It’s been a wild ride for fans of the Legend of Heroes series so far and it’s not over yet!  NIS America has been hard at work localizing every LoH release and it’s time to revisit Crossbell with The Legend of Heroes: Trails To Azure, the conclusion of the Crossbell Duology.  While there are two more games announced so far (Trails Into Reverie and The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails, Falcom is already two games into the Kuro No Kiseki series that takes place in Calvard and well on their way to a third.  It’s probably a foregone conclusion that they’ll all be localized too.

Fortunately for us Westerners, the localizations are rolling in hot and Trails To Azure is no exception!  Picking up right after the events of Trails From Zero (review here), Azure pulls us right back in with Lloyd and the crew having stopped the D-G cult in its tracks.  If you haven’t played Trails From Zero, you should probably stop right here because this is a direct continuation of the story which would be wildly confusing for the uninitiated.  Azure is entirely designed like the second half of a novel and not being familiar with the first game makes the second essentially pointless.  The politics, plotlines, character development and even jokes are close to meaningless without at least familiarity with Trails From Zero and ideally some experience with the Trails in the Sky series and the Trails of Cold Steel games (at least the first two). 

Considering this is some of the best world-building ever attempted in an RPG series, it’s hard to fault Falcom for going full-tilt here, but if you’re not already into trails, go pick up Trails From Zero or Trails of Cold Steel instead.  It’s not that this isn’t an amazing game (spoiler – it is) but you simply need the background.  As it stands, Azure takes place during Trails of Cold Steel II and concludes in the midst of that game.  There are even walkthroughs online that tell you which chapters of which games to play in which order to experience the entire storyline chronologically if that’s your thing.  You don’t need to, but it is neat the resources exist. 

You might surmise that there’s quite the story here and there is, but it’s a shame to ruin it.  Suffice it to say that things are spiralling out of control politically in Crossbell and with some new factions in town including a group of jaeger corps, some Imperial spies, and a few nasty surprises, things kick into high gear pretty rapidly!  Naturally, the Special Support Section (SSS) is in the midst of everything as usual and Lloyd, Randy, Ellie, and Tio are joined by Wazy and Noel for this leg of their journey.  Wazy in particular is entertaining, constantly digging at the team and surprising them in equal parts.  It’s honestly a toss-up whether Randy or Wazy is the most entertaining character this time around and of course, the script is not entirely kid-friendly with a lot of implied sexuality and other questionable morals (at least for an RPG…it’s pretty tame stuff overall though). 

Once you dip your toes into Trails from Azure, things get moving awfully quick.  There’s the traditional handful of quickie quests that re-familiarize you with the basics of gameplay which are mostly unaltered from Trails From Zero and a few new surprises.  For one, you’ll eventually get access to an orbal car which you can use to travel rapidly from area to area without walking everywhere and fighting a bazillion respawning enemies.  You can mod your car too with both practical and cosmetic options available.  There are also new combat and technical options available.  Let’s look at the combat changes first.

In Trails To Azure, basic combat remains largely unchanged.  Enemies are still visible on the screen (no random encounters) and you can sneak up on them or simply walk into them.  Running into an enemy from behind allows you to stun them with a preemptive attack, raising your attack power and randomly enabling a powerful ‘Team Rush attack similar to the Combat Link attacks in the Cold Steel series.  Hitting them will provide an even stronger attack, flashing ‘Party Max Advantage’ on the screen and making battle a snap with more frequent Team Rush attacks.  However, unlike Zero, Azure also has a new Burst mode available.  Combat builds up Burst points and when the meter is maxed out, Burst mode is available, maxing out your dexterity which allows for powerful Craft attacks, curing all status ailments, and even allowing you to cast arts with zero chant time.  

Burst mode only lasts so long but it allows for strategic planning with tougher enemies and gives you that extra edge when you need it.  Of course, S-Craft attacks are still here as well and mixing and matching orbments and master quartz allows you to create game-breaking combos for the hardcore grinder crowd, but Burst mode is pretty neat all on its own.  On top of all that, normal combat is also improved with the modifications NIS has put into High-Speed mode!  Now you can actually adjust High-Speed mode, allowing you to crank the gameplay up to ridiculous levels of speed, blazing through the more tedious combat segments and making even the most boring grinding a breeze.  It’s honestly kind of fun to just hold A down while your characters obliterate enemy after enemy with standard attacks and almost no strategy.  It doesn’t work on the nastier critters of course and if you’re not paying attention you can get in some big trouble fast, but darned if it isn’t a handy little addition!

Mixing and matching quartz is still an art form just as it was in Trails From Zero.  It’s still important to match S-Craft attacks with quartz to maximize effectiveness.  Unfortunately, you also still can’t cancel S-Craft attacks once selected, so you’d better have a good idea what everyone is capable of.  Your extra party members chip in on occasion and can also be rotated out (but not in combat).  Making sure everyone is properly equipped is key though, so make sure you’re using all that sepith you keep gathering to unlock all the quartz slots and gear up your crew!  Oh, and did we mention that Falcom hid a whole mini puzzle game in the SSS’s computer system?  You can actually play a neat puzzle game that’s party Puyo Puyo and part Dr. Mario if you feel like it!  It’s pretty fun too!

If you were expecting a spectacular soundtrack, you won’t be disappointed there either.  JDK Band never disappoints and Trails To Azure is no exception.  Every track is absolutely magical and if you’re at all a fan of game music, you’re going to want the soundtrack!  Conveniently, if you buy the physical game, it happens to come with a voucher for the digital soundtrack, so yay!  Sound effects are brilliant as always too and the entire audio experience with Azure is on par with the rest of the series. 

Visually, there is no difference here from Trails From Zero and don’t be surprised by those older, almost vintage visuals since this is a remastered version of a 2011 game.  Of course, the remaster job makes everything look crisp and just like Zero, Azure runs incredibly smoothly on the Switch.  In point of fact, the load times here are almost non-existent and the game is remarkably responsive, something we rarely see with Switch ports of any kind.  NIS America did a spectacular job of optimizing Trails To Azure on the Switch and it’s an absolute delight to be able to boot up and dive into the game almost as rapidly as if it were on a PS5 or XSX.  It’s those little touches that really make a game after all and as a player, you’ll likely appreciate the combination of portability and efficiency that Azure provides.

Much like Trails From Zero, Azure is something of an RPG anomaly in length.  While it doesn’t feel long, the overall game takes around 45 hours and the Crossbell duology combined is around double that.  While it’s weird to say that 45 hours isn’t a long game, by RPG standards it’s fairly short.  The full 90 hours between both games would have been a lot though, and it’s a solid split between the two games, leaving you with two excellent experiences that combine into one outstanding story arc.  The whole things slots nicely into events in the Erebonian Empire as well, and it’s still safe to say that the LoH series as a whole is probably the definitive RPG series of all time from a plot standpoint. 

It’s honestly impossible not to recommend Trails To Azure.  The culmination of the Crossbell games is pretty much mandatory for Legend of Heroes fans and Lloyd, Randy, Ellie, and the whole crew are complex and fascinating characters that leave players with a feeling of comfortable familiarity.  The gameplay is solid with a few new tweaks and clever additions, but it’s still the same core experience that started with Trails From Zero.  Wrapping things up neatly and slotting into the main storyline is absolutely excellent and Falcom has managed an absolute masterpiece once again.  At only $40, Trails To Azure is an absolute steal and it’s impossible to recommend you get it too much.  Go.  Buy it.  Play it.  You’ll thank us. 

This review is based on a digital copy of The Legend of Heroes: Trails To Azure provided by the publisher.  It was played on a Nintendo Switch in both docked and undocked modes and played equally well on both.  Trails To Azure is also available on PS4 and PC on Steam and GOG.