The Legend of Heroes: Trails to Azure – Nintendo Switch Review

Overview – developed by Nihon Falcom and published by NIS America, Legends of Heroes: Trails to Azure is the latest release in the Legend of Heroes series. Taking place after the events of Trials from Zero, this is the continuation of the Crossbell arc that is part of the larger Trails series. This title is available for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation platforms and PC with links to each version of the game 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 to Azure 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.

Content Disclaimer: this title is rated as T for Teen in the North America, with little if any in terms of offensive or explicit content. However, in other territories, especially European regions the game is rated 18 due to the inclusion of simulated gambling in the game.

Now with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the game, starting with the story for Trails to Azure.

Story – taking place months after the events of Trails from Zero, peace has fallen over the city of Crossbell and the Special Support Section find themselves with newfound fame as heroes. However, this peace is broken due to the rise of organisations with ulterior motives. These tensions are framed as increased pressure from outside forces, with Crossbell caught in the crossfire. With the safety of their home at risk, Lloyd Bannings and his allies prepare for the threats that loom over them.

Gameplay – this title is a turn based JRPG adventure, with dungeon crawling action and a large world to explore. The core gameplay mechanics for the game are the same of that from the previous title Trails from Zero (which my coverage can be found HERE). So before discussing the new features of Trails to Azure, here is a quick breakdown of each returning mechanic from the previous game.

Dungeon Crawling: throughout the game, there are areas that are made up of interconnected zones that the player will explore. These areas are infested with monsters and enemies to battle, as well as hidden treasures for the player to uncover. At set points in a dungeon, players may find healing points to allow them to recover their party a boss. These dungeons can be challenging so preparation is important.

Combat: when an enemy is encountered, either through a scripted event or while in a dungeon, combat will be initiated and the party will be moved to a grid based arena. If the player is in a dungeon, they can choose to avoid enemies as they will be roaming through set paths. However, if the player hits the enemy from behind with an attack and then makes contact, or the enemy does the same to the party combat advantage can be given.

There are various skills of varying range that the player is able to use, with the first being Craft skills that use CP for instant skill use, with CP being charged over time. Next we have Arts that use EP for delayed elemental attacks, which can do extra damage depending on the enemy they are used on. Last is the Break Skills that are the ultimate attack for a party member, which are available when the player has charged up 100 CP points and a max power version at 200 CP using up all points.

Outside of the special skills that the player can use, the player can move around the arena to get within range of enemies and perform physical attacks if they don’t want to use skills. There are also items that can be used during a turn, providing buffs and healing the party. If a battle seems too difficult the player is able to escape with a percentage chance to fleeing successfully. But if the player fails a turn will be lost however, there are items that can provide instant escape.

When combat is complete, players will be provided rewards and experience that will level them up when they reach set amounts. The rewards that players will receive consist of items and Sepith, which is a special resource that can be used to craft special items to power the party up. If the party is defeated in a battle the game will be over, when this happens the player is able to continue from a checkpoint. This makes use of the healing points in dungeons important.

Party Management:  the player is able to alter the setup of their party, with different formations that can be used. There is also the ability to modify the equipment and gear that the player uses in battle, with weapons, armor and accessories that can change character stats. The player is also able to use the Orbment system change the quartz in their Enigma II device, which will provide new skills and passive abilities in a manner similar to that of skill tree.

City Exporation: while in the main city of Crossbell, the player is able to freely move about the different areas that are open, allowing them to interact with the different characters there. There are many places for the player to visit, including the shops where new gear can be bought, items can be upgraded and Quartz can be crafted. There is also a casino where the player is able to play slots, roulette and card games, earning tokens that can be exchanged for prizes.

There are also other areas of interest in the city, like the restraunt where food can be bought, the general store with several shops in one space and the black market exchange shop. While in the exchange, the player is be able to trade items collected during quests for special equipment that can be equipped and more. There are NPC characters throughout the city that players can talk to, as well as other characters that are tied to different objectives.

Quest System: the game itself is made up of several chapters, each with their own unique objectives that will push help push the narrative forwards. There are two types of quest that the player can receive, separated into main and optional quests. The main quests are story focused, with narrative details being provided as each of the steps of each objective is completed. These quests are mandatory to progress the game.

The optional quests are side missions that the player can choose to clear if they want to, with rewards and bonus items that can be earned from these. These side missions have a limit to how long they will last, making it possible to miss them if the player takes too long. When a mission request is completed, the player will receive Detective Points which level up the detective rank for the player, with additional rewards for each rank that is reached.

New Features: now it is time to talk about the new features that have been added to this release to wrap up gameplay. First we have the new Burst Gauge, a special battle mechanic that will boost all the members of a full party, increasing combat power and allowing arts to be cast without delay. There is also a change to the way that encounters can play out, as enemy ambushes there is a chance for other members of the party to be pushed into battle.

Next we have the Master Quartz, a new upgraded version of the regular quartz that is equipped inside the Enigma II device. These special gems have their own levelling system which can power up the character they are tied to, boosting the overall stats that the party member that it is attached to. The Master Quartz can also provide their own passive skills to a character, like extra damage, adding poison chance to attacks and much more.

Added to this release is a fast travel system, where the player can access a special car which provides instant transport. These cars can also be modified, allowing players to customise them to their liking, with paint and new parts that can be added. Last is the Data Import system, which lets players load clear data from Trails from Zero. This data will provide new content that will change scenes from the story, while also unlocking new content and carrying over special conditions.

Now with the gameplay covered, it is time to move onto the other aspects of this release, starting with the controls.

Controls – the controls system is pretty much identical from the previous release, with all inputs and key functions laid out in a comfortable way. The in game movement and menu navigation is smooth and responsive, with other needed inputs on screen when going through different screens. The isometric nature of the game makes the thumbstick preferable for movement, but the game plays well regardless of the controller that is being used.

Difficulty – this title has four different difficulty options for the player to choose from. These different settings will alter the way that combat will flow, with the higher difficulties increasing the challenge that battles will provide. The lower difficulties will reduce the overall challenges that players will face, making it easier for players who are inexperienced with JRPG titles. There is a setting that will fit all players, regardless of skill level.

Presentation – just like the previous title, this was originally a PSP release with the character models having a Cutesy look to them, which was the style at the time. These models contrast well with the anime art style which is used for the in game character portraits. The environments that make up the world are vibrant, with lively locations and areas to explore. The battle effects are also a nice visual touch, using special animations for ultimate skills that have an exciting feel to them.

The sound design is also very well done, which works with the custscenes and character dialogue that appears throughout. There is a good use of Japanese voice work for the key story exchanges, with a cast that play their roles perfectly and add depth to the on screen action. The soundtrack is of a very high quality, with a range of compositions that each fit their intended setting, from intense battle music to relaxed pieces for the city and shops.

Final Thoughts – I had a great time with the previous game and this one is no different. Falcom has a proven track record of creating excellent JRPG experiences, which makes me very happy that these games are finally coming west after over a decade of being on the shelf. The familiarity of the combat systems, characters and setting allowed me to get right back into the experience, while the new characters and features made this exciting to play.

I am happy to recommend this title to everyone who has enjoyed any of the Legend of Heroes games, especially those who played Trails from Zero. This is a fantastic experience with a story that is engaging, characters that have a charm to them and combat that is most exciting when fighting boss monsters. There is even extra side content that can keep players active for significant time, as well as a new game plus and bonus content from the load cleared data system.

In the end, I give The Legend of Heroes: Trails to Azure a final score of 5/5, This is the perfect follow up to the previous entry, which continues the story and expands the narrative, while providing an experience that will keep the player engaged for hours on end with all the extra content on top. If you want to check this game out for yourself, a link to each version of the game will be below.

Link to Nintendo Switch version (HERE)

Link to PlayStation version (HERE)

Link to Steam version (HERE)

Link to EPIC version (HERE)

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