By Patrick Aguda / October 4th, 2022
|Title||The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero|
|Publisher||NIS America, Inc.|
|Release Date||September 27th, 2022|
|Platform||PS4, Switch, PC (Steam, GOG, Epic)|
|Age Rating||ESRB – T for Teen|
Twelve years ago, the follow-up to the beloved Trails in the Sky trilogy, The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero, was released on PlayStation Portable. As the Trails in the Sky games started to release overseas, it was thought it would only be a matter of time before fans got to play the Crossbell arc. Unfortunately, as time went on, the Crossbell games were passed over in favor of their newer brethren in the Trails of Cold Steel series. It seemed like Trails from Zero would never see the light of the day in the west. But as they say, good things come to those who wait. The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero has finally received an official western release. After all this time, was this game worth the wait, and did it live up to the other stellar titles in the Trails series?
The story takes place in the Autonomous State of Crossbell. Lloyd Bannings returns to Crossbell three years after the death of his older brother, determined to begin his career at the Crossbell State Police Department. He is put into a brand new division of the CPD, the Special Support Section. Joining him are three more individuals: Elie MacDowell, Tio Plato, and Randy Orlando. Leading this section is the lazy and eccentric Sergei Lou. The SSS was created in order to combat the popularity of the Bracer Guild. Because of this, the SSS does not operate like the normal CPD divisions, they have more freedom in what they do; however, due to the way the SSS came about, they are looked down upon by the rest of the CPD, and even the citizens. Will the SSS be able to gain the trust of the citizens? Can they overcome the corrupt politicians and organized crime syndicates looking to take advantage of the State? Lloyd and company are determined to bring about justice and protect Crossbell, and overcome any barrier that gets in their path, no matter how insurmountable.
I found the main story to be engaging and easy to get hooked on. Seeing the SSS work their way up from undesirables to heroes was a treat to witness. Even though this is the fourth game in the overall Trails franchise, I feel this is a good title to jump into for newcomers. It’s early enough in the release timeline that you would only miss a few references to past events from earlier games. Probably the biggest thing that would affect you is a plot line from Trails in the Sky getting wrapped up. That story coming to its conclusion will affect longtime fans more since they had time to get attached to those characters, but newcomers shouldn’t feel too lost. The SSS members are all unique from each other, yet despite these differences, they gel together well as an absolute unit of a team. Lloyd is the steadfast leader with a habit of giving cheesy speeches; Elie is intelligent, proper, and helps keep the team on the straight and narrow; Randy is carefree and loves to hit on the ladies, but knows when to get serious when the situation calls for it; Tio is the mysterious girl who is an expert in orbal technology, and has amazing senses. I loved going through the main story and watching these individuals grow. It helped that the game only had four permanent party members, so the writers could focus on their growth most of the time. I appreciated how each of the SSS members got their own point in the story to develop, though I admit Randy didn’t get as much time as the other three. Add in a great supporting cast, NPCs that help build the world of Crossbell, and villains that’ll make your blood boil, and Trails from Zero will have you hooked for hours.
Trails from Zero’s gameplay consists of completing citizen’s requests, exploring Crossbell, and combating foes. Requests can be mandatory or completely optional. Mandatory requests advance the main story. Optional requests help develop the world of Crossbell and can net you rewards that will make your journey easier. Completing requests will get you Detective Points (DP), and if you collect enough DP, you can gain some nice rewards like new equipment and quartz. You start off as a 15th Rank Detective and you can go as high as 1st Rank, so that’s 14 different rewards you can obtain. I recommend completing the optional requests as I feel they help develop the world better and make the game’s story more enjoyable, but if you want to just blaze through the main story, that’s fine too.
Crossbell has locales that vary from modern to rustic to downright mysterious. Traveling through the State really caught my eye due to these differing locations; however, since Crossbell is a relatively small country, after the first two chapters, you’ve seen most of what the game has to offer, other than a handful of dungeons. Due to the nature of the SSS’ work, you’ll find yourself walking through familiar locations multiple times. This can end up feeling like a chore, but thankfully this game has bus stops and a high speed mode. Bus stops act as the game’s fast travel system when you’re outside Crossbell City. Go to any bus stop and you can fast travel to any other stop in Crossbell State. Of course, there are some points in the story where this is unavailable, but it was a welcome addition nonetheless. High speed mode is a returning feature from previous Trails games. Hold down or press the button you assigned the high speed mode to, and you can run the game at whatever speed you want. You can adjust the speed in the options menu whenever you want. I tended to use 3x speed for high speed mode. The only other addition I would have made is a QoL update to the map seen in Trails of Cold Steel III. In Cold Steel III, quest markers are shown on the map. In Zero, the only thing you can see on the map are enemies and treasure chests (if you have the right quartz equipped). Having a quest marker of some kind would have been helpful in traveling around the State.
Combat in Zero is turn-based and very similar to the system seen in Trails in the Sky the 3rd. You have your normal attack, crafts, arts, items, and an option to move or escape. Each character has three bars to work with: HP, Energy Points (EP), and Craft Points (CP). HP is as it sounds, it’s your character’s health. EP determines how many arts you can perform. CP is depleted to utilize Crafts, S-Crafts and Combo Crafts. You can regenerate CP by attacking enemies, taking damage, or using items. Normal attacks are your standard weapon attacks. Arts are like magic and can range from attacks to supports to debuffs. The arts you have available to you are determined by an Elemental line system. You see, each quartz you equip to your respective character’s Enigma, gives you an amount of a certain element. For example, HP 3 gives you five of the Water element. Adding up the different elements will unlock a multitude of arts for you to utilize. Of course, not everyone has the same lines. Tio has the most versatility since she has only one line, which means every element is added on that same line. Everyone else’s elements are spread out across multiple lines, meaning it is more difficult to get the arts you want for them (especially for Lloyd and Randy). You can check out how much of each element you need in the Detective Notebook. Working around the Elemental line system is key in gaining an edge in battle. Crafts are each character’s unique abilities. Lloyd has attack and support crafts; Elie has healing and support crafts; Randy has mainly attack crafts; Tio has attack, healing, and support crafts. In addition to regular crafts, each character has a set of S-Crafts. S-Crafts are the character’s ultimate move which can help turn the tide of battle quickly. You can also utilize an S-Break in battle. These allow you to use a character’s S-Craft right away, regardless of the turn order. This can cause a huge delay in that character’s next turn, but using it may help you out of a sticky situation. Last, we have Combo Crafts. Combo Crafts are unique double team attacks that can be performed at the cost of 100 CP. These are very powerful, and I felt were more useful than S-Crafts at times. I played through the game on Hard difficulty, and I found the challenge to be just right when fighting bosses, but normal fights tended to get too easy once you got further in the game. Mastering the Elemental line system, knowing when to use your S-Crafts, and taking advantage of enemies’ elemental weaknesses is key to success. I enjoyed fighting certain enemies for the first time and figuring out ways to get through boss fights.
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