[PSP/Vita JRPG Review] Trails in the Sky: Second Chapter is one of the BEST RPGs in the PSP/Vita Library!
Trails in the Sky: Second Chapter is the direct sequel to Trails in the Sky, which released on the PSP in 2011. It follows the story of Estelle, Joshua and the friends they made during the previous game. This game was developed by Nihon Falcom (creators of the very good Ys: Memories of Celceta, along with many other awesome games) and was localized by XSEED Games.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails in The Sky SC picks up mere hours after the conclusion to The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky, with Estelle traveling across Liberl in search of Joshua. Her journey involves more than seeking loved ones, however, as the Bracer Guild also tasks her with unraveling the mysteries behind the newly unveiled Society of Ouroboros.
Trails in the Sky SC – Launch Trailer
Note: This is a spoiler-free review.
Trails in the Sky: Second Chapter – which I’ll just call Trails in the Sky: SC or SC from now on – begins only a few hours after the ending of the First Chapter (FC), which will be confusing for gamers who didn’t finish the first game. Since Trails in the Sky: SC is a direct sequel of FC, those who didn’t complete FC beforehand won’t get a recap of that story before starting the second game – you’ll either have to completely finish FC, or accept being lost in the story-telling, which will probably feel like opening a book halfway and trying to understand what you’re reading. On the bright side, the gameplay concepts are explained at the beginning (battle and orbment systems, gameplay, etc.), so it’s still possible to jump right into the second game.
Like in the first Trails in the Sky game, SC is a text-heavy RPG which means the story takes some time before opening up. I’m not spoiling anything in the story, but to let you know how it unfolds, at the seven-hour mark of gaming in SC my stats told me that I’d only fought 74 battles. In that sense, this game sadly might not be for every RPG gamer out there, so be warned! Speaking of the story, I liked how the world around the main quest is alive, with a ton of NPCs having each their own personalities and if you’re attentive, you can even notice how each NPC evolves on his own.
Now onto the gameplay. If you played FC before, you’ll quickly get used to the battle and orbment systems since they’re practically the same as the previous game… but they’ve all been slightly enhanced! The Orbment system is the ability for each character to equip “quartz” pieces into an Orbment to gain stat increases and new Orbal Arts (which are basically magic skills). Each character also has “Crafts” that are unique special skills, and they can now be chained with other playable characters in the field as long as they also have enough CP. Finally, each character also has a unique super skill (similar to Limit Breaks in Final Fantasy VII ) that can be used once they have at least 100 CP.
As for the battles themselves, they start when a monster is encountered on the map (monsters are always visible), and can be avoided if you want to finish an area quicker. Encountered a battle when you’re running through a dungeon? No problem! You can also ALWAYS run away from a fight at any time! The battles are relatively typical turn-based battles set on a grid that never gets in the way (this is not a Strategy RPG with character position management) and practically EVERY battle feature is unlocked right at the beginning of the game (it is a sequel alright!). I’m glad the developers did this because having just finished FC, it would have been weird to grind back all the battle features. If you’re a newcomer to the series and dove into SC without playing FC, fear not – a battle tutorial is offered during the first fights! The battle system is honestly really easy to get the hang of, and very fun to play out!
As you win battles, experience points are awarded to the party, but in this game the amount each character will get depends on the level of the current zone. For example, if you have one character above the zone level, he’ll get almost no experience while someone dragging behind will get a lot more than he would normally have. This is a perfect feature for characters you tend to use less during the campaign since it allows them to catch up.
Even though this is a game that was released in Japan way back in 2006 (almost ten years ago!), almost all of its features still hold strong in 2015. All the environments are charming and rendered in full 3D, but all the models are sprites over the backgrounds (having full characters models would have been nice, but it’s really not an issue). The soundtrack is pretty good, and I loved how catchy the battle theme is! I also loved how it is possible to save everywhere in the game as long as you’re not in a fight or in a conversation, since it makes it the perfect “pick up and play for a bit” RPG.
Since this is a PSP release (fully compatible with Vita), we have the UMD size limitation that ends up splitting the game into two “virtual discs” totalling around 2.3GB. If you are low in space on your console, you can keep only the first virtual disc and download the second disc once you get there (I reached the second one at around the 20h mark). Also, since this is a sequel, FC’s Clear Save Game can be imported at the beginning of SC, but if you don’t have one, you can start with a fresh one that begins with the party at Level 35.
Still on the subject of the PSP release, I noticed that my Vita battery lasted at least 50% longer than what I usually get when I’m playing native Vita games. It’s cool, and I totally wanted to let you know about this! It even made me feel that this game is even MORE perfect for on-the-go gaming.
Trails in the Sky: Second Chapter is an AMAZING game that every JRPG fan should try out (but do try to begin with Trails in the Sky: First Chapter before though)! The story takes a little while to pick up, and it IS a text-heavy RPG, but once you get grabbed by the story (which includes a few interesting plot twists), you won’t be able to quit playing! I LOVED playing through SC, and for me, this game is a serious contender for Portable RPG of the year!
Finally, since it’s on the PSP, this game is also less expensive than a new Vita release. If purchased with the First Chapter, you get 100+ hours of gaming for around $50!
PSN Game Size: 2.4GB