With the release of Trails in the Sky The 3rd coming up this week I want to spotlight what I think is the best JRPG series going right now.
The Trails/Kiseki series is from developer Nihon Falcom, mostly known for the Ys games. There are three separate subseries within the larger franchise(listed in release order):
Trails in the Sky
Trails in the Sky FC (PC, PSP)
Trails in the Sky SC (PC, PSP)
Trails in the Sky The 3rd (PC)
Zero no Kiseki
Ao no Kiseki
Trails of Cold Steel
Trails of Cold Steel (PS3, Vita, PC)
Trails of Cold Steel 2 (PS3, Vita, PC)
Trails of Cold Steel 3 (PS4, released Sept 2017 in Japan, no localization announcement yet)
Trails of Cold Steel 4 (PS4, releasing 2018 in Japan)
Why do people like these games?: The Trails series is second to none in building an incredibly developed world. The lore and world building is dense and satisfying to dig into. The games all take place in different nations on the same continent and most of the overarching stories center around the political dealings and military aggression between them. Oh and they have DOPE music.
Does that mean I need to play them all in order to understand everything?: Nope, start with whatever series you want to! I started out with Cold Steel and only went back to the Sky games after. The stories themselves are unique to each series BUT I will say that Falcom isn’t shy about connecting the series together through lore and returning characters. They really reward you for being invested in the world that the games are set in. For example, there’s a one off line in Sky SC about a politician who is from Erebonia, one of the continent’s most powerful nations. Cold Steel takes place in Erebonia and this character appears in those games as a major character. That’s years, and multiple games, in between these two games and your knowledge of the world actually pays off! It’s amazing!
Why are the names of the Crossbell games still in Japanese and don’t have platforms next to them?: Well…it’s because they’ve never been released in English. These games are MASSIVE localization projects and the series has yet to really find itself on solid footing in the West. People who love them really love them but there just isn’t a big enough pool of people who know. It’s a shame because XSEED does an incredible job localizing them. The writing is sharp and the terminology remains consistent from game to game. XSEED has said that if we want to see the Crossbell games we need to support the series and show that there’s interest. DO YOUR PART!
Who is Estelle and why does everyone love her?: Estelle is the protagonist of Sky FC and SC and SHE RULES MEGA HARD
Who is Rean and why does everyone hate him?: Rean is the protagonist of the Cold Steel games and I DON’T KNOW. THE REAN BEAN MACHINE IS MY GOOD SON HE IS JUST TRYING HIS BEST IN THIS CRAZY WORLD.
In conclusion I’ll say this: these games don’t have the most unique art style and they certainly don’t have the budget of something like Persona 5. At first glance they might look generic but there is a beating heart underneath it all that rivals the best this genre has to offer. They’re long, complicated, dense, and moving. They’re a blast to play and are often hilarious. Give 'em a chance!