Incidentally this is why I like to write posts at various stages of the playing process. If I’d written this post at the 5 or even 10-hour mark, I would have raved about the sense of adventure and the fine soundtrack and bright palette and so on and so forth. Now it’s just like “Please Lord, let it be over soon.”
Trails in the Sky is one of the best turn-based RPGs the PSP has turned out so far, which really isn’t saying much because the PSP’s selection of RPGs is worse than I’d expected when I bought one. The barely-moving story is fairly interesting (when anything happens) and the characters are interesting enough when the game isn’t hammering their characteristics in repeatedly. Joshua is secretive, Joshua is secretive, Estelle is naive, Estelle is naive, Olivier talks too much, Olivier talks too much. OKAY OKAY, WE GET IT! It’s a pretty decent offering, all things considered.
It’s just, too much of a good thing, you know? The best RPGs I’ve played made me wish they’d never end, but those are precisely the ones that quit while they were ahead. Just ask Chrono Trigger. It had a simple story to tell, it told it sharpish and then it buggered off. I hear T.I.T.S. is the first of a trilogy, but even the first game in the Xenosaga trilogy had the decency to cap off at around 20 hours. You want to leave the player begging for more, not throwing up by the door.
Well, at least Trails in the Sky is somewhat improved over the previous two Legend of Heroes offerings I tried. The soundtrack is pretty good, if a bit generic (though I’m positive I’ve heard that main theme before) and the battles are slightly more interesting because they rip-off Grandia‘s system without, alas, also copying the dynamism that made Grandia’s battles so epic. So the end result is just a turn-based battle system where the characters go running around the screen…but in turns.
It looks good on paper, but in practice every character having to run a marathon just to strike an enemy makes the battles clunky and slow like you wouldn’t believe. And either you don’t hit very hard or the enemies have a ton of HP, because even simple random battles take a long time to finish. On top of all that, the EXP gains are pathetic, even for beating bosses. I beat Lt. Lorence in the castle and got 80 EXP. 8-0. Even the random chest monsters in the next dungeon gave more experience than that!
I’ve been convinced I’m almost done for the past 5 hours, but it’s still going on. After a long, tedious tournament and the most annoying stealth mission in history, I now have at least one more stage to get through before I can finally put this game behind me. Things move so slowly that all this will probably take another 10 hours. I’m so tired. I get even more tired when I look back on all the unnecessary things I had to do to progress the game: killing farm pests, taking part in a school play (that was spectacularly stupid), fixing a hot spring, the aforementioned tournament… And that’s not counting all the technically-optional-but-then-you-won’t-get-any-money sidequests you have to fulfill as part of being a junior bracer. Half the events are unnecessary, as are half the characters. Only a few things have happened in all that time: the Special Ops are evil, Daddy’s missing and there’s a black orbment out there with special powers. They could have told this story in 10 hours, maybe less.
*sigh* Sunken costs and all that. I’ll just finish it. See you later…