Overview – developed by Falcom and published by NIS America, Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero is a story driven JRPG taking place as the first chapter in the Crossbell story referenced in Trails of Cold Steel. This is the first official English release of this title, coming to the west after originally being released in 2010. This new version of the game is available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Steam, with a link to each version of the title at the bottom of this review.
Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank NIS America for providing the copy of Trails of Zero that was used for this piece. The provision of this software has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own.
Now with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the review, starting off with the story for Trails from Zero. I have previously covered other titles in the Legend of Heroes series, you can find my coverage of Trails of Cold Steel III (HERE) and Trails of Cold Steel IV (HERE).
Story – Lloyd Bannings returns to his home of Crossbell, three years after the death of his brother and to join the Crossbell Police Department. Upon his return he is informed that he has been assigned to a new department, the Crossbell Special Support Section (the SSS). This new department has been created to help the citizens of Crossbell, performing odd jobs, tasks and fighting monsters to protect the people. However, not all is as it seems, as the city has a dark side to it as well as some terrible secrets.
Gameplay – Trails from Zero is a story driven JRPG, where the narrative plays out over several chapters. The player controls a party of 4 characters, each with their own strengths and weaknesses as they take on the dangers that lurk around Crossbell and help the citizens with their troubles. The player is able to roam a large interconnected map that expands over time, with facilities that can be interacted with, including shops and even casinos.
The player can also delve into dungeon sections that contain monsters to fight and treasures to obtain. These dungeons and areas are made up of interconnected segments that connect to each other, with some locked areas that open during the course of the game. While in the dungeon areas, the player will encounter monsters that roam freely with battles beginning when contact is made. Battles take place in arenas that utilize a grid based map for movement and attack range.
Each player makes their own move in these turn based battles, with different conditions affecting the priority of each unit in battle. During a turn the player can select from a range of actions to perform, but only a single action can be made. There are also special conditions that can occur, including chain battles, where multiple battles can occur and special boss battles at preset points in the story. These are the systems that are used during combat encounters;
- Combat advantage – when encountering enemies in the dungeon segments, combat is initiated when contact is made, but if the player touches them from behind they get an advantage. The player can also attack the enemies in the dungeon before a battle, stunning them if they hit from behind and granting an additional advantage. However, if the enemy makes contact from behind they get an advantage.
- AT Bonuses – before a characters turn, they may get a special bonus that can help sway the course of battle, including healing bonuses, special boosts and even allowing for special team attacks. These bonuses appear next to the character icon before their turn to let players plan their next move.
- Attack and Move – these are the most common actions that can be made, where the player can choose to attack a target, or reposition themselves for their next turn. If a player decides to move, their turn will end upon reaching the destination. However, if the player chooses to attack and the enemy is within a specific range, they will move until the enemy can be hit then execute an attack but if the enemy is out of range they will just move.
- Crafts – these are special attacks that use Craft Points (CP) to perform special attacks. the attacks can be used offensively and also to support the other party members. Craft Points charge over time, with each turn making them reach even higher levels.
- Break Skill – this is an ultimate skill that each party member can use, with different effects for each one. This becomes active when the CP meter reaches the 100 point threshold, allowing for the player to make a move in the next turn immediately even if they had just had a turn. An enhanced version of the Break is activated when the player reaches the maximum 200 CP limit, granting even more power.
- Arts – these are special attacks that utilize EP to be performed, with different attacks related to the elements such as lightning and fire. When an Arts attack is activated, there will be a delay between the activation and resolution with the attack occurring during the next turn. These skills can be very powerful and often deal extra damage to specific enemies that are resistant to standard attacks.
- Item and Escape – the player is able to use items during their characters turns, including healing and recover items that can remove negative effects. Once an item is selected, the range will be shown and once used the turn is over. There is also the option to flee from battle if the risk is too great, with the run function that has a percentage showing the chance of escape (failure will lead to mission a turn) and smoke bombs that can allow instant escape.
When a combat is completed, if the party is successful, they will receive rewards for their performance. These rewards include experience points that will level them up at preset milestones, there is also a resource called Sepith (discussed further below) as well as treasure that can be dropped. If the party is defeated however, the game will be over and the player can choose to continue from a checkpoint, there are also healing stations scattered throughout dungeons that the party can rest at.
Outside of battles, the player is able to change the formation of the party, repositioning them to fit their individual strategies. The player is also allowed to alter the equipment that the party is using, with different equipment changing the individual stats of each unit. There are also items that can be used to heal the party, which are the same as the ones that are available in battle, which can allow defeated party members to return to battle.
The most important party based system that players have access to outside of battle is the Orbment System. This feature allows special gems to be assigned to a character in a manner similar to a skill tree, where different gems can be assigned for new abilities. The Quartz gems can be provided as rewards for quests if the player is lucky, but the main way to obtain them is via crafting. In the main city of Crossbell, there is a store/factory, where new Quartz crystals can be crafted.
In order to craft these gems, the player must use Sepith that has been collected in battle and as rewards. The strength of each gem that is crafted is dependent on its level, as well as the requirements needed in order to create it. The better the crystal, the higher the resource cost to make that gem, meaning that some grinding can be beneficial. If the player has access to many Orbments, then their strategic options will increase dramatically, as each party member will respond differently.
The last thing I want to discuss is the progression system for the narrative of Trails from Zero. During each chapter of the game, the payer will receive requests that can be taken on. These missions serve two purposes, with the first being to progress the narrative and the second to obtain rewards and currency. The main quests can be completed at any time, however, the side missions have varying time limits which can lead to the player being unable to clear them if the story progresses too far.
When the player completes a mission request, they will gain special points called Detective Points (DP) which increase the detective rank for the player over time. As the player gains each detective rank additional rewards will be provided, with the quality of rewards increasing with those ranks and providing special bonuses. The player will also require Mira for each completed task, adding additional value for the time that a player spends completing the side missions.
There is so much more that I could discuss about the gameplay, including a new game plus, additional activities that can be participated in and more. But I want to leave some surprises unspoiled for players to discover during their experience. So with that said, let’s move onto the other aspects of the game, starting with the controls.
Controls – the control system for this title is simple and easy to get used to, with the key inputs being tied to the face and front shoulder buttons. The movement and menu navigation is tied to the d-pad/left thumbstick, with any other inputs needed highlighted on top of the screen. The movement in game is in an isometric style, with free flowing movement that feels comfortable no matter how it is played. Both the Joy-Cons and Pro Controllers work well, leaving the preference of controller to the player.
Difficulty – there are 4 difficulty settings in this release, that each modify the way that the combat of the game flows. The higher difficulty settings make battles tougher, pushing the player to their limits and lower settings can make battle a breeze to get through. There is a way to make the combat a little easier for those who want to put some time in, by grinding out earlier areas to over level the party and increase the amount of Sepith possessed for Quartz crafting.
Presentation – the visual style of this release has a cutesy element to it, with chibi style models for the characters while in and out of combat, which contrast well with the anime style portraits shown. The world and environments have a vibrancy to them, with well-designed locations and set pieces to explore. The battle effects have a frenetic and exciting feel to them, with the special attacks and break skills that have elaborate animations.
The cutscenes scattered throughout make excellent use of the character models and character portraits, showing which help to tell the narrative effectively. The soundtrack for Trails from Zero has the quality that is expected of a Falcom release, featuring tense compositions, as well as more relaxed melodic pieces that work in tandem to enhance the experience. The voice acting in this title is exclusively in Japanese, with a cast that portrays their character roles that adds depth to the sequences they are in.
Final Thoughts – I enjoyed the Trails of Cold Steel games from Falcom in the past, so I was excited to be able to get my hands on another adventure in the Legend of Heroes series. My excitement was not misplaced, as I had a great time playing this game, the combat system is relatively simple, but has enough depth to keep me engaged in each fight. The story was engrossing, with the twists and turns of the narrative making for a satisfying experience.
I can happily recommend this title to fans of the other Legend of Heroes games, as it has the same quality that the other games are known for. There is a lot of content on offer, with the side quests, extra activities and even new game plus that can keep the player going long after their first completion. As a PlayStation Vita title, Trails from Zero makes the jump to the Nintendo Switch (and other platforms) without losing its charm or suffering from any issues.
In the end, I give the Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero a final score of 5/5. This is an excellent JRPG experience, with a solid battle system, engaging narrative and characters that can keep the player engrossed for the entire duration, while providing extra side content to extend playtime further. If you want to check this title out for yourself, a link to each version of the game will be below.
Link to Nintendo Switch version (HERE)
Link to PlayStation 4 version (HERE)
Link to Steam version (HERE)