius bright comes up in some discussions, estelle and joshua – the protagonists from Trails in the Sky – return as supporting cast members who are on-loan to the crossbell bracers, and you can find them at their apartment or hanging out in the city as well as taking care of random bracer tasks (for example, later on they’re just at a random inn in a small outskirts town) and excitingly for a small portion later on you can even have them in your party. Renne, a young child who was turned into essentially a super weapon by Ouroboros and who has a very tortured and sad past which is a big part of Trails in the Sky 1-3, finally has a full and rewarding conclusion to her story. This being a central location to all the main countries in the story of Trails there are plenty of mentions of familiar locations and history as well.

When it came to the new cast, during non-combat gameplay I found myself mostly using Elie because you can attack enemies first while exploring around for a HUGE bonus in combat and her pistol shoots the furthest, fastest, and most accurately resulting in nearly every fight being in my favor immediately. I did end up liking her a lot as a character too, but little Tio is probably my favorite as she’s just a nice little lady with a really sad past who finally found a real home among the main group. I liked the lead, Lloyd, a good amount too. The only main party member I didn’t really care much about was Randy – he’s totally fine, don’t get me wrong – he just has nothing about him that makes him memorable or more likable than “he’s alright”. They try to build some personality for him by his giving nicknames to everyone, but it just doesn’t work and he ends up a fine but whatever type of character the whole game who also has very little ties to the main story compared to the rest. Of the supporting new-to-Zero cast, Noel is my easy favorite (you get her for short bits in the party, I wish it was always), followed by her little sister Fran, and I’d say my third would probably be the police chief who you also get to see blasting fuckers with a shotgun later in the game or the ample breasted girls of the theater both of which are tasty ladies.

The gameplay, as I said, is basically the same as the prior Trails in the Sky games. The orbment system is, from what I remember, basically identical, still essentially being a more complex version of Final Fantasy 7’s materia system. Arts and crafts – magic and character-specific special skills – are back again in the same fashion as well. Even the monsters are the same weirdly unfitting 3D CG creatures with all the same weirdness behind their actual concepts like legged sharks and giant moles and fantastic names…like Fartacus who literally farts on you as his attack.

Saying it’s all the same doesn’t mean it’s bad though, it was fantastic fun through the entire playtime with combat always feeling rewarding and enjoyable just like in it’s predecessors and with the same mostly pretty good balancing keeping you from being obliterated even when you should be overpowering the enemy. One of the few and best additions this has is a built in fast forward mode which I used a damn lot.

Overall, Trails From Zero is a fantastic entry in the Trails series – or, fine, the Legend of Heroes series. It’s nearly just as good as Trails in the Sky and only “nearly” because of being shorter and only having one sequel that I believe we’re getting soon so having to rush some things and cut a few small corners. Otherwise it’s amazing and really renewed my love in this series I completely threw out of my life after Cold Steel happened. I couldn’t really be happier with how this game was, even down to the story heavily involving police and mafia – two things I have always had a lot of interest in and love for – as well as involving so many factors from the prior games yet being its own contained story as well so that both returning fans AND new players can jump in. The cast was great – and I am including the background NPCs who, just like Trails In the Sky, have their own small evolving personal stories going on if you choose to talk to them, the gameplay was great, the few parts where the main dramatic story came in were all extremely exciting, the music is fantastic and has some of the best tracks in the series, and it’s just a great fucking game. I loved every moment with it and I really encourage anyone who has played Trails in the Sky or who feels interest in this to get around to it at some point.

Oh, and don’t worry, the chests still talk back if you check them, though admittedly they are of lower quality than the past – but still fun.


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