The Legend of Heroes: Kuro no Kiseki Impressions – Evolution on the Horizon

With both Trails Crossbell games now officially available in the West and The Legend of Heroes: Trails into Reverie launching this Summer, English-only fans have a brand-new arc to look forward to in the region of Calvard. Despite being constantly mentioned throughout the series, especially during the Crossbell and Cold Steel arcs, even with several prominent characters originating from there, we’ve never had a game wholly dedicated to Calvard, except now in The Legend of Heroes: Kuro no Kiseki.

Initially available in Japan for PlayStation 4 in September 2021, this entry would see a native PlayStation 5 port followed by PC ports, including the one we’ll be discussing today that has been published by NIS America and Durante’s team, PH3 GmbH. While this version of the game still lacks English text and audio, the former has at least been confirmed by Falcom and Durante themselves, though we have no idea when that update will arrive. Regardless, we were given a code of the game’s Japanese build by NIS America, and though we can’t discuss too many plot specifics, the port itself is of the shining quality you’d expect from Durante’s team’s efforts.

The Legend of Heroes: Kuro no Kiseki occurs after the events of The Legend of Heroes: Trails into Reverie, during the year 1208. A polite Aramis High student by the name of Agnès Claudel makes contact with the game’s protagonist, Van Arkride, for much-needed help in finding a precious family item. Van runs the Arkride Solutions Office, where he works by himself as a Spriggan, a profession thoroughly acquainted with Calvard’s underground. Their line of work essentially comprises working on client cases that the police or the Bracer Guild can’t approach, often causing run-ins with law enforcement that toe the line of legality. This gray morality already grants Kuro an inherently distinct tone compared to previous Trails games, especially since Van doesn’t portray himself as the typical goody-two-shoes the prior protagonists (minus Kevin) are.

Regarding gameplay, Kuro features a new engine by Falcom themselves, and it feels markedly different from Trails of Cold Steel and Reverie in several ways. Perhaps the most initially noticeable change is how seamless the experience is. While there are still unmasked loading screens, entering houses occurs automatically without any such loading taking place. This may seem pretty minor to those unfamiliar with the Trails games, but it genuinely does feel like an evolution and a much-needed one at that. Even as someone who wholeheartedly loves the previous arc, an issue with such consistent releases in a series like this is how stale its presentations and systems can become, especially for veteran fans who have been around since the beginning. So, every improvement, no matter how minor, stands out and shows that effort is being taken to help the series grow.

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In a similar vein of greater cohesion is the combat, which now features two modes, action and turn-based. The former enables enemy encounters to occur right away sans transitions, and turn-based bouts can happen at the press of a button, with player and foe positions dependent on how they were on the field beforehand. Everything about Kuro’s gameplay, at least on the surface, feels like a step up from what has come before, as everything appears to connect without any jarring displacements. Even the Orbment has received a significant shakeup, though I don’t understand its particulars quite yet. Still, I’m glad it’s received an overhaul since having borderline identical systems for several games in a row can cause progression to become dull at a certain point.

As for the PC port by Durante and his team, there’s plenty here that high-end PC players will love most. For instance, automatic field-of-view scaling, up to 360 FPS support, and a multitude of graphical options, such as draw distance, ultra-wide resolution, shadow quality, and minimap multisampling, will let users take more advantage of their hardware than ever before compared to what previous Trails games have allowed. Further, there is an in-game option to preview graphical alterations, and though I don’t ever see myself using this, there’s also full keyboard and mouse support for you sickos out there. Of course, Turbo mode is present, too, and this is only a brief sampling of what options the PC port has at its disposal, so there’s plenty more to look forward to. Hell, there’s Steam Deck support as well.

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The frustration with waiting for official Falcom localizations is a sensation I’m sure every fan is abundantly familiar with by this point. But, as gradual as the steps seem, we are catching up slowly but surely. And with a PC port of this superb quality already firmly established, there at least won’t be much to worry about on this front. The Legend of Heroes: Kuro no Kiseki marks a time of considerable change for not only the continent of Zemuria in-game but also for us in Japan and the West in entirely different ways.

We still have two more Trails releases to look forward to this year, Trails into Reverie and The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails, so we likely won’t see news of Kuro coming West until next year. However, with all three arcs and more about to be fully behind us, we’ll soon be able to move forward, relentlessly.

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Orpheus Joshua

Random gamer equally confused by the mainstream and the unusual.