The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero Review – Well Worth the Wait

The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero on PS4

Trails of Zero tells a story that has been a long time coming. Originally released in Japan in 2010 as Zero no Kiseki, it follows the adventures of Lloyd Bannings and his collaborators in the Crossbowl Special Support section. It is the first part of the larger Legend of Heroes franchise’s Crossbowl arc, which continues in early 2023 in the sequel Trails to Azure, set to head west.

It’s all a little confusing if you weren’t already in the pocket for this long-running JRPG franchise, which began back in 1989. While less well-known than contemporary series such as Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, the Trails franchise continues to grow and have a loyal fan base eagerly garnering every release.

The series includes several touchstones that are present in each game, such as an overarching political drama that advances an ever-expanding arrogant narrative, and a cast of incredibly likable characters. Perhaps most compelling, at least for a seasoned JRPG aficionado, is the incredible attention to detail in every line of dialogue, and the relatively low stakes of the whole affair, at least initially.

Virtually every NPC in the game has something to say, and more to say as the narrative progresses. The characters feel like they have a place in the world, and they’ll reference each other, giving the game a really lived-in feel. That city slicker, weary of the daily grind and going about the rural life his brother leads? You had better believe that if you look hard enough, you might meet his more rustic sibling, whose life isn’t as pleasant as one might have imagined.

The Special Support Section is a newly created division of the Crossbell Police Department. The goal is to improve public opinion of the service and stick to those intervening bracers. The rivalry between SSS and Bracers (which we played in the Sky series of games) is good-natured, and allows for some incredible callbacks to previous entries. This simple setup serves as the gameplay mechanic and is one of the main driving forces behind the game’s narrative, at least in the beginning.

Citizens will submit support requests, which act as normal JRPG sidequest fare; While most are basic quest and monster elimination missions, each serves to build the game’s world, and adds to the lively experience that is often missing in games like this.

As a game that originally released on the PSP more than a decade ago, Trails From Zero feels graphically dated and comes from the era of fixed camera angles, which can take some time to get used to. . It also has polygonal character sprites that feel like a relic, but it’s hard to fault when you remember that it’s unbelievable that we’ve ever got a Western release for this game. The character artwork, however, is excellent, and shows that Falcom was ahead of the curve in this department, even then.

Players who come to Zero from the Trails of Cold Steel series should remember that the combat system here, while essentially the same in the most meaningful ways, is a generation behind and thus feels very easy. So while you’ll still engage in turn-based combat, and manage the distance between your party and the enemy, the link system has yet to reveal itself, and it can often feel like you’re going through long engagements. Doing business only.

Thankfully, Trails From Zero has a fast-forward function that can be mapped to any button, which is a godsend when you need to backtrack or engage in some piece.

You’ll meet a colorful cast of characters throughout your time at Crossbell, from Sergei, the hard-smoking chief of police, to Grace Lynn, a top journalist for the Crossbell News Service. While characters will join your party from time to time either directly or in a supporting capacity, the real stars of the show are the special help sections themselves.

While the protagonist Lloyd is perhaps a bit bland at times (same as in the Rain Cold Steel games), it feels more like a trap of the genre than a case of poor writing. A motivated and skilled young detective, his deductive reasoning prowess shines through over and over again, albeit like a good two shoes.

Ellie McDowell is the granddaughter of the mayor of Crossbell, and, while generally sweet and reasonable, has a characteristic curious sarcastic streak, which comes especially when dealing with Randy. Randy Orlando is a laid-back woman, but she is more loyal and deeper than you might initially suspect. In the end, Teo Plato is basically a trope, being a teenage genius inexplicably allowed to join the police force at age 14, but she eventually opens up and becomes a lovable in her own right.

It’s hard to talk about Trails From Zero without talking about Crossbowl, a fantastically realized city, and where you spend most of your time. In addition to being the central hub of the game, where you obtain support quests, upgrade your gear and tinker with orbs, Crossbowl is a city in a unique political position and spectacular like no other.

While it may seem overwhelming initially, each neighborhood has its own flair, and navigating it becomes second nature. I was really looking forward to checking in with some of the citizens after major events in the game to get their opinions on things, which is a testament to the strength of this series’ character work.

Trails From Zero is a miracle in itself, the fact that we got a Western release after so many years, and Trails From Azure is just around the corner, still feels surreal. But, for all its might, it’s still a game from more than a decade ago, originally designed for the PSP. If you can overcome it, Trails From Zero won’t disappoint, and whether you’re a series veteran or a newcomer, it offers a wonderful world in which you can truly lose yourself for hours.

Twinfinit Editors' Choice Award

The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero

The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero Critic Review

Reviewer: Khayal Adam | Prize: Editors’ Choice , Copy provided by publisher.