Sunday, December 20, 2015

Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky SC (PSP) Early Impressions

Before now, I had heard of Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky and how great it was.  Sadly, I had not played it yet, but got the chance to review the second chapter of the saga, not so strangely entitled Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky SC.  Being an RPG, it is a longer game, so in an effort to have something on it out in a timely fashion, I figured I would break it up into two parts: one an early impressions about my first few hours with the game, and then a full review later on.  Maybe not the best idea to make more articles when my plate is already full, but I do plan to do this for at least a few games.

The first thing that struck me before I started was: it is two downloads.

Wait, what?

Yup, when the game came out in Japan years ago, it was on two UMDs.  Wow, that's actually kind of impressive.  So when it was made a download, it is just two separate downloads, each one is one disc.  It's... weird for a digital release, but that's probably the only way to make it work.  I just have to keep straight which download is which disc.

The game picks up right where the previous game left off.  Well, I assume it is right after, as it seems like the story starts right at the end of the jolly festivities that would accompany some triumph in battle.  I'm sure this is great for the people that conquered the first chapter, but some kind of explanation of what was going on would have been nice, even if it was optional so returning players could skip it.  I'm sure even fans of the first might not remember some things, considering the gap between the games.  Honestly, most direct sequels do this, and it was a little disappointing to see it not done here.

My solution: play some of the first game.  Maybe that's a good reason to split the review in two.  Luckily it was on sale when SC came out, so I picked it up and played a few hours to generally learn some backstory and game mechanics.  That should make this chapter a little easier for me to understand.  It helped some, but not as much as I'd like.  A lot of references to characters and events from the previous entry still eluded me.  Yes, I should have played all of the first before, but I still feel some optional explanations would have been great.  Maybe as the story goes on, the previous events will sink into the background, but I feel there will still be some cameos and plot points that will leave me confused.

In all fairness, the game does cover a few previous plot points.  However, they seem to be the most spoiler-y ones.  Want to know more about this random character name we threw out?  Too bad!  Hey, this girl you are going to meet is a secret princess, and that old mayor was secretly evil!  Yeah, that might have been better to not say, but sure why not.  It's almost the exact opposite of what I would want the game to do.

Anyway, we will see how that goes later, and move on to the combat.  It's a turn-based affair, but has a unique layout to the map.  It is separated into a griid, and you can move around like an SRPG, but the game isn't one.  For one, you can't move, then attack as two separate commands.  If you select attack, then a target, you will run up and attack.  If you cannot move that far, you will get as close as you can.  If you select 'Move', then that's all you do.  There's no bonus for attacking from the sides or behind as far as I can tell.  So while it looks like an SRPG at times, it is a straight-up turn-based RPG, which is great.  Remember how fun those were?

You also get magic attacks, which are derived from elemental crystals that you equip.  Without going in to too much detail (in this part), these crystals will bestow different status effects and affect what spells you have access to.  It's a cool system that gives some good customization.  Plus, healing spells heal a set amount, so you can give them to fighters and still have it as a viable safety net.

Besides HP and AP (Art Points for magic, basically MP), there is also CP which is used for personal skills and even super moves.  These points are built up by taking and dealing damage.  When you have at least 100, you can use your super move, and even butt in and use it on the opponent's turn.  Some turns have bonus effects, and this is a way to either steal them, or prevent the enemy from using one that you would rather they didn't.

The only problem I have with that is it didn't feel like it rewarded me for using it.  I would jump in and steal the critical turn, but it didn't seem to help in the long run.  Battles felt pretty hard in the first few hours.  It may be because I didn't transfer a save file, but that isn't really good balance.  Every time I lost a fight through some annoying means (exploding enemies, etc.), it made me question the "awesome" nature of the game that I'd heard so much about.  Getting a preemptive strike helps a lot, so I'll try doing that more often and see what happens.  Plus, the starting level difference should even out the longer I play.

I'm definitely playing more, but it seems like I am in for the long haul.  The prologue itself took me 4 hours, which is pretty crazy.  Look forward to a full review of Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky SC in the future!

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