The Crossbell duology is among the most beloved games in the long-running Trails series from Nihon Falcom. For many years, fans clamored for an official release outside Japan for The Legend of Heroes: Zero no Kiseki and Ao no Kiseki. 2022 marks another pivotal year for Trails as The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero finally releases in the west thanks to The Geofront, NIS America, and Falcom. The JRPG is an instant classic with critical worldbuilding for events in subsequent Trails series. The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero is a very newcomer-friendly JRPG for those interested in checking out Crossbell as well.
A State Destined for Turmoil
Three months after the events of Trails in the Sky 3rd, the series turns its attention to the state of Crossbell and protagonist Lloyd Bannings. Lloyd dreams of leading a team of four into mysterious ruins before being woken up by a young girl’s voice. Lloyd is on the train ride back to Crossbell after spending three years of his life in Calvard, a bordering nation. An elderly couple is curious about Lloyd and gives him some lemonade as he reminisces about his time away from home. After departing the train and making some new friends, he heads toward Crossbell Police Department.
Lloyd joins the CPD to follow in the footsteps of detective Guy Bannings, Lloyd’s deceased brother. However, he’s filled with uncertainty regarding his assignment for the Special Support Section, a new division of the CPD. Lloyd checks in with CPD receptionist Fran Seeker, but she’s completely unaware about the new division. Chief Sergei Lou enters the room and tells Fran that Lloyd is the newest recruit in the force. Afterwards, Lloyd meets fellow SSS members Elie MacDowell, Randy Orlando, and Tio Plato. The SSS comes together to adapt and face challenges that would shape the future of Crossbell and the Trails series.
The Signature Trails Experience
The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero retains the simple turn-based gameplay system the series is known for. JRPG veterans and newcomers alike can dive right in and easily adjust to the unique features of Trails such as arts, crafts, and the quartz system. Each art and craft inflicts a certain amount of delay before the character may act again. The player may hasten a character’s next move with certain arts and crafts, but the enemy may do the same and retaliate. Upgrading and equipping quartz benefits the party greatly, and the quartz system acts as a conduit for gaining more arts to use in combat. The combat system is really addictive and caters to the “pick-up and play” nature of the Nintendo Switch.
An immersive experience awaits in Crossbell as the SSS embarks on a number of intriguing cases to earn the respect of the state’s people. These cases help the team bond together and uncover the darkest secrets of Crossbell. The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero’s excellent use of foreshadowing is another key component to delivering an engaging story. Additionally, side quests and optional content such as fishing, cooking, and mini-games are available with rewards to chase after. Decisions made in side quests and completion contribute toward Lloyd’s detective rank. Useful rewards are obtained by climbing the ranks as a detective. Furthermore, achievements are earned throughout the course of the game. Achievements are key to unlocking new game plus related features and extras.
Nintendo Switch | PC vs PlayStation 4
The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero for Nintendo Switch and PC (Steam) features improved textures, assets UI, and many more quality-of-life improvements. In fact, the new release for Switch and PC is akin to an enhanced remaster rather than a one-to-one port. These enhancements were developed by Peter “Durante” Thoman. The PlayStation 4 of The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero does not feature additional improvements developed by Durante. Instead, the PS4 version is consistent with the original Japanese release of The Legend of Heroes: Zero no Kiseki Kai from 2020. No additional work from other developers has been made to the PS4 version, so it’s worth noting. Unlike prior Trails releases, English voice acting is not present in the western release. Aside from a few localization errors within game text, the Switch and PC versions are clear winners.
From Zero to Hero
From a doubtful rookie to a confident team leader, Lloyd learns about his past and leads the SSS to success. Lloyd, Randy, Elie, and Tio learn to depend on each other and conquer a serious threat to Crossbell society. Throughout the journey, the SSS gains really valuable allies that will play key roles in the next game. The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero ends on a really positive note while setting up the sequel beautifully. The ending makes new game plus even more enticing since players can go through the story with additional context. New game plus is a great opportunity to play through missed side quests, take advantage of extras, and unlock more achievements.
Breaking Through Barriers
The Trails in the Sky trilogy sets strong expectations leading up to The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero with addictive gameplay, worthwhile content, and a strong narrative. The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero delivers emphatically on all fronts as a truly great RPG with very few downsides. It’s another well-written story by Falcom that pulls on heartstrings and brings excitement until the end credits. The game builds meaningful relationships between its main characters in the first half of the Crossbell duology, setting up the foundation for The Legend of Heroes: Trails to Azure and beyond. At the same time, the game ties up some loose ends from Trails in the Sky 3rd and contributes to an overarching narrative that Trails explores for many games.
Whether having started out with Trails of Cold Steel or trying the series out for the very first time, The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero does not disappoint. Playing through the Trails in the Sky trilogy is still recommended before diving into Crossbell, but The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero may serve as a great entry point into the series too. 2023 appears to be a promising year for the Trails series, and the pace for Trails releases in the west should pick up.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero releases September 27 for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PC via Steam in the west.
Disclaimer: NIS America provided Final Weapon with a review copy of The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero for Nintendo Switch.