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Preview: The Legend of Heroes: Trails through Daybreak Feels Like a Must-Play JRPG

If there are two JRPG series that captivate me more than any others, one of them is absolutely The Legend of Heroes. Ever since I first played the iconic Trails in the Sky, I adored almost every entry in this series. Fortunately, if my recent demo experience is anything to go by, Trails through Daybreak feels like another win for Falcom and NIS America.

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If you didn’t know, a free Switch and PS4 demo is out right now for The Legend of Heroes: Trails through Daybreak. It comes with the ability to check out the prologue on Switch or all the way through the first chapter on PS4, with saves transferring to the full game. I checked out the latter for a quite hefty trial that lasted almost 10 hours.

Screenshot by Siliconera

While it may not be the best place to start the series as a newcomer, it is the closest in quite some time. Trails through Daybreak starts an entirely new arc in the previously unvisited nation of the Calvard Republic. Players take on the role of Van Arkride, a sort of charming rogue and morally gray version of a Bracer.

I already played all of Chapter 1 in Japanese while starting to learn the language, so it was fun to compare the localization. As always, the team is on point by including elements like great innuendos and timely jokes, though I will say the usually excellent English voice acting strangely feels like it took a dip in this installment. There are still some standouts, such as side character Marielle, but even some of the core cast may take some time to warm up to.

Outside of that, this already feels like another Falcom slam dunk. There is something to be said about how brilliant the developer’s city and world design is. Trails through Daybreak is yet another testament to that with the capital city of Edith. Each of the districts feels so distinct due to the style and atmosphere. For example, there is the relaxed and brick-laden Riverside, found alongside the thriving and modern Central Station.

Exploring the city of Edith, completing Spriggan requests, and talking to the townsfolk just feels so natural. Better yet, there are even rural areas in Chapter 1 for a nice break from the hustle and bustle. This will all feel familiar to anyone who played the Crossbell or Erebonia Trails games. When it comes to combat though, this game actually radically changes this aspect.

Screenshot by Siliconera

The Trails through Daybreak features a fascinating and almost ground-breaking hybrid combat. The usual active turn-based system still exists. Here, players move around the battlefield on their turn, within a certain range, to execute an attack, skill, or craft.

However, you don’t have to fight in turn-based mode if you don’t want to. There is a simplistic hack-and-slash variant available as well. While not great for larger enemies or even possible in boss battles, this speeds up the combat even further. Better yet, the two even work in tandem. You can weaken a foe or even stun them in the action mode before switching to the usual turn-based affair to finish them off.

It is an engaging and fascinating system. While I would like more depth in the action combat, it works well enough, including even with a dodge mechanic. That said, outside of this, I am not a huge fan of the combat changes. The new system for link attacks is a bit awkward. Before, you would pick a partner to link with and they would follow up with additional attacks after a critical hit and all that.

However, this version limits links (called SLCMs) to being right next to someone. They are more flexible this way since Van, Agnes, and the others can link up with anyone at any time now. However, it somewhat felt like I was forced to go out of my way to move characters next to one another to gain a follow-up attack.

Screenshot by Siliconera

This new link system got especially annoying in boss battles. I felt like I had to move up my ranged characters like Agnes to be next to my melee fighter in Van. This put the ranged characters in more unnecessary danger just for a linked combo. It is strange since it wasn’t like this in past games.

Outside of that, though, this is by far the most fluid and fast the turn-based combat has been in the series. I was blasting through most fights in well under a minute with almost no issue. Even the trickier and lengthier boss fights felt much more manageable in terms of time now.

When not in dungeons, players have the ability to complete various Spriggan requests. These are similar to the side quests and Bracer requests from past games but with a twist. Van is a much shadier person than past protagonists like Rean and Lloyd, and it shows in his requests.

He has an alignment system revolving around Law, Chaos, and Gray. Each request he does adds points to each one. In addition, there are the occasional choices you can make that level up Van’s Law, Chaos, and Gray attributes. Most notably, these all level up independently, and each come with special rewards. While I know how these affect the later game from my time with the Japanese version, I won’t go into that here. Regardless, this system adds an intriguing layer and makes the already well-written side quests that much more worth checking out. They are just as essential to the world and characters as the core plot.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails through Daybreak demo preview
Screenshot by Siliconera

The Legend of Heroes: Trails through Daybreak feels like another must-play JRPG from Falcom, based on the demo preview. It is almost a solid starting point for newcomers with an almost entirely fresh cast of characters. It also takes place in the new locale of the Calvard Republic, which is already gorgeous and varied from the places I visited in the prologue and first chapter. The mix of action and turn-based combat is such a welcome move. Anyone who likes past Trails games or just JRPGs in general should check out the free demo ahead of launch.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails through Daybreak will release for the Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, and PC on July 5, 2024. A free demo is available right now for Switch and PS4.

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Cody Perez
Cody is a writer who has been sharing his love for video games and anime since his high school days in 2012. When he isn’t writing about the latest JRPGs and anime series, he can be found in Final Fantasy XIV, occasionally playing some Call of Duty, or lurking on Twitter @SoulcapCody.