The Legend of Heroes: Trails to Azure on PS4
The Legend of Heroes: Trails to Azure marks something of a big milestone for the franchise, as it means that after 19 years, all of the games in the first two Trails arcs have been localized. With this release, fans of the series can enjoy the second half of the Crossbell story with an official translation. Those who have played through the Cold Steel series might still be a little put off that there’s no English dub considering every character in the game has an English voice actor in a later game, but if this is what it took to get an official translation, it’s worth it.
Graphically, Trails to Azure is impressive for an 11-year-old PSP game, but the fixed-up graphics are slightly confusing, as some textures will be nice and crisp while others look like blurry nothings. If it were just paths or floors, it wouldn’t mean anything, but there are contextual signs for important areas that could’ve easily been retouched as well.
As far as the story goes, It’s been several months since the events of The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero and the SSS (Special Support Section) team has been slightly fractured after the previous game’s events. The story starts with only Lloyd Bannings and Elie MacDowell returning to the SSS. However, they are joined by Noel Seeker and Wazy Hemisphere as interim members while Tio Plato and Randy Orlando are away dealing with the fallout of the DG Cult incident.
Crossbell City is still picking up the pieces after the Gnosis drug outbreak exposed some of the legislative leaders for their corruption. This has similarly shaken up the military, with the Crossbell Guardian Force similarly restructured. The story starts not long before the West Zemuria Trade Conference that will be hosted in Crossbell, gathering representatives from Erebonia, Liberl, Calvard, and Remiferia.
All across Crossbell City, there are reasons to be on edge. From the Red Constellation Jaeger Corps with ties to Randy moving into the vacant Back Alley building or one of Erebonia’s intelligence agents popping up in the city, there’s something afoot.
While Lloyd and Ellie aren’t as close with the new members, the characters writing in the Trails games are one of the biggest highlights, and the banter is unmatched. All the characters feel warm and alive, and the friendships actually feel realized and unique.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails to Azure once again offers that trademark Trails flair as it takes you on a journey that starts out somewhat innocently and then snowballs into a crazy tale that drives the world forward. The fact that this entry takes place almost exactly at the same time as The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel means fans might already know some of the story, but now they get to see the other side.
The gameplay itself is just about identical to Trails from Zero, but it implements new mechanics that went on to become standard in the Trails series, such as the Master Quartz and Burst attack. The same turn-based combat the series is known for continues but doesn’t quite evolve despite a few new tricks. This means while it will be familiar, and those who played Trails from Zero can hop right in without any issues, it might also bore those who aren’t willing to endure for the excellent story.
Instead, shiny new bits of Trails to Azure serve to enhance the story, giving players new traversal options to aid in exploration. Namely, the SSS gets access to an Orbal Car that will let players fast travel to specific points all across the map. While the world has always felt alive, it was regularly prohibitive to make the trek to an out-of-the-way location to talk to NPCs or check a store, but the car allows instant travel to all the important destinations.
Once again, this entry offers plenty of side missions from monster eliminations to detective objectives, so being able to make quick trips saves a ton of hassle that would otherwise add pointless hours of traversal onto the playtime clock. Though completionists trying to complete the battle book will still find themselves needing to go everywhere on foot.
While every single re-release from the first The Legend of Heroes: Trails of the Sky FC to now have included it, there’s no overstating the value of the High-Speed Mode (called Turbo Mode in the other entries) in these older JRPGs. Getting all of the walking animation speeds to 2x really makes the game fly by without letting more of the boring parts weigh it down.
Being able to speed up combat also kept me from skipping fights near the end of the game to get to the finale sooner. The main difference between this and the Cold Steel series is it can still be toggled off, and the game still feels okay. In any of the later 3D games, after using High-Speed Mode it becomes impossible to play the game without it, as everything feels far too slow.
One of my favorite facets of Trails to Azure and its predecessor is that PlayStation Trophies have an actual benefit. Each one earns points to spend in New Game Plus to carry over levels, Quartz, equipment, or the information from one of the game’s many books. This does mean that unless you somehow tear through the trophy list, you will likely not be able to take everything with you into your next playthrough, however.
If you’re a fan of the Trails series and are wanting a complete look at the world in the franchise, The Legend of Heroes: Trails to Azure is an unmissable stop. Despite being based on a decade-old handheld title, the game is every bit as gripping as it was when it came out. Plus, with The Legend of Heroes: Trails into Reverie arriving in July, this is the perfect time to brush up on the backstories of the heroes that will be taking part.
Reviewer: Cameron Waldrop | Awards: Editor’s Choice | Copy provided by Publisher.
- Incredible world building.
- Well-crafted characters.
- New orbal car takes the hassle out of traveling.
- Getting trophies actually matters.
- Combat is almost the exact same, and might wear thin.
- Unevenly updated textures.
March 14, 2023
PS4, Switch, and PC