By Alex Hone
Japanese Role Playing Games are a growing genre, thanks to games like Persona 5, but there is one series that is a hidden gem you may not have heard of.
The Legend of Heroes Trails
A series of JRPG’s created by Nihon Falcom, a game developer that has been making games since 1981, and are the creators of the action RPG genre.
With the upcoming release of Trails of Cold Steel 3 in the west people are starting to get more interested in the series, this article acts as a small introduction for those people.
As you can see from the images there are nine games in the series. The series is set on the fictional continent of Zemuria. The whole series has an interconnecting story and very deep lore with each arc being set in a different country. They are all turn based games with similar combat mechanics. Players have three different methods of attack, standard attacks, Arts (the magic system) and Crafts (character specific attacks). Arts are cast with Energy Points or EP and Crafts consume CP or Craft Points. CP is regained whenever you deal or take damage and EP is gained through items or resting at Orbment charging stations. You can also move and use items but you cannot block attacks. This combat system feels snappier then normal JRPG’s due to the movement around the arena, which feels like something out of a strategy game like Valkyria Chronicles or Fire Emblem.
The story and lore is incredibly deep.
As of now the series is made up of three major arcs: Trails in the Sky (Liberl Arc), Trails of Zero and Trails of Azure (Crossbell Arc) and Trails of Cold Steel (Erebonia Arc). These arcs are interconnecting and the characters you meet in one game will probably come back in another. The main concept of the world is that Professor Epstein discovered that, by inserting coloured elemental quartz into clockwork to create Orbments. Orbments are the main form of machinery in Trails. Orbments power everything from cars to computers to Battle Orbments which allow users to cast arts. Battle Orbments make up the main progression of the games as you earn quartz that boosts stats or gives you new arts to cast. The Orbment system could be easily explained as ‘steampunk magic’.
Each arc has its own set of characters
Its own story but they are all set on the same continent and within a reasonably short time span of each other, think marvel cinematic universe but each film is a 60 hour RPG. This incredibly deep storytelling may turn off a lot of people, and whilst it helps to have played all of the previous games, if you are interested in Cold Steel 3 you can get away with only playing the other Cold Steel games (My recommended starting points for the series are Trails of Cold Steel 1 or Trails in the Sky fc).
The Legend of Heroes series
Also has an amazing soundtrack created by Falcom’s record label. There are many different styles of music involving beautiful vocal opening and ending songs as well as orchestral music, jazz music, techno music and the iconic Falcom rock guitar and violin combination. The music perfectly backs up every scene in the games and makes the pinnacle moments so much better.
Trails is a multi-platform series,Trails in the Sky fc, sc and the 3rd are all purchasable on PSP or PC (Steam and GoG). Trails of Zero and Trails of Azure are Japan exclusive PSP and PC games that worldwide players can get fan made English dub patches for. Trails of Cold Steel are the most accessible games and are available on PS3, PSvita, PC and PS4. The whole Legend of Heroes Trails series demand that you put a lot of time in but if you are looking for a single player epic with deep lore and an interconnecting narrative you will get a lot more out of it.
The series is not for everyone but if it sounds interesting to you and you are a fan of JRPG’s then the Legend of Heroes Trails is a must play.