If you have been hanging around Kotaku or Talk Amongst Yourselves for a while you will have likely stumbled across references to The Legend of Heroes. For many people though even among the fans of the Japanese Role Playing Game genre these titles are a little bit of a mystery due to their irregular release schedules and daunting length. Well I am here today to explain why you should give The Legend of Heroes a fighting chance because you just may love it.
From developer Nihon Falcom famed for the Ys series of games The Legend of Heroes is a massive and sprawling tale and can be quite frankly very hard to break into. This is because here in North America we don’t have many options to do so and those that exist are a bit difficult for the modern gamer. The two sub-franchises of The Legend of Heroes that have seen release in North America and remain widely available are Trails in the Sky and Trails of Cold Steel.
While both titles are related they are each (at least for now) standalone adventures. Telling unique stories in a shared continuous world with characters and concepts that cross-over between each franchise. What makes this an issue at times is we here in North America are currently missing a key component of the modern series; as the “sequel” to Trails in the Sky more commonly known as “The Crossbell Arc” remain untranslated in North America.
Despite this the games we do have access too are all worth your time. As I stated above you have two choices the chronologically earlier but technologically inferior Trails in the Sky or the more advanced but slightly spoilerful Trails of Cold Steel. I would personally say somebody should always start with Trails in the Sky to avoid some small spoilers but Trails of Cold Steel is a much better game in terms of design. That said much like starting with Persona 4 and going back to Persona 3 it may be difficult if one chooses to begin with the more recent title.
With that said whatever you choose by starting these games up one should be aware there is literally hundreds of hours of gameplay in each. These are not small games; the localization efforts XSEED put into getting these games into our hands are legendary by this point. It’s rare I say this however it is clear especially with Trails in the Sky SC the localization effort is an act of love and genuine affection for the series from this team.
What makes the time investment worth it though is that the games to be blunt are really good. The world is complex, the writing compelling and funny, and the gameplay is so much fun even for a PlayStation Portable game as Trails in the Sky originally is, though one can play it on PC thanks to XSEED. Though a bit of warning these games are hard - not unfair - but hard, I have died more times then I’d like to admit against random monsters I didn’t engage properly.
Of course as I have written before what often makes a Japanese Role Playing Game a compelling experience is often the cast. Does one want to spend time with these characters, especially in such a long game like one from The Legend of Heroes? The answer at least for this writer is yes, while not all characters are standouts they are often better then the average fare seen in other JRPGs and each are fleshed out and believable if a bit cliched, looking at you amnesiac heroes.
This is especially true of the villains of which there are a lot. Hell one of the villains is actually my Kinja display picture. His name is McBurn he likes to burn things and he is awesome. In fact in many ways the villains of a Legend of Heroes game are often the most important characters around as they are reoccurring; showing up in multiple series within the franchise, as the organization Ouroboros represents the main antagonists of the entire franchise standing above and apart from each individual series main villains. One such member of Ouroboros the villain the Phantom Thief is a character you just cannot get rid of and cannot get him to shut up when he is around...
It is also thanks to this overarching narrative that makes each game you play deeper and deeper. Much like easier eggs in other shared universes its always fun to see a character you recognize or an event you played a part in from a previous game referenced. While it requires an investment from the player the payoff is often worth it in the end, as the world of The Legend of Heroes does feel alive and amazingly it feels like its growing towards something.
Much like the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been leading towards The Infinity War since the original Iron Man its clear The Legend of Heroes is also leading towards something. Without spoiling anything Trails of Cold Steel 2 is an epic game on a scale very few games attempt and one that seems to be setting up even bigger events when the next game is released.
To be very honest I cannot wait for the next game in the series which here in North America will be Trails in the Sky Third Chapter being released for Steam, apparently a PSP port isn’t viable in 2017... while in Japan and likely bound for North America is Trails of Cold Steel 3. If you are up for trying out one of the largest franchises in Japanese gaming today I highly recommend The Legend of Heroes, I really don’t want to to stay niche for much long it is too good for that.
Please Note: The first arc is untranslated and not widely available on any modern console. Furthermore the second arc while it did see a PSP release in the mid 2000's for some reason is not available on the PSN or other Platforms. As such I have not played them and they are not included in this write up.
How To Play and Buy:
The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky - PSN & Steam
The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky SC - PSN & Steam
The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky Third Chapter - Steam (Release 2017)
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel - PS3 and PS Vita
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II - PS3 and PS Vita
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III - PS4 (Unknown)
You’re reading TAY, Kotaku’s community-run blog. TAY is written by and for Kotaku readers like you. We write about games, art, culture and everything in between. Want to write with us? Check out our tutorial here and join in. Follow us on Twitter@KoTAYku and Like Us on Facebook.