Ever since I’ve played Zero no Kiseki, I became a huge fan of the Legend of Heroes series. Unfortunately, the latest arc from Sen no Kiseki was pretty disappointing in many ways. During times such as these, it’s good to look back and see how everything started, because it might make me remember why I love this franchise so much in the first place. Conveniently, the first chapter (FC) of Sora no Kiseki (Trails in the Sky) was recently remade in HD to an exclusive PS Vita port, so it was a great opportunity for me to play a more up-to-date version of the game that started all (even though this is technically the 6th game in the series).
Story & Characters
On a certain night, the legendary warrior – Cassius Bright – comes back to his home at the Liberl Kingdom carrying an injured boy. He is received by his daughter Estelle Bright and introduces the boy to her as: “Joshua Bright – her new brother”.Estelle was never too smart, but she always had a big heart. She instantly accepted Joshua as part of her family and never asked him anything regarding his past. From this day on, the two became inseparable friends and nobody could doubt that they were a real family.Five years later, Estelle and Joshua were on the middle of their exam to become Bracers (a type of mercenaries) just like their father. But they were suddenly shocked by reports saying that their father went missing when his airship was attacked by a group of bandits. His body was nowhere to be found, but he would certainly not die from just an airship crash, and much less being taken as hostage of mere bandits.Therefore, without wasting any time feeling sad about the incident, they decided to join forces with Scherazard Harvey – a fortuneteller, Bracer and disciple of Cassius – on a journey to find their father’s whereabouts, while also completing the tasks to become an official Bracer given by the different branches across the country.They met with many unique characters along the way, like the eccentric Olivier Lenheim, a fabulous musician and gunman from the Erebonian Empire who lacks common sense and has an unconditional love for beauty, be that of a female or male.From time to time, they also come across Agate Crosner, a veteran Bracer who had his life changed for the better by Cassius (although he hates to admit it). It looks like he’s always in a bad mood, but he’s actually very caring and is pretty dedicated when it comes to help people in need.Estelle and Joshua also befriend Klose Rinz, a kind-hearted student in the Royal Jenis Academy. She helps the siblings to solve many incidents with her champion-level fencing skills.They eventually get to the city of Zeiss, where they become really close to Tita Russell when they ask for the help of her grandfather – Albert Russell, and she becomes kind of a little sister for them. Despite being only 12 years old, Tita is already able to assist her grandfather, who is regarded as the greatest genius in the city.While still in Zeiss, they also meet with Zin Vathek, a highly ranked Bracer from the Calvard republic. He’s really tall and is often compared to a bear. Contrary to his appearance, Zin is very kind and intelligent. His unusual martial arts come as a big help during Estelle and Joshua’s quest. He’s strangely attracted to “dangerous women”, being his only weakness.During their journey, Estelle and Joshua learn that the disappearance of their father could be connected to a giant conspiracy that threats to change the whole Kingdom forever. In order to prevent that, they will need the help of all the friends they made along the way. Resulting in a great development that is nothing less than epic!
At the time this game was originally released, Falcom was still to be heavily influenced by the Persona series. Therefore, any “Dating Sim” element such as “Social Links” were still non-existent in this title. Thanks to that, they were able to write a more solid and consistent story around Estelle and Joshua’s relationship, and the result is just great!You get a very convincing tale of a boy tormented by his past and a girl who only bring happiness to his life. It’s a very emotional and convincing story about family, friendship and love, so when the ending of this chapter finally comes, it hits you hard!For most of the game (except in the final dungeon) you’re limited to a party up to 4 characters, instead of a whole class of students. With fewer characters, it was easier to give more depth and variety to each party member. Additionally, the absence of Dating Sim segments made possible for every romantic development to be part of the main plot, instead of being just missable side-stories, resulting in more depth to some character developments.
Since this is the very first “Kiseki” game, the gameplay is basically the same from all the subsequent chapters. Being the first game, the battle system is in a more basic form. there are no team-attacks or special activations, there are less arts (magic) available and one less slot for quartz.The main-quests, side-quests and hidden-quests also work the same way, but different from Sen no Kiseki, there is no automatic beacon for the beginning of quests nor for objectives, so you will need to do things like in the old days: Exploring, investigating and using your instincts in order to complete quests.Ah! By the way: There’re no funny message in the empty chest. That was an exclusive oddity from the excellent English localization!
New Game MECHANICS
Some mechanics were “modernized” in this Remake, like the addition of unique field-attacks for each character. Just like recent games in the series, those will stun enemies by hitting their backs, but can also make them angry if abused. You can also hold the X button to fast-forward during events, but you can also hold the same button during combats to speed up all battle animations, making combat quicker than ever!
All the illustrations were remade by Ito Akira and Nakahata Tomoaki. The new graphics feel more in-line with the style being used in all of the current Falcom games, and there’s even some slight animations for mouth and eyes during conversations. Unfortunately, it was a big departure from the original release, so many old-time fans were not pleased with the change.There are also many Colored Graphics used in important events, which makes the events even more appealing. Although those are made by the same artists for the dialog boxes. I still think they were excellent! They are all pretty detailed and colorful!Ironically, the new Opening video uses has a different character designer – Niitsuma Rui, who uses an art-style that’s a bit more closer to the one used in the original version of the game.The graphics are all in HD resolution now. Although, this is nothing new, since there is a HD version on the PS3 prior to this one.
The game is almost fully voiced by a team of great voice-actors, including Koyasu Takehito, Kondou Takayuki, Fujiwara Keiji and many other big names! Only NPCs who don’t participate in any quest or side-quest remain “silent”. During any main-quest or side-quest, the entire dialog will be voiced, even if it’s just for a minor NPC!If it’s a more important character (those who get illustrations on their dialog boxes) all of their dialogs will be voiced regardless if it’s during an main event or not! Even when you go out of your way to pay a casual visit when they are not part of the main plot, they will still be fully voiced! This must be the Falcom title with the most voice-clips to date!
There’s a new opening theme properly titled “Sora No Kiseki” with vocals by Kanako Kotera. The melody was based on the original opening of the PC version (which had no lyrics).The entire soundtrack was all re-arranged in 2 CDs by Jindo Yukihiro and Okajima Toshiharu. The result is pretty good, but I really dislike the battle theme “Sophisticated Fight” as it sounds just too sophisticated for a game about mercenaries dressed like Hokuto no Ken warriors. Although I could easily imagine this jazz tune playing for a group of aristocrats dressed in fancy clothes while they drink tea…
Overall, Sora no Kiseki FC was a pretty short game in comparison to the most recent entries in the franchise. It’s about half the length of Zero no Kiseki, but it was still worthy every yen I paid for it! This is such a great game and it certainly revitalized my love for this series!The ending of this chapter was just amazing, and I can see why no one was prepared for it, back then. But it probably was still very effective even for those who got spoiled or who saw the twist coming. This is probably the reason why this game was so well received (even if it was still at the level of a “cult hit”). Those who played through this chapter got hungry for a sequel, and now I know how they felt! Now I’ll have to wait until December, when the Evolution version of the Second Chapter gets released!