Less than a year ago, Trails fans finally got their hands on an officially localized release of The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero. Released for the PSP back in 2010, the game never made its way over the Pacific, robbing players outside Japan and China of the chance to experience the Crossbell Arc of the greater Legend of Heroes storyline. Zero would be the game that introduced me to the Trails series as a whole, and I found it to be a highly enjoyable (if super chatty) RPG.
Of course, as good as it was, Zero only covered the first part of the Crossbell Arc. And while it certainly didn’t feel like it was half a game, its ending did leave me clamoring for its 2011 sequel, Trails to Azure, which will release outside of Japan and China for the first time next week. Given how closely Zero ties into Azure, I’m glad NIS America didn’t make us wait too long to play it.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails to Azure (PC, PS4 [reviewed], Nintendo Switch)
Publisher: NIS America
Released: March 14, 2023
MSRP: $39.99 (Digital) / $49.99 (Physical)
If you’re unfamiliar with the Trails series, join the club. While Trails from Zero made a great impression last September, I haven’t had nearly enough free time since then to try out the rest of the series — even if I own two Cold Steel games on my PS Vita. But I’ve happily made time for Trails to Azure because I really wanted to see how this whole journey wraps up.
Trails from Azure begins just a month after the events of Trails from Zero. Protagonist Lloyd Bannings is still heading up the Special Support Section (SSS) along with Elie MacDowell, though this time, they’re joined by newcomers Noel Seeker and the ridiculously named Wazy Hemisphere. If you played Zero, you will no doubt recognize those last two characters, as they were pretty prominent throughout the game’s narrative.
In fact, almost everyone who appeared in Trails from Zero is back for Azure. If, for some reason, you’re choosing to jump into this story mid-stream — and I have to advise against that — there is a handy refresher menu that’ll explain who all the prominent characters are and give the gist of what happened last time. As somebody who last played Zero in October, it was nice to get a refresher on some of the extended cast, but the brief synopses provided in Azure don’t really get to the heart of why some of these characters are so memorable. Especially with KeA. You really need to have been there from the beginning to fully appreciate her place in the story arc.
In combat, Azure really hasn’t changed that much since Zero. The turn-based battles still occur on a grid where you can attack enemies with melee attacks, Orbal Arts (i.e. magic), Crafts (i.e. skills), and more powerful skills known as S-Crafts. There are two-person Combo Crafts attacks and group rushes, the latter of which happen at random, and you can still get the upper hand on a foe if you hit them from behind on the battlefield. Burst is one new element to the game’s combat system. This can provide your team with a few boosts in battle, like increasing your party’s attack speed, but so far I haven’t found it all that monumental of an addition outside of a few boss battles.
Also new to Azure is Master Quartz. Regular quartz is used to unlock Orbal Arts for your characters to use in battle. Players are encouraged to freely swap those out as they build their party. Master Quartz are meant to be kept around as they level up and gain new abilities. Only one type of Master Quartz can be equipped per character, unlike regular quartz.
I get that I’m not saying all that much about Trails to Azure with this review-in-progress, but that’s only because the game is so similar to its predecessor. Outside of small changes like the introduction of the Master Quartz and some quality of life changes — smell you later, taking the bus — there really isn’t much to say here that I didn’t already say about my last trip to Crossbell.
But that’s not a bad thing. I enjoyed the hell out of Trails from Zero, from its characters to its writing to the fact it truly felt like you were playing through a police procedural in the shape of an RPG. All of that is back in Trails to Azure and, 20 hours in, I am having an absolute blast with it.
One final note: if you played through Trails from Zero, make sure you still have your save from that game available. Because the bonuses you receive are totally worth it when you transfer the data to Azure.
[This review in progress is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]