Legend of Heroes: For Trails From Zero, the journey west is indeed a long and winding road.
In fact, you might find the name quite fitting, as the path to a Western release seems next to nil, with Cold Steel's new franchise being a priority in terms of localization.
While Trails From Zero has received a sequel, Trails to Azure, and even a revamped Vita port and subsequent PS4 remaster, Western fans eager to play can only look east longingly. Well, go ahead and grab the imported version as all the Japanese text is worth it, at least until a fan-made English translation became available a few years ago.
Then finally this year Winged Hussars came out, namely the western release of Trails of Zero.
More than a decade after the original franchise's first release, Western gamers can finally play the official local version of the game. Trails From Zero Is 12 Years Too Late Or Is It Just A Matter Of Time?
Return to Cross Bell. The history of Trails From Zero
Trails From Zero tells the story of Lloyd Bunnings, a rookie cop who dreams of becoming a seasoned detective like his late brother.
After graduating with honors from the academy, Lloyd returned to his hometown of Crossbell and was assigned to a new task force within the Crossbell Police Department known as the Special Support Unit. However, Lloyd soon discovers that the police station isn't very popular in town. To make matters worse, even within the CPD, the new Special Support Unit was seen as a marginalized group, essentially a weak copy of the popular Bracer Guild.
This is a tough pill to swallow for Lloyd, who wants to continue defending his brother's honor by changing the life of his city. The fact that Lloyd graduated with his class also means he has a better career chance if he decides to drop out of the department.
However, after introspection and speaking with his teammates, Lloyd decided to stay with the group. What follows is a journey to reform his band of brutal officers and to shed light on the mystery of his brother's death.
For those familiar with the stories in the Trails series, the Trails From Zero story will seem like comfort food. Like other games in the series, the story of Trails From Zero focuses on the relationships between the characters and gradually develops into an overarching story involving conspiracies and sinister intrigues in the background.
Part of Trails From Zero's unique feel is its blend of fantasy and modern elements, resulting in an experience unlike any other JRPG combined with the former or latter. Sure, the game can take place in several famous anime story tropes and character types. However, the cast of the game is quite likable, which makes following their journey all the more fun.
Trails From Zero also sits in a pretty sweet spot between old and new school JRPGs.
The graphics, for example, take advantage of the classic "Munchkin" aspect ratio that classic JRPGs are known for, while adding a 3D element as a nod to what modern JRPGs are ultimately aiming for. It's almost like having the best of both worlds, especially for someone who can appreciate both styles.
Add in a stellar gameplay soundtrack, and Trails From Zero are prime examples of the second golden age of old-school JRPGs from the beginning of the PlayStation era.
The only downside in terms of production was the uneven work on remastering the game's graphics. Believe it or not, the Switch version of this game is actually much better than the Playstation 4 version because it has the same visual effects as the PC version.
Instead, the PS4 version is basically a local version of the Japanese Kai Trails From Zero remaster that was released a few years ago. As a result, the PS4 version is much sharper, while the Switch version offers better textures and sharper details.
For folks who only own a PS4, it's a rare disappointment with Trails From Zero's excellent localization.
Police Capers: Gameplay starts from scratch
The gameplay of Trails From Zero will also be familiar to fans of the Trails series.
While you're now part of the police department, unlike the bracelet guild in the previous Trails of the Sky trilogy, the fact that the dedicated support unit is modeled after the guild means you'll still be tasked with supporting citizens as usual . . your law enforcement duties.
That means doing tasks like support requests, where you fill out special requests that range from killing monsters and participating in training to something as simple as changing a light bulb. True, some of them may seem boring and a bit vulgar, but some of them also have their own story which makes them even more fun.
Lloyd's experience as a detective also means you'll be investigating to complete your assignment. This includes following the tracker through a lot of police endeavours, like uncovering an illegal parking case, which is fun. Meanwhile, you'll also replay the main story, which features a much more sinister plot.
Of course, every valuable JRPG is going to have a minigame, and Trails From Zero is no exception. Your activities include fishing, playing cards and cooking.
Meanwhile, the combat is based on a system created by the Trails of the Sky game.
Anchor Battles is a fighting system from the AT series that shows the movements of your heroes and enemies using the direction indicators on the left side of the screen. This system can also be used to activate useful bonus effects such as critical hits or healing.
Trails From Zero also adds a new Team Rush mechanic that lets you team up with enemies to deal damage to levels of giant enemy crabs.
You can also seize the initiative on the enemy before the battle starts by launching land attacks when you see them on the map. Keep in mind that your enemies can do this too if they ambush you on the battlefield.
Combat, on the other hand, focuses on using normal attacks and special arts and abilities.
Anchor Battle is a sphere system where you equip certain gems or "Quartz" to gain access to various arts and boost your stats. Each character will also have unique moves known as Crafts and S-Crafts that allow them to perform fast attacks and support in battle. Characters can also craft together, allowing them to work together against enemies.
While Trails From Zero's combat system doesn't include later games like the Cold Steel series, it's still pretty fun overall. Of course, people who prefer action to turn-based combat won't be happy. However, if you're into classic JRPG combat, this is one of the best systems out there.
Final thoughts on Tales From Scratch
Twelve years after its original release, Trails From Zero has finally made its way to the West Coast. Admittedly, the visual differences between the PS4 version and the graphically superior Switch and PC versions are a bit distracting. However, despite being over a decade old, Trails From Zero has aged well and remains one of the best JRPGs out there. Gamers who really like classic JRPGs should definitely get their hands on this one.
This article originally appeared in the Reno Gazette Journal. Trail from Zero Review. A journey through 12 years of production | Technology bubble game