Alright, kiddo, here's the deal with the deal. You want more JRPGs on Steam, right? Of course you do. You have your Final Fantasy, you have your Agarest, you have a few others, but you want more. I want more. We all want more. Guess what Trails in the Sky is. That's right; a JRPG. You buy it, you tell publishers "hey dudes look there's a market for this genre."
And are you the type of person who sees a bunch of games starring rugged white guys with guns and gets sad that there aren't more female game protagonists? Well, you see that person with the staff and the ponytails up there? Guess what that person is. Female? You bet your sweet buttery biscuits she's female. Her name is Estelle. She's pretty interesting. And there are three other playable ladies in the game. They're all interesting also. And there's four dudes as well, and all of them are interesting. Everyone is really frigging interesting.
"But I don't want to give money to some jerky big-name game publisher. Who is getting my hard-earned regional currency?" Wise up, you dingus; your hard-earned regional currency is going to XSEED. You know how awesome XSEED is, mofos? Really really awesome. More awesome than you and I put together.
As for the game itself? Alright, fine, let me serious up for a minute. *ahem*
Call me odd, but when it comes to JRPGs, I'm the type of person that prefers strong gameplay over a strong story. Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with video games as a storytelling medium (hell, the entire genre of visual novels exists for this exact purpose), but if I really want a good story, then I have both a library card and a Netflix subscription to take advantage of. I play video games because I want to, you know, *play a game*. Because of this, I'm much more likely to enjoy - as well as replay - JRPGs that favor complex gameplay over a compelling story (Pokemon, Golden Sun, Final Fantasy V) than JRPGs that favor a compelling story over complex gameplay (Lunar, Earthbound, Final Fantasy IV).
The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky is one of the only exceptions.
That's not to say that the gameplay is bad; think of the battle system as a cross between Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy Tactics. It's fun, it moves at a good pace, and it features the *classiest* damn battle music I have ever heard. The thing to be aware of before diving in, though, is that the game is broken up into five chapters, with each chapter having its own locations, dungeons, sidequests, enemies, and so on. Once you complete a chapter and move on to the next one, you can't go back, meaning that anything you missed is now completely inaccessible. Even within the individual chapters, the sidequests (of which there are a TON, a plus in my book) have relatively small timeframes; there are also a bunch that aren't even listed until you happen to bump into them, including a couple that make me seriously wonder how anyone at Falcom could think that players could complete them all without a guide. While the sidequests are, of course, optional, they do offer some nifty rewards, challenging battles, and humorous cutscenes, and if nothing else, it's frustrating to be at the endgame and be missing only one or two entries in the bestiary or recipe book.
But Trails in the Sky features quite literally the most vibrant, detailed world of any JRPG I have ever played.
This game has an immense amount of text, and XSEED did an absolutely wonderful job translating it for English-speaking audiences. Be aware that the story is not fast-paced in the slightest - it's a slow burn with an emphasis on character interactions and world-building. Because of this, the cutscenes in Trails tend to take a long time, like many other entries in the genre, but the writing is so strong and the characters so likable that you won't mind at all. Even beyond the main characters and story, you rarely have to go far to find an NPC with something interesting to say - not a whole lot of "Welcome to Corneria" or "Press Start to open the menu" here. (Protip: reexamine each treasure chest after opening.)
Interesting characters. Vibrant world. Stellar soundtrack. JRPGs. XSEED. Come on.