Games I Play: Trails in the Sky SC and the 3rd

The Trails saga continues! Shortly after I finished the first game, I went on to play the second and third in this first trilogy. The story picks up right where the first game left off and really kicks the story (and anime tropes) into high gear. Having now finished the entire Sky trilogy, one might wonder what I thought of it. So, let’s get into that.

Trails in the Sky and Trails in the Sky SC were originally conceived as one game but was released in two parts due to time and budget constraints. That very quickly becomes clear as when you start SC it feels like you’re just continuing the first game. The characters, systems, setting, and story are all the same or natural continuations. The big reveals and cliffhangers that were set up are now the center of attention and the stakes are higher. SC feels like where Trails finds its RPG energy and the story really starts getting good. At the end of SC I was convinced that, yes, this is one of the best Japanese RPGs out there and it felt like a very satisfying conclusion.

If the first two games were the main course, Trails in the Sky the 3rd is dessert. Acting as an Epilogue to the Sky arc, it features darker themes and both answers outstanding questions from the previous games and introduces new ones. Kevin Graham, a character from the previous games, takes the spotlight and the game structure is turned on his head. Instead of walking around the nation of Liberl, it takes place in the Phantasma—a strange dimension where the characters are summoned. It plays more like a series of dungeons than a sprawling RPG with a believable world. This change of scenery can make the story feel almost disjointed and irrelevant at times but this is temporary. By the end you see that everything is connected. As I’ve moved on to the next games, the Crossbell arc, events and characters in the 3rd has gone from feeling tacked on to mandatory and intriguing.

Trails in the Sky the 3rd gathers many key characters from the first two games together, all to be able to flesh out these character and what they’re now up to. This is presented in an unorthodox way however. Around the dungeons are “Doors” engraved with the sun, moon, or stars. These have certain requirements to open, for example bringing the right character along, and either play story scenes or offer mini-games. These might look optional but they contain some of the best told and most important story in the game. It’s a strange design choice that means players can miss some great character development, so make sure you hunt them all down.

Otherwise, the gameplay and systems in SC and the 3rd are pretty much identical to Trails in the Sky so I’m not going to spend time covering that. Let’s just say that this is a good a thing since that was a highlight of the original. Why change a winning concept? Turn-based battles, improving stats and unlocking skills with Quartz—it feels like the best kind of comfort food by now.

Things I liked:

  • The story finally reveal just how ambitious the Trails series is
  • Great dialog and character development, including some disturbingly dark stuff
  • Solid systems and gameplay
  • A satisfying conclusion to the first arc, with great set-up for the sequels

Things I didn’t like:

  • The setting and gameplay loop for Trails in the Sky the 3rd is a bit underwhelming
  • Very important story is optional and easy to miss if you don’t do everything