The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky the 3rd Review
The Misadventures of Kevin Graham
There was a time in my life when I thought playing The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky the 3rd would be a far-fetched dream. Fans of the series waited forever to play Trails in the Sky SC, so the Trails in the Sky The 3rd localization seemed like a wish that would never happen. Luckily, XSEED Games came through, and gave Trails fans their wish with a PC release. With its excellent cast of characters and fun battle system, I’m glad it was worth the wait.
The 3rd takes place six months after the thrilling conclusion to Second Chapter. Promoted to main character is Father Kevin Graham, the dorky but lovable priest that showed up from time to time in the first two games. Working as a special agent within the Gralsritter, a special order within the Septian church that hunts down dangerous magic artifacts and keeps them out of the wrong hands, Kevin sets out on the trail for another artifact. He is joined by his squire and childhood friend, Ries Argent.
As Kevin, the player’s job is exploring the mysterious Phantasma while searching for a way out. The dimension has numerous planes, with a single plane encompassing each of the eight chapters of the game. Many of them include familiar areas from the first two games, and throughout the course of the game, Kevin and Ries encounter objects called Sealing Stones. Each Sealing Stone contains a party member from the previous Trails in the Sky games, and there’s always excitement towards the discovery of who is going to show up next. Including Kevin and Ries, there are sixteen characters appearing in total as options to fill out the party of four.
Throughout Phantasma, the heroes find doors that offer a riddle, such as “Bring me the man who talks with his fists.” If that specific character is in the party, in this case Zin, the door will open and give that character a trial. Most of these doors expect a specific character to be in the party, though there are some doors that have other requirements, such as fighting a set number of battles, or paying money. Complete the battle inside, and the players get to witness an event in that character’s life. It can be anything from their backstory, to a day in their life, or just finding out what they have been up to since the conclusion of Trails in the Sky SC.
All of the doors are completely optional, but are worth seeking out for Trails in the Sky fans that fell in love with the series’ diverse cast. A handful of the doors also include mini-games, ranging from a thrilling shoot-em-up in an airship to a relaxing fishing tournament. While it is nice to gain further insight into the life of each character, new players are going to feel lost without having played the first two games. Aside from the individual character stories, there is a benefit to completing these optional doors as players are rewarded with money and rare items that will help their journey through Phantasma.
Players have a lot to keep track of with so many characters, doors, and planes to explore. Luckily, fast travel and checkpoint systems allow the player to instantly zip to any checkpoint and door visited previously. Some areas restrict fast-travel, but the game gives a warning beforehand and is never without it for very long. The checkpoints let players heal, buy new weapons, and upgrade their magic while out in the field. The party also has access to a home base called Hermit’s Garden, where players can re-structure their party, cook food, or purchase items from the primary shop that adds any checkpoints’ inventory to this central store.
Aside from the side stories, the narrative of the game is straightforward. Each chapter follows the same formula: get a piece of Kevin’s backstory, explore a newly-opened section of Phantasma, fight a boss, and repeat. This allows the story to flow at an even pace, but does feel repetitive, only deviating from the formula in the final two chapters. The game also likes to throw curveballs, forcing some members to be in the active party, while taking others away for certain chapters. It is only in the final chapter that players may choose from all available party members. The last dungeon also requires all sixteen characters to complete, encouraging players to mix up their party structure while discouraging leaving someone on the bench for too long.
Trails in the Sky the 3rd presents the same battle system as in the previous two games. The party faces off on a grid in a turn-based battle against the various monsters of Phantasma. Each character can choose from a normal attack, a magic attack called an Art, a special skill called a Craft, or moving away from deadly area-of-effect attacks. Each character also has a super move called an S-Craft that is available when their combat points are over 100. These S-Crafts can alter the course of battle, providing massive damage or a game-changing full-party heal. The game has multiple difficulty settings to choose from at the start — though this can’t be changed mid-game — along with the Trails‘ series core retry mechanic that weakens enemies the more a player dies. Trivial battles can also be zoomed through with the fast forward function, without much interruption to the exploration.
The game’s visuals look great for being nearly thirteen years old. Each character sprite is clear and colorful, and the 3D-models are smooth with gorgeous textures. The battle animations are a treat to look at, especially the S-Crafts that show a full-screen attack cinematic. Each plane of Phantasma has a distinct look and feel as the party explores, alternating between locales from the previous Trails in the Sky games and unique areas as part of the Phantasma dimension. Areas taken from the first two games look spectacular with their detailed backgrounds and colorful environments. By comparison, the new areas come off as bland with their sterile corridors and generic cosmic backgrounds. Even some of the old locations feel repetitive, and this is made worse when the mini-map is taken away in some of these areas. These sections of the game get frustrating, causing players to resort to a guide just to get from point A to B.
When it comes to the music, Falcom’s Sound Team nails it again with a gorgeous soundtrack. Themes have a beautiful range from triumphant, to quirky, to mysterious and enigmatic. The music that accompanies battles has a medium-paced piano that sounds relaxing as the player plots their strategy. There is no actual voice acting in the game, but characters shout battle cries while pulling off their special moves in combat, with an option to toggle the voices off. While some of these sound great, others sound more goofy than intimidating, with Kevin’s “Let’s end this!” shout as a prime example.
Overall, Trails in the Sky the 3rd is an interesting end to the Sky trilogy. The game feels more like an epilogue than a sequel with its scattered story chunks and main protagonist change. Die-hard Trails fans will enjoy taking a deep dive into each character’s optional story scenes. Casual fans or newcomers, however, may find the side stories drag on way too long and will want to get back to the main story as soon as possible. The main story is OK, but pales in comparison to the narrative of the other two Trails in the Sky games. If you really loved the first two games, Trails the 3rd will certainly deliver, but newcomers to the series should start from the beginning or move on to the Trails of Cold Steel games.
A nice epilogue for the Trails in the Sky series
Fun exploration throughout Phantasma
An excellent amount of Olivert
Story is not newcomer friendly
Side-stories drag on for way too long
Repetitive environments get confusing, especially without the mini-map
Renne is still a creepy little girl, and her backstory is nightmare fuel