I don’t know when it happened, but Falcom became at some point one of my favorite RPG studios. I can’t tell exactly when I put their output in the same thoughts as studios like Atlus, and Square-Enix, but it happened, and now here I am just wanting to dive into the lore of Zemuria and the events that take place therein. Finally, another piece of the Trails puzzle comes to America, the first piece of the Crossbell Arc, The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero. This game originally came out in Japan for the PSP in 2010, making downright ancient given how many titles we see coming out every week now in America. Remember the PSP? Depending on your age, you may not. In any case, was it worth it for Falcom to have this older title localized, and sold in America?
The short answer is: Yes. The longer answer is as follows: While fans have had ways of playing Trails from Zero in English already for a while, through fan-translations on both the PC and PS Vita, those methods can be involved, and are really only ever going to be done by the Falcom-faithful. By putting this game out on damn near everything that’s modern, it puts a spotlight on Falcom, and has the potential to get more people into what is a great, if very long series.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero(PC[reviewed], PS4, Nintendo Switch)
Publisher: NIS America
Released: September 27, 2022
MSRP: $39.99 Digital/ $49.99 Physical
So what is this game about? Fantasy RPG police procedurals. The 4 protagonists are part of a new unit in Crossbell City’s police force, the Special Support Section (SSS). Looked at initially as the Crossbell PD ripping off the Bracers (an internationally sanctioned vigilante force), the team gets the cold shoulder from most of the populace. But throughout the game, doing sidequests and interacting with the people help the group become more accepted in their own right. A bit unusual of a setup for a JRPG, but this premise helps set up Trails from Zero, in that it can follow the formula established in the Trails in the Sky series. Time in these games is very segmented, and the stories themselves very linear. Generally each chapter will be made up of a few connected main plot beats, where you can take on optional sidequests throughout the chapter. These optional quests have time limits attached to them, basically dictating how much time in the chapter you have to complete it. Doing so earns you Detective Points, which allows the protagonist, Lloyd Bannings to rank up, getting more rewards from the police department. To anyone who has looked at Trails in the Sky, or Trails of Cold Steel for any length of time, this gameplay loop should seem very familiar.
Like other Falcom games, Trails to Zero is a text-heavy, very traditional JRPG. Turn-based combat, radial menus, spells that take time to fire off, and good enemy variety. The combat is very much like Trails in the Sky, with a couple of tweaks, such as instances where the entire team can gang up on groups of enemies. The Trails series carries this combat system through all its story arcs, and it’s not complicated, not fussy, very functional. While the combat is good, as it always has been, the writing and story are incredible. These games are very much for readers, with every NPC getting something to say, and that something will often change as the game progresses. Crossbell City feels very lived in, as do its outskirts, with I believe almost everyone getting an actual name and some dialogue. The game rewards taking time out to talk to damn near everyone all the time, as items, and even whole quests can be obtained by talking to the right random street vendor at the right time. Also like pretty much every other Trails game, the soundtrack is wall to wall bangers. Falcom Sound Team is one of the best in the business, and this game was not given the short end of the music-stick.
Verdict: Is this game a good way to start playing Trails games? I would say yes and no, more no. Trails in the Sky FC, SC and 3rd are all available on Steam, so might as well start from the beginning. The first entry in the Crossbell arc seems largely self-contained, but there are references to previous entries, and characters from those previous games show up. Trails in the Sky, the Crossbell Arc, and Trails of Cold Steel all tell stories in the same world, and feature characters who are contemporaries, and these stories can overlap at points. So if you dove into Trails from Zero as your maiden voyage, you won’t lose a ton, you’ll simply be more enriched by playing the previous entries.
Oh one more thing! It’s Deck Verified on Steam, and that has been the way I have been playing it the entire time. That being said, more people need to get onto the gems that are Falcom’s games, maybe one day we won’t be something like three Trails games behind Japan. Trails from Zero is a title that I was delighted to finally play, and was not disappointed by. Only thing that makes me sad is that the sequel doesn’t come out until March of 2023.