I noted indirectly in a previous article that one of my favorite video games is Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky. That game, which is available today DRM-free from Steam, GOG, and others, was first released in Japan on June 24, 2004. Below, I detail the story of how I stumbled upon an archived web page captured on June 5, 2004, featuring an original advertisement touting the then-upcoming initial Japanese release of Trails in the Sky.
I just completed a project wherein I scoured archived versions of webpages on a Japanese game site, Vector (vector.co.jp), in order to learn about the history of a 2002-2003 freeware Japanese visual novel called Aru Fuyu no Monogatari (see my review of its English translation, A Winter’s Tale). While searching those old archived Vector pages, I noticed that the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine had also captured many original advertisements. Most of the advertisements were for tech products (e.g., Microsoft, Intel, Vector itself, etc) or Japanese games with which I was not familiar.
My search for Aru Fuyu no Monogatari information eventually led me to what appeared to have been a second visual novel created by the same developer. In order to find information about this second visual novel, I began following more archived Vector pages. This led me to a June 5, 2004 capture of a page with information about a download for this second visual novel. There was an ad above the content. This ad caught my attention.
I knew that face – it was Estelle, the player character and heroine of Legend of Heroes: Trail in the Sky. You can see a date in the screen capture: 6.24. Prior to finding the ad, I had not known the original release date of Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky off the top of my head. But I quickly confirmed that the classic JRPG was indeed released in Japan on June 24, 2004.
The ad in my screenshot is actually a gif. You can see the archived gif here in its original glory. The only thing that changes in the gif is the yellow part on the right side where you see the date in the above screenshot. I broke the gif into three frames, all of which you will find below:
Now these frames were taken from the original gif. While they show the ad in its full glory, the quality leaves a bit to be desired – which is perhaps to be expected from 2004 gif ads. A great character (Estelle) from a great game deserves better. I decided to feed each of the frames into Upscayl to see what higher quality versions would look like (note: I downsized the images and optimized them, so not the full upscaled glory). See the results below.
This is much better. Even the font came out acceptably well.
I saw many ads on archived Vector pages during my (longer-than-expected) research project, but only one was relevant to me nearly two decades after it was first posted. If you have not done so already, I highly recommend playing Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky, for it remains a great game today, and is often available on sale on Steam, GOG, and other platforms. If you are in the mood for something shorter (Trails in the Sky clocks in at about 50 hours, depending on how much of a completionist you are), you can instead see my review of the much shorter visual novel which prompted this project, A Winter’s Tale.