The Legend of Heroes: Ao no Kiseki
Before you read:
Hello there, welcome! First of all: this spoiler-free review is a follow-up to my older review of The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero. Therefore I won’t discuss the core game mechanics unless changes have happened, and will instead solely focus on things that I wanted to share. In that sense, this isn’t necessarily a review and more of a discussion. Ao no Kiseki is a game that has not been localized yet, and therefore I do not want to give a final review and instead be more informative to fans of the franchise. I will still give it a score at the end but if you’re looking to get into this game without having played any of the previous instalments in the franchise, I recommend reading my Trails from Zero review instead. Also, do not play this game or Zero before you have played the Trails in the Sky trilogy, I can’t stress this enough. I have played the translated patch on my PlayStation Portable, but it is available on PC as well but slightly more complicated. I would of course recommend you to buy the game instead of downloading it illegally, but availability is tough.
You thought Trails from Zero’s music was good? You’re right, but this game has that soundtrack AND more!
Here we are again! It has only been what, 10 reviews since I covered the first game of the Crossbell duology? Usually I wait a few months, if not a year between playing the Trails games because while I love them immensely, they are quite the undertaking as well. But I enjoyed the first game so much, I just had to play the second game despite the patch being far inferior to what the Geofront has been able to provide us with. The other reason being that the Trails fanbase… they aren’t so careful with their spoilers. I’m not calling anyone out there–especially since Falcom and definitely NISA spoil a lot themselves–, but it’s easily one of the worst parts of this fanbase and therefore I feel the need to be up-to-date to avoid spoilers. Sorry, little mini-rant in there. But there was always an obstacle for me: the Crossbell duology. While Trails from Zero got an excellent patch, Ao no Kiseki only has a translation with debatable quality and if you know the franchise, you know that the vast amount of dialogue are the games’ strong point. So today, I wanted to share my experience with the game!
The elephant in the room
Let’s start with the translation patch first since I already mentioned it. Let it be known beforehand that I am still eternally grateful for the people who have attempted to translate this beast of a game. I won’t criticize this translation, but I will talk about it still from an informative standpoint. My personal view of this translation is that if you just want to enjoy the game for its story, it does the job well enough. A few grammatical errors aside, it uses the terminology we’re familiar with and the surrounding text is understandable as well. As for random NPC dialogue: what they are trying to say is still very much understandable, but I didn’t enjoy talking as much with them as I would in the localized products. I like to use the kid from the Exchange shop in Downtown for my argument, who was a very rowdy- and foulmouthed character in Trails from Zero. In Ao no Kiseki, she wasn’t nearly as aggressive with her dialogue and instead sounded very… generic and timid. For that reason, I also stopped talking to every single NPC in the city during the middle chapters and instead only with the NPCs that I wanted to know more about. Though that may also have been a cause as to me wanting to continue the story a bit faster than normal, which I’ll come back to later. So my opinion on the translation overall is that it’s passable, especially if you’re just here for the story. But the translation is not what initially kept me away from playing this game. The localizers, both official and non-official have done an excellent job at giving us some good Quality-of-Life improvements such as the turbo option and message log. Since this is purely a translation, both of these are absent and I missed them quite a lot. Since they are updates done by localizers it doesn’t make the core game worse, but it’s less convenient to say the least. Then again, when I played Trails in the Sky there was no Turbo option either so I’m used to it. I do sincerely hope that a localization company will pick up the Crossbell duology, but I unfortunately am not hopeful due to the behemoths they are. Which is a shame because…
The most important Trails game?
…This game is probably the most important Trails game so far. I am saying that with no knowledge beyond Trails of Cold Steel III, but I am confident it’s the truth regardless. That is of course not to diminish what the Sky trilogy means for the franchise, but I’m looking at it from a different perspective. Trails in the Sky did an excellent job at introducing us to the world, characters and terminology, but every event that happened was mostly influential strictly to the country of Liberl. The same can be said for Trails from Zero. Ao no Kiseki on the other hand, sets the plot for more than just Crossbell. This is a spoiler-free review so I won’t go into detail as to what exactly happens, but because the events are so influential to the continent of Zemuria and since all future games will most likely take place after the current games, it is simply a game that you cannot miss out on. Especially the Cold Steel games after the second instalment because NISA saying that you can play Trails of Cold Steel III without having played any other game in the franchise is a brilliant statement from a business perspective, but it’s completely false. It’s tough to explain without going into spoilers so look at it this way: Trails of Cold Steel III is the sequel to–obviously–Trails of Cold Steel II, but also to Ao no Kiseki. Actually, I said this would be a spoiler-free review but allow me to give you a bit of a hint as to how important this game is. Skip to the next segment if you do not want to be spoiled, however minor it may be. This is your final warning. No actually, this one is. Anyway: What would happen if your country has a bank and is a centre of international economy, and then everything went wrong? That’s exactly what happens, and neighbouring countries are affected by it one way or another. This is however all according to keikaku, as there is a whole masterplan behind this action that is on a massive scale. What I can say without it being a spoiler is that is not just the most important Trails game, but also the one with the best plot. There are so many throwbacks to older games, clever plot twists are everywhere and the scale is huge. I won’t call it the best story out of any JRPG because I haven’t played them all, but it’s certainly high up there. The only “negative” I can really say about it is that foreshadowing is probably more obvious than ever now, but I can look past that. The final chapter is also very long; full of action and intense moments for sure, but it took me multiple days to go through. I’m mostly saying this because I really wanted to see the story progress with everything that has been going on, but it often took some times before I got to those moments.
Don’t fix what isn’t broken
Gameplay-wise, Ao no Kiseki is not much different from its predecessor. Battles are still the same as before with few enhancements, though I do still like the ones that they did make. The burst gauge can only be used during specific parts of a chapter, but it’s quite a lifesaver with the ability to cast spells with no casting time, CP that recovers over time so you can unleash your special attacks, and the enemies won’t attack while this gauge is active. Master Quartz are one-of-a-kind that can be given to any party member, and they benefit from passive buffs, more arts to use as well as an ultimate art that gives a whole lot of buffs to other party members at the expense of being unable to move themself. It’s a nice addition and not overpowered either because one party member basically becomes useless while the art is active. And hey, we can play a Puyopuyo clone now at any given point in the game which is more fun than it should be. What I was afraid of happening is that the first chapters would mostly be me exploring all of Crossbell again which is indeed the case, but it was over pretty quickly in its defense. There’s also a whole bunch of new areas and a quick-travel option so it doesn’t feel like I’m only revisiting old places. There’s really not much else to say so I guess I’ll move on to the verdict.
I’m not sure if I would call the Crossbell duology my favourite of the The Legend of Heroes series, but I can certainly say it’s the best when it comes to the amazing plot. There were so many plot twists, world-building has become even better and it’s probably the most important game in the entire series with how it affects not only Crossbell, but its neighbouring countries as well. Unfortunately there is one massive elephant in the room here, being that the game has never been officially localized. There is a translation patch which is very much capable if you come here for just the story, but obviously does not live up to an official localization. And honestly I also have doubts that the Crossbell duology will ever get an official localization so if you are planning to delve deeper into the franchise, this is pretty much your only option for now. I definitely think this is a must-play, but only if you have played all the games before it. Despite not being the most accessible game, I still give this game the highest rating I could possibly give though I will cut off a slight bit for the fun rating due to me playing the game differently than I normally would because of the patch.
Am I free from Trails games for now? The answer is yes and no, though I do think I’ve earned a well-deserved break from the franchise for now before I burn myself out. Also as you might have noticed yes, I got spoiler tags working! I might actually try and use these more often to go more in-depth about stuff I liked or didn’t like that happened later on in a game. For example, if one chapter of a story influenced my opinion on the game. But that’s something for later! Next up will be a coverage on the original Super Mario Bros., but I am still working out how to do it. Also I won’t recommend similar games this time, simply due to it being tough to recommend something on a scale like this.
Question of the Day: What is a Japanese-only game that you would love to see localized?