Finally, in September 2022, NIS America localized The Legend of Heroes: Traces of Zero for an international audience. The game was originally released in Japan back in 2010. Now NIS America has also localized its direct sequel, Traces to Azure.
Traces to Azure was first released in Japan in 2011, and both Zero And azure are known as crossbell duology. Both games have official international releases, which is noteworthy for fans since the other games in the series, like the Sky trilogy and the Cold Steel saga, all have events connected to those in Crossbell. With both games readily available, fans in the West now have a complete picture of them hiking trails series so far.
Traces to Azure is an incredible RPG filled with a politically rambling plot and amazing characters. Its gameplay is largely unchanged Zero‘s, but the turn-based combat is still incredibly engaging and has a few new additions to keep it feeling fresh.
Image via NIS America
The Azure Path
The story follows a group called the Special Support Section, an offshoot of the Crossbell Police Department, led by rookie detective Lloyd Bannings. It takes place a few months after the events of traces of zerowhere SSS defeated an occult leader and saved Crossbell from doom.
Lloyd and his comrades now take care of a young girl with mysterious powers named KeA, and there are forces in the shadows trying to use her abilities for their own nefarious ends. At the same time, Crossbell is also a city-state trying to claim its own independence from two other powerful nations: the Erebonian Empire and the Calvard Republic. It’s a bustling city with an incredible economy, making it a highly desirable location.
With Crossbell’s independence at stake, there’s no telling what various factions will resort to to either keep the city-state independent or annex it. The world structure in hiking trails Series is one of the best in any RPG series. The extreme measures that Erebonia and Calvard vie for control of Crossbell are deeply compelling, using various tactics ranging from subtle threats like deploying their own militaries to outright sabotage like terrorist attacks. It’s hard not to get invested.
The game also makes Crossbell appear like a real, inhabited town with its various side quests. These side quests are a staple of the hiking trails Series and tell memorable stories about the residents of the city, one in particular about the son of an influential personality and how his sheltered upbringing led to his social heyday, is particularly memorable for me.
Many of these side quests are optional, but they’re worth taking the time to experience. You’ll see more vulnerable sides of the SSS while earning rewards like stronger gear for your party or rare items. It’s amazing to see how Falcom has put so much care and attention to detail into the world of the game, not just the main storyline but the side activities as well.
Image via NIS America
Don’t fix what isn’t broken
Traces to Azure features a turn-based combat system in which characters have a variety of different combat options such as: B. Use special attacks or cast spells. Each special attack has a specific range, e.g. B. a large area of effect, a straight line or a single target. They all also have different attributes, including encumbering status effects, a higher chance of interrupting spellcasting, and healing HP.
You can also customize each character with crystals called Quartz, which give them new spells and abilities. For example, you can take advantage of the counterattack mechanic. If an enemy misses an attack, your character can retaliate if they are in range, and you can do so more often if you have an Evasion-Boosting Quartz equipped.
The sheer amount of customization and variety within the Quartz system and each character’s special attacks keep combat from getting boring.
The gameplay is largely unchanged traces of zero, but there are a few new aspects. There’s the burst meter, which works similarly to Trails of Cold Steel II‘s overdrive mechanics.
Once the burst meter is full you can activate it and it will give your party an attack boost and make casting instantaneous. It’s a wonderful system that allows you to apply the offensive pressure to the enemy. The main problem is that it’s only available during story dungeons and crucial moments in the plot. I wish it was more readily available throughout the game.
In Zero, most of the game only had four available party members: Lloyd, Elie MacDowell, Tio Plato, and Randy Orlando. Elie is the granddaughter of the influential Henry MacDowell, who is Crossbell’s government spokesman, while Randy is a former mercenary. Tio is an intelligent gifted girl. The thrown-together nature of each of the characters helped create a charming cast of heroes Zero.
However, the main cast of SSS has been expanded to include new characters such as Wazy Hemisphere, the leader of a criminal group called Testaments, and Noel Seeker, a member of the Crossbell Defense Force.
These new SSS members give a fresh makeover to the overall party composition as you are not forced to use the same four characters as in Zero. Characters on the sidelines can also join the fight, occasionally stepping in and either applying status buffs to the party or unleashing a support attack on enemies.
ZeroThe gameplay of was already excellent, but Falcom managed to find smaller ways to make Azure more engaging, making it feel like playing a proper sequel.
Image via NIS America
azureThe biggest problem of is its presentation. Being a PlayStation Portable game from 2011, the graphics aren’t the best, especially when blown up on the big screen. The textures look blurry and just not very pleasant to look at. There are also some concerns about the PlayStation 4 version of the game.
With traces of zero, NISA didn’t apply any of the graphical improvements and quality of life changes like a text log to the PS4 version, only the Switch and PC versions. The same applies azure. The most likely explanation for this is that the PS4 versions of Zero And azure already exist in Japan, while the Switch and PC versions are brand new ports.
That’s disappointing too azure only has the Japanese language track, but it’s not surprising considering it was the same in Zero. It can be upsetting because it features Lloyd and many other characters in the Crossbell duology Cold Steel III And IVwho have fully dubbed English voices.
Lloyd and the SSS have already been cast with English voice actors in these games, so it’s a shame to see they haven’t reprized their roles. However, it’s understandable considering these games are over a decade old and have a niche audience. Having a full English dub for the duology doesn’t make financial sense given the size of the script and localization.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails to Azure – The End Result
- The politically charged story will keep you hooked to the end
- The gameplay and combat is engaging and fun
- Characters and side quests have tons of depth and add immense worldbuilding
- Dated graphics
- No English dubbing
The Legend of Heroes: Trails to Azur still plays incredibly well in 2023. The story and gameplay still holds up over a decade later, even if the presentation doesn’t look the best at first glance. The political nuances and events in the game allow you to immerse yourself in the world – it makes you feel like you are part of something bigger. Any JRPG fan would be remiss not to pick up azure.
[Note: NIS America provided the copy of The Legend of Heroes: Trails to Azure used for this review. Featured image via NIS America and Falcom.]