Not every game is right for everyone. That is an understatement when it comes to my thoughts on Trails in the Sky. All of the story elements in Trails are brilliant, which made Estelle and Joshua two of my favorite characters from the games I have played recently. From the music to the dialogue, Trails oozes personality.
Unfortunately, it is everything outside of the story that falls short for me. Although the battle system shows promise, it quickly becomes repetitive and boring. Sadly it didn't take long for me to avoid combat altogether. Never before have the segments between story moments felt so tortuous.
I truly wish I had enjoyed Trails in the Sky more. While the world and story have me excited to see the continued adventures of Estelle and Joshua, I am no masochist. Unless I read the ending on a wiki or wait for the anime, I will never see the conclusion to this wonderful story and that truly is a shame.
When I first played Trails in the Sky a few years back, I was completely smitten with its writing. Immersive world building, nuanced characters, and a carefully laid plot all had me engrossed in Liberl. While I enjoyed combing through the script a second time, part of me wishes I would have never revisited this gem.
I still believe that the slow pacing is the only critical flaw of the combat system, but I'm not convinced a game with this quality of prose ever had to rely so heavily on combat in the first place. When all you want to do is view the next cutscene or talk to the next batch of villagers, it's hard to see battles as anything more than a road block to the "good stuff." I think including only event and quest battles would have struck a perfect balance, as those instances feel rather empowering thanks to their ties to the story.
That being said, I absolutely adore this game, as I do a number of wonderful RPG's with middling combat systems. As a critic I have to knock it a bit, but as a fan I keep this one close to my heart.
It's difficult to find time to sit down and enjoy a game with the kind of schedule I work outside of RPGFan, but I'm happy I committed to playing Trails in the Sky FC for Retro Encounter. Contrary to how I expressed annoyances with some of the items of Trails (Phantom B side quest, Slots/Sepith management), I was greatly pleased with it's overall presentation.
The music is very enjoyable — especially the battle tracks — and I adore the dialog between the player and NPCs. The side quests, while they were stressing, did provide a sense of accomplishment when rising the junior rank levels to number 1. However, this time around, what caught my attention the most was the story and Trails FC's evil mastermind. Watching Estelle and Joshua traveling the world, learning, and meeting new people was very adorable. Seeing the two teens mature in their understanding of life's challenges and about one another warmed my heart. Very cute. Trails FC's evil mastermind on the other hand: Fantastic! Somehow I knew there was something fishy about that person when first meeting them, but little did I know that they would be that important in the grand scheme of things. I love a good twist!
Thankfully, I have very little against this game in its presentation beyond side quest management. Sure, I may have spent endless hours trying to do every darn side quest and talking to as many NPCs as possible, loosing sleep to make sure I didn't miss any treasure chest. But hey, would I do it again?
After many years of being told what a bad person I am for not having played Trails in the Sky (much like my experience with 999), thanks to Retro Encounter I finally had a reason to make it a priority. I'm basically an eternal fanboy of the clever writers over at XSEED, so the prospect of a game packed full of cute character moments and silly jokes crafted by their expert hands sounded great, and I wasn't mistaken. The writing and story in Trails in the Sky-- particularly the characterization of its lead characters, is charming at its worst and utterly compelling at best.
It's the parts of the game that XSEED doesn't really have much to do with that didn't rub me the right way. The super-traditional combat and the sluggish pace of both the combat and the exploration segments left me cold, compounded by the relative slow burn of the story. In the end, I made it to chapter 3, furiously completing every Bracer quest I could, before I had to throw in the towel and watch the rest of the game via YouTube.
I'm glad I did, though. The last parts of the game were exciting and had a lot of the narrative payoff that I wish had been sprinkled earlier in the experience (consider Virtue's Last Reward's constant revelations compared to 999's mostly eleventh-hour twists), and I was legitimately interested in how things played out. I was even compelled to peek ahead (though just a little bit) to see what was in store for Second Chapter. So, in the end, Trails in the Sky probably won't go down as one of my favorite games, but it is one I'm glad to have experienced most of.
I have nothing against Trails in the Sky. In fact, during my time with the game for Retro Encounter, I really came to adore the ever-cheerful Estelle and her numerous companions, and found myself appreciating the attention to detail that went into every facet of this game's world, writing, and localization. The problem is really just that I wasn't grabbed by the game itself. I enjoy good world-building and character development, but Trails often felt like a chore to play, which was kind of disappointing. Perhaps needing to cram it into a month for the show wasn't the best idea, so one day I may find myself revising the game. Either way, I can see why some people swear by it, and recognize even more the importance the impending release of Second Chapter holds for them.
In short, not for me, but I still recognize it as a great game.