Anime JRPG Review

The Legend of Heroes: Trails to Azure – Review

The Legend of Heroes: Trails had an important release last year in the form of Trails from Zero. As part of the long-running and continuity-driven series, it was a missing piece of a big puzzle. Despite a few faults, I found it to be a strong RPG that represented many of developer Falcom’s best qualities. However, it was only the first half of the “Crossbell Duology”. The second half, The Legend of Heroes: Trails to Azure, now aims to close out this saga in explosive and epic fashion.

The Conspiracy of Crossbell

Full disclosure: don’t even try to play this one without first having completed its predecessor. Trails to Azure runs with the assumption that those who play it have events from the first game fresh in their memory. There is a handy “Story So Far” feature if you need a refresher on the storyline of Zero, but I highly recommend that players complete these two in relatively close proximity to one another. Terminology and references to events from past games get thrown around like confetti, and you will get lost if you’re not aware of what all of it is referring to.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails to Azure - Speech

Like Zero before it, Azure heavily focuses on Crossbell City as a collective populous, rather than having any one character be the main focal point. This time around, there is a very pronounced emphasis on geopolitical conflict and lore to sell its intrigue. Crossbell’s status as a City State is put on the line as the neighboring countries of Calvard and Erebonia threaten to encroach upon its independence. Blue flowers summoning incredibly powerful monsters are also sprouting all around the City State, an omen for oncoming disaster. At the same time, a terrorist group called Red Constellation threatens to put Crossbell’s citizens in the direct line of fire.

A significant number of problems pile up over the course of the game, and all too quickly for the main party to deal with. The Special Support Section is at first fractured, with some of its members MIA as tensions across the continent escalate further and further. Once they do return, it’s permanent, but it’s usually also with some baggage of them bringing yet more bad news with them. There’s a lot to keep track of as Crossbell’s situation worsens, but despite Azure’s length, it never misses a beat. It’s noticeably longer than its predecessor, clocking in at around 75 hours for me, but it’s fantastically paced throughout. The whole game is a rollercoaster that never lets up until the credits roll.

The Enduring Mysteries

A big part of Trails to Azure’s runtime consists of answering questions that lingered from the first game. What is the true nature of the mysterious girl named KeA, and why was it that protagonist Lloyd met her the way he did? Who is the true killer of Lloyd’s brother? Is there more to the Geofront, Crossbell’s underground network, than meets the eye? Finding out about the truth that injustice historically has obstructed is perhaps the game’s biggest theme. All of these questions and more are answered, being some of the biggest upsets to the ongoing storyline. 

The Legend of Heroes: Trails to Azure - Cult

Whether you’ll be satisfied with all of these answers is another thing entirely, though. While I found most of the revelations to ongoing mysteries to be satisfying, there were a few that wound up leaving me conflicted. This story already has many well-woven gears that smartly spin into something far broader, so certain late-game twists struck me as being incredibly unnecessary. It almost felt as though the story was trying to come off as being more clever than it was in reality. These few moments do not damage the story’s integrity, I’ll add, but in a largely well done and realistically realized world, it’s disappointing that there were more noticeable cracks here when compared to its predecessor.

This is something that unfortunately also extends to important characters, including party members. Bond Events were something that existed in the previous game, allowing the player to view special scenes with specific characters if they fulfilled special requirements throughout their playtime. In Zero, I found this to be negligible since the scenes in question didn’t add to the storyline in any particularly meaningful way. In Azure, however, these scenes are nigh requirements in fully understanding a character’s motivations, backstory, or for seeing the high point of their development. 

For a series that prides itself on continuity and having each scene have ripple effects on future plot developments, this overemphasis on optional content strikes me as a mistake. Trails is inherently not a series that meshes well with player-choice driven mechanics, as it strips autonomy away from established characters. Bond Events being a very shallow inclusion by themselves doesn’t help matters, either.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails to Azure - Boss

The Barriers Got Bigger

In just about every sense, The Legend of Heroes: Trails to Azure is a very straightforward sequel to its predecessor. In terms of looks, sound, core mechanics, and even setting, it’s all the same as Zero at a glance. Rather than try to reinvent anything, it instead busts the doors wide open on it and allows for more player freedom by throwing in more complex scenarios and more mechanics on top of existing ones. Naturally, story progression is still left entirely linear, but almost every major area from the previous game is available to visit from the start. Rather than being drip-fed old areas, you’re instead given a consistent mixture of lots of old areas with lots of new ones thrown in on top of that.

Tutorials and mechanical breakdowns are also very brief, being contained solely to the far shorter opening prologue and Chapter 1. You’re additionally given access to every major mechanic in the game as soon as Chapter 1 is complete, unlike in Zero where that took more time. Many of these changes serve to benefit combat especially, where you’re given every single character skill and start out at the max level of the previous game. It’s not only a nice way to ensure continuity and gameplay can intertwine, but also ensures that combat is immediately more interesting than in the last game.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails to Azure - Battle

The Legend of Heroes: Trails to Azure is significantly more difficult than Zero. As if to drive that point home early, the first major boss of this game is a beat-for-beat recreation of the previous game’s final boss. Like the previous game, it takes on a Turn Order System, where you’ll strategically place your characters across a map to create effective strategies. From there, you’ll use character-specific skills called Crafts to attack enemies, buff your party, or otherwise disrupt the enemy in some fashion. Additionally, you have Arts, which are broader elemental skills that can be used by almost any character with the proper equipment set up. Unlike Crafts, however, Arts have a cast time tied to them.

Thanks to the difference in game balance this time around, I feel some of the issues I had with the previous game have been dealt with. Most notably, the Turn Order’s random per-turn buff system is more manageable thanks to having far more player-controlled options from the outset. 

More Bosses, More Mechanics, More Problems

The headlining new addition to combat is Burst Mode, something that will become available to the player during specific and tense moments in the story. By dealing damage to enemies, you’ll be able to activate Burst Mode, where only your party members can act for a limited time. During Burst Mode, you’ll also be able to instantly cast Arts and gain resources needed to use Crafts more quickly too. For the most part, I only ever found the need to use Burst Mode against bosses. 

You also have access to a new type of equipment called Master Quartz, which allows the player to equip a specific set of buffs to characters at the outset of every battle. Through this, the player can fine-tune their party to whatever strategies they think suits the situation best. Or at least, that would be the case. But there’s one big hang-up to this that gets in the way regularly. 

The boss battles in this game are, generally, not very good. Even from the very beginning, most of them are immune to things like status conditions. All those Crafts at your disposal that cause Burn, Blind, Poison, or Freeze? Nope, they don’t do anything to bosses, or even a lot of regular enemies as soon as Chapter 1 starts proper. It’s because of this that, despite my earlier compliments to the rebalanced battle system, it still feels as though I’m pigeonholed into fighting in specific ways to overcome bosses. Once I reached a certain point, I mostly relied on high evasion builds to do what felt like cheating my way past most boss fights. While that feels good in its own way, it’s not what I’d say is flexing the full extent of the massive potential of the combat system in place.

More Jobs for the Special Support Section

Returning from the previous game are Support Requests, this game’s version of your typical RPG side quests. Like last time, most of my compliments for it remain the same. Gameplay for these is standard RPG fare, from monster killing, to finding specific items, to doing a light bit of lost-and-found. It’s elevated by a strong dedication to each of these side quests carrying storylines that help to flesh out the world and inform the player. It’s never just lost-and-found, it’s finding an important item for an established NPC that exists naturally in the world. It’s never just monster killing, it’s clearing out roads for the sake of making trade routes safer. These differences in writing are superficial in what they do for gameplay, but in practice, it adds up. Side quests that are mundane may be worth doing, if only for how hard the writing carries it.

Adding to this is that many side quests in Trails to Azure are direct follow-ups to ones seen throughout Zero. So if that game is still fresh in your mind, side quests here will be all the more rewarding since they often involve minor characters seen previously getting yet more development. It truly feels as though the world is in constant rotation thanks to its overall dedication to ensuring that everyone, not just a select few characters, has something new to work with.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails to Azure has also somewhat eased up on the Detective Points (DP for short) system from the last game. To give a quick rundown, for each quest you do, you gain DP, which contributes to your overall Detective Rank. The higher your Detective Rank, the more side quests will be available to you, and the more items you’ll be able to use for combat. Problems arise when you realize that the game only tells you about a small number of side quests at a given time, meaning that a lot of quests will have you meandering to talk to everyone. When the story is at its peak in terms of tension, this can be quite the pace-breaker, so I wound up just not bothering a lot of the time. While it’s still not a system I particularly like having around, you’re at least not gated off from seeing certain areas or monsters anymore like in Zero, so it’s less hassle overall.


The Legend of Heroes: Trails to Azure is a sequel of higher highs and lower lows. I don’t think it’s as consistently enjoyable as its predecessor, but the game’s incredible emotional and gameplay highs bring it to something that I feel is on roughly even footing with Zero. I compared it to a roller coaster earlier, and I feel that’s an apt summation for the entire game. It’s bumpy and not all of it’s going to be enjoyable, but the thrills experienced make it absolutely worthwhile.


Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4

If you would like to see more JRPGs, you may be interested in our review of Xenoblade Chronicles 3. You can also check out our review of Trails from Zero.

Many thanks go to Reef Entertainment for a Nintendo Switch review code for this title.

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