After over a decade of being unavailable in the west, the turn-based JRPG The Legend of Heroes: Trails From Zero has finally received an English localization from NIS America. As a recently indoctrinated fan of the Trail series, I was lucky enough to get my hands on a copy. After finally playing through it, I can confidently attest to its down-to-earth but intriguing plot, engaging classic gameplay features, and endearing characters, among its other hit-and-miss elements.
Return To Crossbell
The Legend of Heroes: Trails From Zero takes place in the thriving economic land of Crossbell, an independent territory of Zemuria, where our protagonist Lloyd Bannings was born and raised. Unfortunately, after disaster strikes at a young age, Llyod decides to temporarily leave Crossbell to pursue and dedicate himself to his goal of becoming a cop. After passing the detective exams at the police academy, he returns to a much more modern Crossbell, where he’s recruited as the leader of a new and mysterious police division known as the Special Support Section, or SSS, alongside Elie MacDowell, Randy Orlando, and Tio Plato who all have their own origin stories and reasons for joining the department.
As part of the duties that come with the SSS, players will deal with a range of simple duties like finding lost items, inconvenient assignments like fighting off street gangs, and serious tasks like dispatching big monsters in dungeons and dealing with the mafia. However, a noticeable aspect of the game’s story is that it progresses slowly, which isn’t surprising as an older JRPG title. Players will take some time to get to know the four main characters along with their origins and personalities, all of whom I love, especially Randy’s almost too carefree nature and Tio’s stark opposite demeanor.
I also found Crossbell itself to be a well-designed location alongside the game’s world as a whole, specifically its retropunk aesthetic and mix of older and fantastical technology. The politics and international relations side of the plot is also intriguing, which makes sense as that’s one of the most integral parts of the Trails series, so it hits much harder when the story evolves to feature much larger stakes and significant plot twists.
Simple but Polished
In terms of gameplay, Trails From Zero does not include anything overtly unique as a turn-based JRPG. The game uses a grid system for its combat where positioning is critical, as approaching an enemy that’s far will only let the character get closer and leave them open for attacks. Additionally, each character in Llyod’s party has their own unique weapon and fighting style. Llyod uses a pair of batons like a proper policeman with close-ranged combat alongside Randy, who opts for a heavy-duty shockwave halberd. On the other hand, Tio uses an orb staff with a broader range of attacks, and Elie uses a pistol with the biggest range of attacks. Combat is easy to understand as the game primarily uses the same elements seen in your typical turn-based RPG, like using special attacks, items, blocking, exploiting enemy weaknesses and more.
However, what differentiates it from other titles is the two distinct and crucial types of special attacks, Arts and S-Crafts (though they also appear in other Trails games). Arts are special attacks that consume MP but need a turn to charge and can be used for attacking, defending, and healing. S-crafts, however, are special attacks that use up MP but don’t need to charge. Execute enough of these attacks, and you’ll charge up an ultimate S-craft that deals tons of damage. Outside combat, players can level up by upgrading their Orbs, a combination of their health, defense, evasion rate and more, with gems earned from combat which can also be exchanged for money when desperate enough.
A Retro Aesthetic
Visually, Trails From Zero sports a great aesthetic that, while from a 2010 game, feels very retro. The towns have detailed models, the characters have unique character designs, and the dungeons have excellent environmental designs and art direction. Unfortunately, some backgrounds show their age due to low resolution. Other than that, it was also hard not to notice the several untranslated sections (which by now must have been patched out). Additionally, while the High-Speed Mode is a fantastic and vital addition to all Trail games as it helps with things like grinding, the game, unfortunately, doesn’t allow players to skip through scenes, nor does it have an auto-read function which I found strange.
Overall, despite its issues, The Legend of Heroes: Trails From Zero is an excellent modern port and localization of an excellent JRPG. The game sports great nostalgic visuals, a fantastic soundtrack, an engaging plot and characters, and simple but fun gameplay. If you’re a fan of the Trails series or a retro JRPG fan in general, then I see no reason to pick this one up.
Are you an Trails fan? Do you enjoy Retro games? Let BagoGames know your thoughts in the comments section below.
I like the graphics in the game. Nothing special, but reminds me of an old hero.