Nihon Falcom is responsible for many great RPG franchises such as the Ys series and the Xanadu series. However, a series that has recently become more popular is The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky franchise, which released in Japan years ago but has been localized to North America on steam over the past few years. The Third installment, The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky the 3rd picks up six months after Trails in the Sky Second Chapter and aims to not only flesh out fan-favorite characters and NPC backstories but also weave a new tale in the Trails in the Sky franchise.
You find yourself in the role of Father Kevin Graham. Kevin is a high ranking member of the Gralsritter, a sect of the Septian Church that aims to flush out corruption and recover ancient artifacts that might aid the corrupt in lining their pockets and subjugating the innocent. After a successful mission Kevin is assigned another task, to search out an artifact that lies beneath Grancel Cathedral. Kevin is eager to undergo this task, as it is something he can complete on his own. However his employers have other ideas; they order him to take his childhood friend (and rookie Gralsritter member) Ries Argent with him.
This leads to a routine mission that becomes something else entirely, as Kevin and Ries find themselves in the realm of Phantasma, a world that does not follow the same rules they are accustomed to. Ries and Kevin must find a way to return home–and unravel the mystery of what exactly is going on.
To start, it is greatly recommended that you have completed The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky and The Legend of Heroes Trails in the Sky Second Chapter before you play Trails in the Sky the 3rd. Trails in the Sky the 3rd is a direct sequel to Trails in the Sky Second Chapter, and overall it’s also the third entry in the franchise. There are also four difficulty levels to choose from, starting with Easy (intended for players who just want to experience the story) and ending with Nightmare (a truly difficult challenge only for the most hardcore of players.) The developers themselves have stated that this is the most difficult of the Trails in the Sky games to date and that higher difficulty levels are by no means easy to attempt.
Trails in the Sky the 3rd plays out like other games in the series; combat is turn based and players are able to move their character across a tile based arena, attack, use arts or items. Additionally you can use CP in order to cast powerful “Craft” Abilities that are unique to each character. The party can chain attacks together as well, in order to deal large amounts of damage quickly. Outside of combat you may explore environments, open treasure chests, and experience the immense story that Trails in the Sky the 3rd has to offer. It is a very story driven RPG title, much like other games in the series and in Nihon Falcom’s catalog.
Unique to Trails in the Sky the 3rd is Phantasma, a parallel dimension Kevin and Ries have found themselves in. This realm has monuments that allow Kevin and Ries (as well as their allies their allies) to craft Quartz from Sepith to unlock new stats and spells, heal their HP and buy items. Phantasma also opens up moon, sun, and star doors that provide side stories and mini-game content. Moon doors represent longer side stories that give more information about characters and events, while Star doors offer shorter side stories. Sun doors provide access to mini games that are separate from the main storyline. Completing each door for the first time allows you to receive a reward, which makes these doors not only fun but also worthwhile.
The doors also give you insight into other characters and the past events that you may not be privy to even if you have played the first two games in the series. This is a nice touch on Nihon Falcom’s part as it allows for further immersion into the world and a greater understanding of its characters and motivation. Completing the Memory Doors nets you money (or Mira), as well as possibly items depending on choices presented to you inside. Most doors also provide some sort of combat challenge, and are character specific, or provide conditions that must be met in order to progress through them.
I have to admit that the best part about the Trails in the Sky the 3rd (and the series for that matter!) is the attention to detail. From the books you’re able to read to learn more about the world, to all the side content that opens the door and allows you to venture further into this interesting world, there is always something to do or learn more about. The combat is deceptively complex as well, providing a dozen ways to play and build your characters with Quartz (which provide stat boosts and new spells) as well as equipment.
Like most JRPG’s there’s plenty of side content but if you want to make it far in Trails in the Sky the 3rd, you might consider giving the side content a look and treating it more like “required” content. You will need the money provided, as well as the items you may earn. One problem I noticed is that you cannot skip through cutscenes you’ve previously visited, so if you are unlucky enough to forget to save, you may be required to go through a scene you’ve already seen. This can be frustrating but certainly doesn’t ruin the entire experience. I do wish more developers would realize that we may not want to watch the same cutscene multiple times. After all, at that point we’re already frustrated because of how many times we failed. There’s no need to make it worse!
Another thing you should be aware of is that Trails in the Sky the 3rd plays well with a controller, but there are certain controls you will need to use a mouse for with it. The steam store page talks about “Partial” controller support and that is true, but I still find gamepad support as being a viable control scheme.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky the 3rd is a fantastic conclusion to the Trails in the Sky trilogy. It provides previously untold clues in the story presented in the first two entries, while also providing deep, addictive gameplay with over 100 hours of content. The character building in Trails of the Sky the 3rd is diverse and allows you to build your characters in a variety of ways, while also providing set roles for each of the characters through their unique skill-sets. I greatly recommend Trails in the Sky the 3rd to any fan of the series, but I would suggest that new players purchase and play the first two entries in the series first before delving into this fantastic adventure.
A PC Review Key for The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky the 3rd was provided by XSEED Games for the Purpose of this Review