It was only a few months ago that the latest Trails entry by Japanese developer, Nihon Falcom, made its way to the Western world in October for Playstation 4 users and April for PC players. While I did do a review on this entry: Trails of Cold Steel IV, I’ll be the first to admit the series isn’t the most beginner friendly, and this is just the latter half of the greater Legend of Heroes series. So just what is The Legend of Heroes?
The Legend of Heroes: Trails
While The Legend of Heroes is the title of the massive JRPG series which Nihon Falcom has had in the works since the earlier days of gaming as a whole, when someone is referring to The Legend of Heroes, it’s safe to assume they mean the Trails subseries… plural.
Trails is a (currently) three arc JRPG series which takes place on the continent of Zemuria. Many fell in love with the series’ deep and rich world, international politics, and great cast of characters since the early 2000s, and a huge draw of the series is that it aims to tell one large overarching narrative. I’d highly, highly recommend trying the series out if you’re a fan of the genre, as it contains some of my favorite games of all time.
Well Where Do I Start?
Well, the Trails series currently has three arcs which coincide with subseries. Trails in the Sky is a trilogy set in the Kingdom of Liberl and takes place first chronologically of the arcs. The series stars young Bracers (think mercenaries meets public service) Estelle and Joshua Bright as they fall into one of the best stories I’ve ever seen told in a JRPG.
Really, I can’t sing this series enough praise, and it’s the definitive starting point. This isn’t even me talking as someone who loves this series, though, as it IS the first series chronologically. It is my belief that any series which aims to tell a long, interconnected story should be consumed in the order of release. That said, the games are currently only localized to PC and PSP of all things, which can be a turn off to some and a roadblock for others.
The second arc, generally called the Crossbell Arc, takes place in Crossbell City. Located between two military superpowers and rooted deep in corruption, the Special Support Section (literally police officers but really just Bracers again) is a small team with a big dream to try and root the evil from the city. This is the second arc in release order.
I think most would agree this is the worst starting point. Some plot points from Sky were left to be resolved here, and while the two games, Trails From Zero and Trails to Azure, are fantastic in their own right, they aim to both tell a complete story while heavily setting up for the next arc and tying loose ends from Sky. To make it even worse, neither game has been officially localized yet due to poor timing in the West. While both games have received fan acclaimed translations, being generally unattainable short of pirating or obtaining a Japanese copy makes these two difficult to recommend to beginners.
The most recent completed arc of the Trails series is Trails of Cold Steel. I imagine people are generally more familiar with this series in the West for a multitude of reasons like release time, more marketing, and console releases. Trails of Cold Steel is a 4 game long arc which aims to conclude the first half of the overarching Trails storyline and takes place in the Erebonian Empire, following the journey of Thors Military Academy Class VII.
While I have… a number of issues with this arc compared to its predecessors, I still overall like the series and think fans of the genre, and especially Persona, would enjoy it as well. I personally wouldn’t recommend starting with it despite Falcom saying the series was made to be accessible to newcomers. Imagine reading Harry Potter starting at like, Goblet of Fire. Sure, it’s still probably a good read and a lot of material can be explained through context, but no one would ever say you should START there. Granted, this is the only series to have console releases, so for those limited to just that, this is an option to start with.
So what is The Legend of Heroes? It’s… a lot. It’s a lot but holy crap is it good. If you’re a fan of JRPGs, this is a niche series that I couldn’t recommend more, but PLEASE start with Sky if at all possible.