The Crossbell criminal justice system has two distinct, but equally important, representations: the police who are hated by everyone and the government who are more corrupt than any backwoods lawyer. These are their stories.
The Legend of Heroes - Trails from Zero (PC and PS4 [reviewed], Nintendo Switch] Developer: Falcom Publisher : NIS America Publication: September 27, 2022 MSRP $39.99 (Digital)/ $49.99 (Physical).
Crossbell is caught in a tight spot. Crossbell is in a tight spot after years of conflict between the Republic and Imperial factions over control of the vital Zemurian land. The state became independent years ago and has experienced a boom in economic prosperity, which is helping to transform the city into an economically vibrant metropolis. The state is thriving because of Orbal energy, which is being used by several large corporations and organizations.
There is more to the facade than meets the eye. These politicians, claiming to be independent, are only puppets of the territories surrounding this area that once waged war on this land. The police in Crossbell City are unable to deal with the organized crime that has taken over the city. This will require a new way of thinking and a different kind of officer to clean up the streets. Enter Lloyd Bannings, the Special Support Section.
The Legend of Heroes Trails from Zero lets you play Lloyd and his team of sorta-cops. They investigate a number of cases in Crossbell City and the surrounding area, fighting street gangs and monsters, as well as corrupt characters. The Special Support Section was initially a publicity stunt to generate goodwill for the department. The joke that 911 is in this town is because the public has become apathetic towards law enforcement. The Bracers, an international mercenary organization, is where most people turn for help. These SSS are not expected to do anything of significance, but they allow people to work on their cases as they see fit.
Each chapter plays out as an episode in an old police serial. Your superior officer will give you a case. You will search for clues and interrogate witnesses to find out the truth. The big reveal is at the end of each chapter. Sometimes, there is even a twist added for good measure. This is a smart move. It kept me engaged even though I was in the middle of a long, tedious cutscene. This game is full of dialogue.
Know your strengths and weak points
You will be asked to fight monsters in most cases, regardless of whether they are the central investigation of the chapter or side-cases requested by local citizens. Trails from Zero uses a grid-based, turn based combat system that places great importance on character position. Each member of the Special Support Section has different abilities and weapons that can be used in battle. Lloyd is a close-quarters brawler who has a limited range and movement. Randy Orlando needs to be close enough to his enemies to strike them, but can also travel great distances to do so. Elie MacDowell has a pistol that can kill enemies from far away, while the scientist staff with Tio Plato can be a few paces behind Lloyd and Randy while still hitting their opponents.
For several reasons, positioning is crucial. First, if Lloyd and Tio are too far from a foe, you can select their standard attack. They'll move to the nearest spot, leaving them vulnerable for damage. Many of the monsters that you will face can inflict severe injuries on anyone around them. There is a chance that an enemy will be knocked back by a standard attack. This means that the enemy may have to travel further to strike back at your team. However, this could allow them to escape the zone of attack of your arts and crafts.
Arts are the game's magic system. The type of arts available to each character depends on which quartz pieces are assigned. You'll find seven types of septium as you fight enemies and look through chests, which always have a funny note inside. This can be sold to purchase new armor and weapons, or it can be refined into quartz that can then go in the weapon of each character. Quartz will grant your party members access the elemental arts. The more quartz of a particular elemental type you assign to a character, then the stronger their arts will be. Arts are not required to be moved by your party members, unlike standard attacks. This is great for fighting more explosive monsters.
Crafts are another type of attack that you have at your disposal. They are character-specific and can be unlocked as your team levels up. In battle, characters earn craft points that can be used to assist and craft smaller craft attacks or for crafting large-scale S-Break Crafts. You'll find Combo Crafts as you progress through the story. These require that two of your party members have at least 100 craft point saved. Trails from Zero makes it easy to save craft points.
High-Speed Mode is essential
It's not generous with experience points. I was not impressed with the XP levels earned throughout the game. I would fight a mid-boss who'd give me nothing, but then fight grunts who gave my team experience. Although it makes grinding difficult, the high-speed mode, along with some frequent Team Rush attacks can help you clear large areas quickly and buoy your party for the final chapter.
Trails from Zero is well worth the effort. This is a well-written, well-located game that has themes that are very common today. The story's central theme is justice and its application. This may be the most important topic in 2022. As characters talked about broken systems, and faith failings, I found myself nodding in agreement several times. Although I may have outgrown some characters, such as Randy Orlando's horndog persona and Randy Orlando's horndog personas, the story of a long-lost PSP name resonated with me beyond that.
This game is a tribute to the PSP. Trails of Zero's menus look as if they were made for a smaller piece of hardware. It also doesn't appear to have seen any significant improvements in graphics since the switch to the PS4. It's also embarrassing because characters often stop and take in the beauty of the world around them. It's just not impressive with all the low-resolution textures. If you can't tell if there are flowers in the field, it's difficult to be captured by a field of flowers. A lack of vibrancy in the color palette is another problem.
Switch|PC > PS4
Although I had only access to the PS4 version, I was mistakenly thinking that it would be visually superior than the other two options. However, Switch and PC are the best versions of this game. The Mako Reactor has a great article that explains the differences between the versions. When you look at the list, it's easy to believe that PS4 users are being taken advantage of.
Although I have owned Legend of Heroes titles over the years, I never tried them out. However, I am glad that I finally got to play this title. Trails from Zero is a fun and welcoming RPG that features a host of beloved characters. This and the 2023 sequel Trails to Azure, which will be available in 2023, are great for Trails fans. Trails from Zero is a great place to start if you're interested in this niche series.
[This review is based upon a retail version of the game that was provided by the publisher.]
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