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Game Info:

The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky the 3rd 
Developed By: Nihon Falcom/XSEED Games
Published By: XSEED Games
Release Date: May 3rd, 2017
Available On: PC
ESRB Rating: N/A
Genre: RPG
Mode: Single Player
MSRP: $29.99
(Humble Store Link)

Thank you XSEED Games for sending us this game to review!

The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky the 3rd is the third game in the long running Trails series from Nihon Falcom, which has been expertly localized by XSEED Games. The series is soon to release its eighth entry in Japan, and currently there are five here in the West. Like all other entries, this series is unique in that each game follows on from the previous entries as direct sequels, in this case taking place about six months after the events of Trails in the Sky SC.

During the development of Trails to Zero, they realized that a large amount of necessary backstory had not yet been filled out, so this game was put together to fill out those gaps. There are several plot points started here that are expounded upon both in Zero/Azure (which are not yet in English), and in Trails of Cold Steel and Cold Steel II. In many ways, this is the connecting point between the original Sky/SC games and the rest of the series; this game plays a special role in the storytelling as a result.

If it's not already obvious, <b>do not play this game before completing Trails in the Sky and Trails in the Sky SC!</b> While Trails to Zero and Trails of Cold Steel are good entry points into the series as they are somewhat self contained, this game is probably the worst entry point possible, as it not only massively spoils the previous two games, but it expects you to know who the characters are, and puts absolutely no effort whatsoever in introducing you to them.

Given this, I highly recommend you start with the first chapter, Trails in the Sky, which has two reviews, here and here. If you would like to know more about the series as a whole, our review for SC is also here. From here on out I expect you to have already played Trails in the Sky and Trails in the Sky SC, or at least read those reviews.

The game engine is for all practical purposes identical to the other two Trails in the Sky games, so the general world vs. battle systems, as well as the top down overhead view, are all the same. The graphics are as well. Even the menus are basically identical, with updated portraits making the newer games noticeably different. One major change is the addition of new turn bonuses during combat. These include 'rush', 'guard', 'vanish', and 'death'. These turn bonuses allow two attacks in a row, no damage, disappearing for a turn on a hit, and instant death on a hit respectively.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky the 3rd
Highlights:

Strong Points: Continued excellent world building, storyline, and especially character development; you get to see the new protagonists, Kevin (from SC) and Reis's relationship develop; fun battle system; fantastic music; does a wonderful job of growing and extending the story behind most of Trails in the Sky's character roster; occasionally hilarious dialog
Weak Points: You must play Trails in the Sky and SC before playing this; many of the dungeons are reused set pieces
Moral Warnings: Cartoon violence, with occasional spurting blood; Some swearing, including 'd*mn', 'h*ll', '*ss', 'b*st*rd', 'b*tch', 'sh*t'; Alcohol use shown; at least one character is bisexual, and some of their lines are loaded with innuendo; at least one female shows off significant cleavage; some monsters are naked statues; priest character is hit on by a married woman; lots of discussion around the fictional religion based loosely on Catholicism, with the Goddess Aidios, including passages from the Testaments; their version of hell is called Gehenna (a Hebrew word used for hell) and is discussed often, including that sinners go there and become fiends; various devils from the Testaments are also present; one attack has the shape of a pentagram; one scene near the end of the game is incredibly disturbing, as it details a young girl's life and eventual escape from a child prostitution ring

In 3rd, the main protagonist is Kevin, the green spiky haired priest who debuted in SC. The game begins with you on a solo mission to retrieve an illegal artifact, which is a magical item from ages past. Their exact origins are unknown – but each one has powerful effects that modern orbal science cannot explain. One of the Septian Church's roles in this world is to catalog and collect these artifacts, as their powers can be very unusual and dangerous.

His main role in the Church is to find these artifacts, and this leads to him working with the government of Liberl who found an unusual box in the remains of the calamity that happened at the end of Trails SC. It flashed with an unusual power, which is why he was called in. Once it is in his possession, he, and his squire Ries, are strangely sucked into another dimension of sorts, where the rest of the game takes place.

In this dimension there are various planes, each of which takes place in a unique realm, which is awfully difficult to explain too much without major spoilers. But the main gist of it is that some are otherworldly places not too different from the Tetracyclic Towers in previous games, while others are seemingly based in the reality they are quite familiar with.

As you go through the game, much of the fun is finding and unlocking pretty much every playable character from Trails in the Sky SC at some point. Each reunion is fun and in some cases heartfelt, as many dearly miss their old friends and comrades. And while the main scenario of the game is interesting, what really opens up the storytelling of the game are the Sun, Moon, and Star Doors.

These Doors are each an independent story, with five Sun Doors, five Moon Doors, and fifteen Star Doors, for a total of twenty five side stories. The Sun Doors are mini games, with a bit less storytelling but more action (though they generally have great rewards). The Moon and Star Doors are all memories, with some taking place shortly before current events, with others many years prior.

The Moon Doors are long side stories, that in some cases are more than an hour long. These go deep into the history of one or more characters, and take place far into the past in some cases. Star Doors are much shorter, sometimes on the order of just a few minutes, but they are often packed with useful or interesting information and backstory.

The Doors are quite simply fantastic. You have a unique way of getting to know each and every one of these characters in a way that normally would be impossible. This series, Trails, has always excelled in telling stories, and helping you come to know and love each and every character, player or otherwise. But these Doors – they managed to surpass even my wildest expectations.

I think the reason for this is that because of their format, they do not have to squeeze these stories into some overarching narrative, so they can tell exactly the stories that they want to. For example, they don't have to make some excuse to get Kloe to tell her story, or get Schera to tell hers, or get Agate and Tita to spill the beans on theirs – you bring the needed characters to the gate, and it reveals the memories before your eyes. It's a device that might not work for every game, but it works here – to great effect. I kind of hope they do something like this again, so that we can learn even more about some of the newer characters in the Legend of Heroes universe.

It must be said that one of the Star Doors, number fifteen, is incredibly agonizing in the way that it tells the story there. Here, you have a child who lives through some of the most inhuman torture possible – she is sold to a prostitution ring – and you see her mental anguish and how she deals with it... and how she is rescued, including a side profile of her injured naked body. It's grotesque and would stun even the most callous adult. I understand why this is there because it fills in the backstory of a particularly damaged young person... but be advised this scene should be kept from anyone not old enough to handle such a shock. This scene was censored significantly from the Japanese PSP release because of the graphic content (not visually, necessarily, but storytelling-wise.)

All of the other Door stories are positive, fun, or intriguing. Some have excessive alcohol consumption, a few have some swearing, and some set up powerful enemies for future titles, but none come even close to the nasty depravity of Star Door fifteen. You find this Door in a place called Gehenna – the Hebrew word for Hell, as it were – which is most certainly appropriate. It is also the last door found near the end of the game.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky the 3rd
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 94%
Gameplay - 19/20
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 10/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 49%
Violence - 7/10
Language - 4.5/10
Sexual Content - 4/10
Occult/Supernatural - 5/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 4/10

Other appropriateness issues include language, with words like 'd*mn', 'h*ll', '*ss', 'b*st*rd', 'b*tch', and 'sh*t'. There are minor blood sprays and such, but mostly just simple RPG violence, where you see a character or spell hit another. There is alcohol and tobacco use. Like in previous games, Estelle and Joshua are both adopted brother/sister and boyfriend/girlfriend, but that is water under the bridge at this point.

Olivier is still as obsessed with beauty as ever, and he still is as bisexual as ever as well. His jokes about passionate love with various characters, male and female included, continue in this installment. Other characters seem to consider situations 'romantic', even if there is not both a boy and a girl present. Another makes a comment that two girls look cute together, even if they understand that a man may come between them someday. One woman wears revealing outfits, and one enemy is basically a naked female statue.

Kevin, our main man priest, is mostly very kind, but his language can be a bit coarse at times, like how he throws 'd*mn' and 'h*ll' around when he is angry, and he is a bit more casual than you might expect a priest to be. He lamented that he couldn't help out a woman whose husband wasn't 'meeting her needs' that hit on him. Thankfully, his cheesy pickup lines from SC are toned down a lot in this game, as he already knows almost everyone. Him and his close friend Ries grow a lot as characters, and it's great to see. I hope we see more of them in future Trails games.

The spiritual aspects of the game universe are much more on display in this game, which is not too surprising considering our main heroes are from the Septian Church. There is much more discussion about the Sept-Terrions, which were gifts from the goddess Aidios. Aidios is very similar to our Christian God, with Catholic-like traditions, including even a Pope, Bishops, and a holy city (which in this case is Arteria rather than Rome). There is the occasional quotation from the Testaments, which is presumably reminiscent of the Bible, though they were not recognizable as Scripture to us Earth-types. One attack looks like a pentagram when used.

Many of the enemies resemble various demonic or even angelic creatures, and some of them are explained in game as being right out of their Testaments. As previously mentioned, Gehenna is their Hell, and there are dead sinners and demons there, which you have to fight in some cases. Also, as souls die there, over time they become Grimiores, which are a strange type of enemy in this game.

Graphically, this game is nearly identical to the previous games; it has a nice art style and has aged well, but you can definitely tell it is dated. After all, the game was originally released in 2007 in Japan, using a modified engine from 2004 or so. Musically, it's simply fantastic. This game may have the best soundtrack yet, and that is saying something. Their sound team deserves the highest accolades. There are voices in battle, but that is all. They are serviceable.

Just before I completed this game to write this review, XSEED Games released Trails of Cold Steel on PC. As a result, they backported some of the new features from that release to these older games. The biggest notable new feature has to be Turbo mode, where you can make the game go much faster at the press of a button. While I would discourage you from using this on a first playthrough, it does help a lot during grinding. I was able to complete 300 runaway battles for a certain achievement in less than 30 minutes thanks to this awesome feature. It would have taken a few hours otherwise. I played the first seventy hours without this feature, and the last ten or so with it. It was definitely handy, and I probably shaved off between five to ten hours with it, I would discourage its use unless you simply won't play this game otherwise, as there is a certain joy to playing a good game at a more leisurely pace.

Every new Legend of Heroes game I play is somehow better than the last in some way. While Trails in the Sky SC is probably the most epic game in the Sky trilogy, 3rd has managed to blow me away with an incredibly satisfying conclusion to this fantastic trilogy. If you played through SC and always felt like you wanted 'one more game!' with your favorite cast of characters, then you aren't alone – this game definitely delivers on that. For players of Trails in the Sky SC, this game is practically an automatic recommendation. If you are considering this series for younger players, please consider the content listed in all three reviews as a whole before making that decision. Let me assure you of one thing: once someone plays through Trails in the Sky, SC and 3rd are more an issue of when, not if. Lord willing, of course.

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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