Whenever I wander into houses or businesses in The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky SC, I marvel at a specific detail—the chests which are perched on cluttered, or organized shelves. They’re parts of the scenery of an enriched world, in which sprites’ homes feel lived-in and cozy. These chests are also out of reach, and therefore immune to my ingrained gaming thieving compulsions. I love the little things this JRPG does.
I haven’t been having the easiest time with Trails in the Sky SC as it takes a while to get going, which isn’t that big a deal after a 4 year long cliffhanger. I admit too, that I wasn’t particularly moved by main protagonists Estelle’s and Joshua’s relationship in the first game, which has become more of the focus for SC. I’m in it for the political implications to the story, as well as the shadowy-evil society’s motives, and less for the emotional well-being of Estelle.
Thankfully, no matter what I was seeking in all the narrative elements and resolutions, after the 40 hours I’ve invested thus far, SC balances it all and has been enjoyable.
The combat is challenging but rarely frustrating despite multiple resets, thanks to hordes of enemies, and status effect handicaps that can overwhelm. The characters are likable individuals. NPCs don’t feel meaningless, as many of their lives are wrapped up in the events of the game, and their dialogues change to reflect their worries or contentment. They’re not static entities, with life stories that aren’t tied to anything mandatory to the game’s overall plot. Instead, they exist solely as believable people in a story that goes far to include these little details which help make the game a huge, alive experience. And even when the love story may try to beat me over the head with how conflicted Estelle is, the maturity level at which the script is often delivered forgives some of it—something the Trails series handles well.
But there are other, smaller things about this game that impress me too. They’re recognizable, familiar aspects to so many games I’ve played—with twists and limitations on how the game allows me to interact with them. It’s these things that make me respect the game even more, and makes it so endearing and unique.
Trails in the Sky SC does normal JRPG things. Chests litter dungeons, and you can open them as you please. It’s why when they’re found high up on shelves in those aforementioned stores and houses, that they’re so taunting. The chests of houses and buildings are blue, and smaller than the brown and red ornate ones found in dungeons and travel routes. They’re not meant to be opened. They really are just part of NPCs’ household decorations and functionalities, as chairs or paintings may be.
But in my mind, a chest is a chest. I couldn’t tell you how many houses and shops I’ve barged into over the years in other games, and helped myself to their contents. It’s rare NPCs challenge your petty theft but it does happen. In SC, even that option is removed, and I feel pangs of longing every time I see one, knowing they’re just knickknacks that won’t matter much to me. Those chests have owners, and I’m not theirs.
As with all JRPGs, there are monsters unique to the world and regions of SC too. They’re vocal-less, EXP building creatures there to serve that specific purpose. It’s why during a particular sidequest, I was not expecting the identities of the peeping toms with their hungry eyes on the outdoor bathhouse to be sheep monsters and not people. The shock of it made me cringe, while simultaneously laugh.
Immediately, these sheep creatures were given weird dispositions and intelligence that was creepy, living up to their names as “Creepy Sheep”. And still, for the majority of the game, many of the monsters act as brainless things that give chase due to beastly aggression and instinct when your characters get too close. That’s what they’re supposed to do, and that’s largely how the Peeping Tom sheep acted too, making the voyeuristic revelation even more troubling. It makes me wonder what other abnormalities in creature habits lie in wait in the coming hours.
I didn’t have to look very far after the Creepy Sheep incident to find my next tragic enemy encounter. Spells and summons can be bombastic sights to behold, such as the upcoming Final Fantasy XV’s Ramuh’s lightning summon. Magic in some form, through various means, are an important part to any JRPG.
In Trails in the Sky SC, they’re elemental based “sepith’ deposits, which are harnessed into orbal arts through emerging and rapidly developing technology. This technology is part of an underlying and ongoing narrative structure in the Trails universe that is the cause of military conflict and industrial revolutions which shape the lives of its citizens.
For the creatures of SC, they too have their special moves and innate arts usage. That’s not terribly surprising for any JRPG, but attacks can make your enemies formidable, and deal spectacular damage too, in the most memorable visual ways. By far, the one that befuddled me the most belonged to a boss I had the misfortune of meeting in the caverns, as I chased a treasure hunter in another quest.
During my exploration of these caverns, I felt guilty enough destroying baby penguins in my path. Pink, punk rocking hairdo penguins became paralyzed with fear when in battle. And when the time came to fight the boss, for my crimes against penguin society, the Divine Penguin—a hunkering beast whose description was that he was lost in the darkness, and turned into a monster—jumped out of the water and hit my party with a move called Samba de Penguin.
I was an unwillingly participant in that rave that lit up the dark every. single. time. Where did the lights come from? Did the Divine Penguin do some grade A installation work? Does being “divine” come with a built-in summoning lights from the heavens option? It confused me as it did my characters, and I can’t stop thinking about that penguin’s dancing prowess.
Trails in the Sky SC is a strong entry for JRPGs, and a good game. The sprites and world are attractive for its familiarity, and adored for their lasting aesthetic appeal reminiscent of games like Final Fantasy VI. Comforting visuals accompany a terrific, interwoven story that’s elevated by mature conversations. Those are the things that make the game worthy of praise. But it’s the attention to detail in how it treats its NPCs and creatures along with the weird behaviour they exhibit, that make the game a bit more special to me.
Even the fact that I can’t five-finger discount any of the NPCs’ precious stuff locked away in family-owned chests is, begrudgingly, pretty special too.
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