The Legend Of Heroes Trails In The Sky PSP review
The boxart should be enough to let you know – happy kids with big eyes and bigger hair – but this should probably come with a ‘Severe RPG Warning’ regardless. Because if you’ve ever been bored senseless by reams of text dialogue or turn-based battles, run from this like a swine flu-infected flasher. But for those of us happy in that world, this is a glorious slice of genre nostalgia that hits the sweet spot between simplicity and complexity in terms of both tone and mechanics.
Set in Liberl Kingdom, you initially take control of adoptive siblings Estelle and Joshua (with more playable members joining your party along the way), who have just graduated to do-gooding faction the Bracers. From here you initially take on fairly menial tasks – such as clearing out rodents from farmland – before some dastardly governmental skulduggery kicks things up a notch and you have to get all political on proceedings.
What makes this so enjoyable is that there’s both a cheerful innocence – lead character Estelle is a wide-eyed but boisterous 16-year-old – that happily defies the gritty cynicism and potty-mouthed warfare of so many current games, and yet an emotive tone that manages to steer clear of overly emo whining. And while the characters do have a tendency to blather on to a sometimes irritating extent, all the exposition means that, by the time the muck does hit the propeller, you’re likely to be invested.
It’s also nicely balanced in gameplay terms. You can speed through battles using basic attacks and spells, but in tougher confrontations (and to actually get the most out of it) there’s a good risk/reward mechanic that enables you to make more tactical use of the range of options available. Getting your ideal setup of spells and abilities is more mystifying than it needs to be, but it certainly empowers you.
Barring a couple of typical RPG problems, this is an excellent slice of nostalgic adventuring – and a handheld game almost worth tearing yourself away from the current slew of blockbusters for. High praise indeed.