- Updated on March 25, 2023

This March has become a milestone for fans of the cult Japanese RPG series Legend of Heroes. First, The Legend of Heroes: Kuro no Kiseki, the first game of the Kalvard Republic arc, was released on Steam. Secondly, in March, the world premiere of Trails to Azure, which completes the Crossbell arc, took place – the game appeared on PC, PS4 and Switch in the form of a remaster, and before that it was only available on PSP and Vita. And finally, today, March 24, the first full-fledged franchise anime in many years, Legend of Heroes: Traces of Cold Steel – Northern War, ended.

A full review of Kuro no Kiseki will be published after the release of the English version (on Steam now Asian) – it has not yet been announced, but NIS America and Nihon Falcom are unlikely to ignore the army of English-speaking fans. But let’s talk about Trails to Azure and anime now.

New faces, old worries

The Legend of Heroes: Trails to Azure, as I said, completes the events of the arc about the city-state of Crossbell. The game continues the story of Trails from Zero, which I have already talked about. There we ran the Special Support Section (SSS) police squad, designed to restore people’s faith in law enforcement officers. The role of the leader in it is played by a young detective Lloyd Bennings.

Lloyd, along with his co-workers – Eli, Randy and Tio – helped the inhabitants of the city in solving their pressing problems and tried to resolve conflicts between street gangs. But in the end, they found themselves in the center of large-scale events that influenced the fate of Crossbell, faced the mafia and the secret powerful organization Ouroboros, and also investigated the activities of a vile cult that did not shun experiments on children.

Trails to Azure events kick off right off the bat. In the secret lair of the sectarians, we pursue one of the main villains of the last part, fight a huge demon, and then return to Crossbell, where the activities of the disbanded SSS squad are resumed.

True, the places of Randy and Tio, who, by the will of fate, were temporarily outside the squad, are occupied by new ones. Although as “newcomers” – We met Wazy Hemisphere in Trails from Zero as the leader of one of the street gangs, and now he is a full member of the Special Support Section. He, Lloyd, and Eli were accompanied by National Guard Major Noel Seeker.

Game characters trailer.

Randy and Tio also flicker somewhere in the background, and everyone understands that they will return, but it was with the appearance of Vazy and Noel that the SSS team acquired a finished look and became more vivid, interesting in terms of character development. The charismatic Weisy stands out in particular, bringing the romantic lines to life and making the local humor more ridiculous. Yes, and Lloyd became more alive, or something.

100 hours of fun

The writers have skillfully woven into the narrative both old acquaintances and new characters who play important roles in the next arc – Trails of Cold Steel. Moreover, in the remaster, thanks to point additions like the appearance of Tova Herschel and Yuna Crawford, the connection between the events of Trails to Azure and the next games in the series (and these events unfold in places in parallel) feels even stronger – this is an almost perfect example of how to harmoniously transition from one story arc to another.

In the plot itself, not everything is perfect and harmonious. Initially, it was supposed to be a trilogy, but in the end, two games were actually shoved into Trails to Azure. As in the case of the equally oversaturated God of War: Ragnarök, this has led to the fact that the pace is not always consistent. In addition, there are many races in the same locations.

But in general, it was Trails to Azure at the time of its release that became the pinnacle of screenwriting within the series. Compared to Trails from Zero, the events are more dynamic and eventful – here you will find street fights, spy games, confrontation with terrorists, and participation in trade conferences. And at the same time, we got even more scale – the passage can easily gobble up 100 hours. At the same time, the dirty politics branded for the series, twisted in this case around the struggle for Crossbell’s independence from the Erebonia Empire, came to the fore.

Anime is on topic too.

And in this sense, it is very good that the release of the Trails to Azure remaster fell just at the premiere of the final episodes of the anime Legend of Heroes: Traces of Cold Steel – Northern War, which started in January. There, too, we are talking about the struggle for independence (no longer Crossbell, but Northern Ambria), which resulted in the Northern War – it was between the second and third parts of Trails of Cold Steel.

As in Trails to Azure, we see political squabbles – intrigues, intrigues, conspiracies and the poisonous influence of secret puppeteers from Ouroboros. And in the 11th episode there is even a small cameo by Lloyd Bennings, who expresses the hope that in Ambria, as in Crossbell, there will be those who can stand up for the independence of their homeland.

And they are. At the center of the anime is a completely new protagonist – Lavian Winslet, the granddaughter of the hero of Northern Ambria, who was accused of betrayal and actually renounced his mission. Apparently, wanting to correct the mistakes of his grandfather, Lavi enrolls in the corps of rangers who guard the country and tries to be useful.

In fact, initially the anime does not make much impression – the scriptwriters are rather slow to harness, and the picture and staging of the battle scenes do not stand out in any way. Anime based on NieR: Automata, which is also being released now, looks advantageous in this sense. Only the image of Lavi herself catches on, in which detachment and pain are felt, caused by personal drama and the stigma that her grandfather received.

But in the end, the anime is captivating. And with the betrayal of the grandfather, and with the struggle for independence, and with the huntsmen themselves, everything is not so simple. There was a place for backstabs, political assassinations, and intriguing meetings with Rin Schwarzer, the protagonist of the Trails of Cold Steel arc.

And Lavi is changing and developing before our eyes – she goes from a selfish and harsh lone heroine to a real people’s leader who, like the same Lloyd Bennings, thinks first of all about those in need.

Opening anime.

Yes, it sounds a little hackneyed, but it looks quite harmonious. This emphasis on the personal experiences of the heroine, who found herself at the center of a large-scale and intricate political quarrel, saves the anime, based on which a mobile game is already being developed.

The perfect remaster?

As you already understood, the main thing in any The Legend of Heroes is the world, the plot, the characters and their stories. And the gameplay always remains more or less similar and quite familiar to JRPGs – communication, quests, traveling around the map, building relationships, turn-based battles, powerful joint attacks, grinding and running around locations where you can stun monsters from the back to get the right of the first move.

One of the joint combo attacks.

One of the joint combo attacks.

Trails to Azure has changed little in terms of gameplay compared to Trails from Zero. We still run around the many districts of Crossbell, collect and turn in quests through the SSS terminal, which allows us to earn not only money, but also detective points – they increase our rank and unlock bonuses.

And still, orbments and quartzes play an important role – special stones that are inserted into the Enigma device, raising attack, defense, health, evasion, and so on.

The main innovation was Enigma-2, where master quartz was allowed to be installed – they are gradually pumped over, give an increase in characteristics and, as a result, open access to some kind of ultra-powerful spell.

In especially important plot segments, the Burst Attack mechanic becomes available. With successful tricks, we accumulate rage (when receiving damage, the indicator, on the contrary, decreases), which then results in a state where you go out of turn, remove all negative effects from yourself, interrupt enemy spells, and create your own for free. All this is balanced by the fact that in general the game has become more difficult. In particular, now the enemies that caught you off guard are not just the first to start their turn, but attack from different sides.

Finally, there are new mini-games (including an analogue of Tetris), import of saves from Trails from Zero, which, among other things, changes some dialogues, and the ability to travel between regions by car – it is allowed to tune and upgrade it.

And, of course, it pleases how high-quality the remaster turned out on the PC. This applies not only to the updated graphics, which have become even more lamp and soft – the controls are perfectly adapted, the number of save slots has been increased, and you can even track the progress of building relationships with characters in the achievements menu.

Yes, the long-awaited western release of The Legend of Heroes: Trails to Azure is exceptionally pleasing – the remaster turned out to be almost perfect. And in general, for fans of the series, now is golden times – you can watch the entire first season of the Northern War anime and play the updated Trails to Azure for hours. One can only hope that the release of the Western version of Kuro no Kiseki will not have to wait many years.

Pros: fascinating, multifaceted and truly epic story; the characters have become even more charismatic, developed and alive; in the remaster, you can see more heroes from other games in the series; important additions to the combat system; The remaster is almost perfect from a technical point of view.

Cons: As the difficulty increased, so did the importance of the grind; many races in the same locations.

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