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Trails in the Sky, First Chapter Review

Trails in the Sky, First Chapter is a bit of an anomaly for my game reviews. For one, it’s not an otome game. In fact, it’s a normal, full-fledged old-school style RPG.

It was first released in America five years ago for the Playstation Portable. (Japan was in 2004) Since then, it’s appeared on the Steam store for PCs and through the PlayStation Network you can also play it on your PS3, PS4, and Vita gaming systems. The Second Chapter was released in October of 2015. I decided to go ahead and start the first game (I bought it when it came out and got about halfway though, then heard it ends on a cliffhanger, and didn’t want to finish it until the second game was out) and finish it now that the next game is out.

The games are known for their fantastic stories and fleshed out worlds. Basically, the “amazing games that would never come over” due to the fact that they’re extremely text heavy. How text heavy?

 

Pretty amazing, huh? So thank you, XSEED, for bringing this over and giving me one of the best gaming experiences I’ve had in my adult life.

And that little comment about the “NPC dialogue” not being included? Well, what makes these games so great is that the NPC dialogue constantly changes. In most RPGs, the NPCs have the same dialogue over and over no matter what is happening. NPC dialogue in these games changes with the plot and depending on what party members you have with you. Not only that, but you see those three books? Many NPCs stay the same from one game to another and they have their own character arcs and stories. Plus, during gameplay you find books, collect the world’s newspaper (there’s several editions and they comment on and give additional tidbits on aspects of the plot), and write in your notebook. It’s all translated. Find a book? You’ll find a short story inside. See a book on the shelf? You will have a good few minutes of reading that book. And it’s all optional. All of this is optional. But it’s there. And if you’re a player who enjoys immersing yourself into a world, this is the game to play.

The saga of translating the second game (SC on the image) is almost novel-worthy in and of itself. (I know, I know, Kotaku, but if you can get past the overly dramatic writing, you can see that it was still a rather horrible ordeal for the staff charged with bringing it to us.) But I’m getting ahead of myself, this is about the First Chapter, not the sequel.

And did I mention that the lead character is female? She’s a powerful member of your party that can be a mage, attacker, healer, and any hybrid of the three. She’s the only one that’s not assigned a specific element and that means she’s a blank slate for your party. She is anything and everything and she kicks ass while doing it.

So that’s why I, a person who reviews books and visual novel games, felt like it was appropriate to include on this site of romance reviews.

And yes, there is romance. It’s not the forefront of the plot, but many of my all-time favorite romances don’t have romance as the forefront of the plot.

Despite having the text density of a visual novel, this is a full-fledged RPG. If you like RPGs in general, you should play this game. There are reviews everywhere covering the game aspects and I’ll let them cover that. I have nothing to add to what’s already been said. Instead, in theme with this site, I’ll talk about the two leads, Estelle and Joshua Bright, and their relationship.

Whoa, whoa, don’t look at me like that. This is not one of those stories, and it’s not one of those teehee almost-not-quite stories either.

The reason Estelle and Joshua share the same last name is because Estelle’s father brought him in as one of his own when they were preteens. Estelle doesn’t talk to Joshua about his past, because they agreed that when Joshua was ready, he would tell her about it. The game hints at it from the get-go, and by the finale we’re knee deep in Joshua’s past catching up to him.

Estelle and Joshua are the typical RPG leads reversed and it’s a refreshing take on things. Estelle is the headstrong, stubborn, cocky, and at times immature lead. Joshua is reasonable, somewhat reserved, quick-witted and patient foil. And you know what? That simple change works. It makes the game fun. They play off well with each other. We understand from the first few conversations that they are extremely close. (Speaking of fun, don’t get me started on the side character Olivier…. he must be experienced. Mere words cannot do the man justice)

Estelle is sixteen years old. She’s portrayed accurate to her age. That is a big thing for me, because I don’t really like stories that portray teens as adults. She may seem bratty and immature at times. That’s okay. She matures as the story goes on, as she and Joshua travel the world, and as she meets new people and goes through different things. The second half where Estelle is a jumble of confused feelings makes for good comedic moments (and poor Joshua, at that!)

Joshua is interesting in that his characterization is more subtle. He knows more than what we’re treated to, and he seems to have moments where he struggles during the second half because hes realizing where all this leads. He’s not dynamic as Estelle, but with him you really have to read between the lines of what the plot is telling us. The way the game notes that he paused or is thinking after certain things are said, the way he acts when certain people show up, those little things. I’m actually envious of games because it’s something you can do easily with a text box and not so much in a novel form, hahaha.

There are points where veteran romance readers might say, “Grow up, Estelle!” especially in the first two chapters whenever the possibility of a romance between her and Joshua is discussed. But remember, she’s only sixteen and not only is she still a teenager, she was a tomboy growing up and the thought of romance hasn’t really crossed her mind. But their little talks do bring it up, and she struggles to work through her feelings as she realizes that the love she has for Joshua isn’t a sibling love, but a romantic one. The last chapter has several great scenes and moments between them. I use the word moments because as us “shippers” know, it’s not the plot itself, its those moments that mean the most (and are the best!)

The ending? Let’s just say that it will make you love their story even more. It made me cry, I admit. The cloying sweetness of the scene was tainted by the most bitter of ends (okay, I’ll stop channeling Olivier now 😉 It’s not over yet, and the promise of what’s to come, the trials that Estelle will go through, all of it will make for a riveting end to the story.

So there we have it, my love letter to this game and its world. If you like games in general, if you like RPGs, if you like romance, any of those things, you need to play this game.

 

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