Falcom President Reveals New Kiseki Series Details at 15th Anniversary event
Toshihiro Kondo commented each game's ending, shared development stories and gave hints on future story developments in the Trails series.
Falcom and Dengeki Online held on June 29 the “Kiseki Series 15th Anniversary & New Title Reveal(?) Special Stream”. The stream was over two hours long, with Falcom President Toshihiro Kondo, Towa’s seiyuu Ai Nonaka and multiple Dengeki PS reporters chatting about development details of each main Kiseki game. Video messages from the seiyuu of some of the main characters of the series were shown as well.
Please note this article contains massive spoilers for every Kiseki/Trails game.
The first and longest part of the stream was the “Remembering 15 years of the Kiseki franchise” corner, with each game being expanded upon. The second most interesting corner was the “question from fans to President Kondo” corner, which is also detailed further below as well. The final corner, which concerned new information for the next Kiseki games, was already covered in a separate article.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky FC
Trails in the Sky was the beginning of a new start in The Legend of Heroes series after the Gagharv Trilogy ended. At the time, Kondo included, most of the people at Falcom were people who played the Gagharv Trilogy games and joined the company because they wanted to develop similar games. Hence why the game system of Trails in the Sky FC reuses a lot of the good ideas from these games. Kondo also once again mentioned how in the first draft of the story, Estelle was a male protagonist and Joshua was a girl, but they ended up reversing it as it was more interesting this way.
The fact Olivier appears right from this game shows how they were already writing the outline of the Empire Arc/Trails of Cold Steel back then. In a sense, Olivier is like the real main character of the series as he appeared all the time since then, with his battle against Osborne finally climaxing in Trails of Cold Steel. Kondo also mentioned how back then, Olivier’s seiyuu Takehito Koyasu would always ask when will Olivier get his own games. In a sense, this finally happened with the Trails of Cold Steel games.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky SC
Kondo mentioned how Trails in the Sky FC and Trails in the Sky SC were actually supposed to be one game. The game’s development started in 2001, and in 2004, they were only at a 50% completion rate. The higher-ups got angry and told them to cut it in two and release the first part. This is why the original logo of Trails in the Sky FC doesn’t say “FC”. They didn’t know if they would actually be able to release the second part. That’s also why the ending of FC is so abrupt.
Nowadays it’s a staple for the Kiseki series to have at least each arc made up of two games following each other. However, when SC was about to release, it was the first time Falcom was doing it, so they were particularly scared of players’ reactions. They wondered if people would buy a “new” game if it’s taking place at the same place, at the same time, with the same characters. That’s why SC is extremely voluminous, they thought they had to make the game worth buying. They ended up adding tons of content and it took another 2 years to develop after FC released.
Kondo also talked about how SC was a very important game as it introduces multiple elements important to the Kiseki series, such as the Sept-Terrion and the first appearance of a Holy Beast. All of that was necessary foreshadowing for what would happen later in the Empire Arc/Trails of Cold Steel.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky the 3rd
Trails in the Sky the 3rd was created because there were elements they didn’t get to explain in the first two games. Most notably, Kevin shows up for the first time in SC, but he’s not expanded upon, so they decided to make a game with Kevin as the protagonist. The 3rd is also a huge foreshadowing game, setting up even more things for the Empire Arc. That’s why they made the Episodes system thing, to show as much as possible, and why they made Osborne appear for the first time.
Overall, the first idea behind Trails in the Sky the 3rd’s development was making something akin to a visual novel’s fan disc, hence why it’s a game full of fanservice, with tons of playable characters.
Moreover, Kondo explained how they initially wanted to do the Erebonian Empire Arc/Trails of Cold Steel right after Trails in the Sky SC. However, writing The 3rd made them realize they should expand more on Crossbell first. Detailing Crossbell was crucial to better understand Olivier, Osborne, and the different facets, the good and the bad of the Erebonian Empire.
Eiyuu Densetsu: Zero no Kiseki
Kondo mentioned how Zero no Kiseki was released after they made PSP ports of the Trails in the Sky trilogy. When they released the first Trails in the Sky game on PSP, it initially sold only 17,000 copies which is extremely low. But the sales went up bit by bit and in the end, all three PSP ports sold very well. Keeping that in mind, Falcom tried their hardest to make Zero no Kiseki a real step up for the series until then, with better graphics most notably.
When writing the Crossbell Arc/Zero and Ao, Falcom wished to create a story which focuses on a team instead of individuals. Stories about the power of friendship and such were very popular at the time as well. As the protagonists’ team would be fighting against a secret organization, they also needed a logical reason to be able to get around. That’s how the Special Support Section division of the Crossbell Police Department was born.
Eiyuu Densetsu: Ao no Kiseki
Ao no Kiseki introduces multiple elements and characters who later play major roles in Trails of Cold Steel. Ao no Kiseki is the first game where Arianrhod makes an appearance. The Dengeki PS journalist mentioned how back when the game was getting promoted, they asked Falcom if they could reduce the size of Arianrhod’s spear because it wouldn’t fit in the magazine. Falcom asked them to leave it the way it is, so Dengeki PS ended up giving a full page to Arianrhod in the magazine. Usually, enemy characters don’t get a whole page for themselves, and it contributed to establishing her as an iconic character.
In order to make Ao no Kiseki a worthwhile sequel, Falcom also tried to add new elements, like the master quartz. Mishy also appeared for the first time in Zero and Ao. At the time, Yuru-chara mascots were very popular in Japan, so Falcom thought it would be natural that Crossbell City has its own Yuru-chara mascot as well. Most of the staff also thought that a mascot is funnier if they’re annoying and you feel like hitting them, explaining how Mishy and its particular expression was born. They didn’t think Mishy would end up becoming Falcom’s mascot as a whole.
Kondo also spoke about how the final boss of Ao no Kiseki is reputed to be quite hard. The person in charge of game balance at Falcom is actually a veteran game designer who knows their stuff, but for once they wanted to do an unreasonable boss like this. They also wanted to reflect the story with gameplay, as that boss is supposed to be extremely strong story-wise. As they were speaking on game difficulty, they also mentioned how the Loewe boss fight in SC ended up getting a patch to make it harder because a lot of fans said it was too easy. That was a first for Falcom as until then they would only release patches for bug fixes.
Wrapping up the talk on the Crossbell arc, Kondo mentioned how in other The Legend of Heroes games until now, specific characters would stay in players’ mind after reaching the ending. Players would say “I like the White Witch” after playing Gagharv, or would say “I like Estelle and Joshua” after playing Trails in the Sky. But with Zero no Kiseki and Ao no Kiseki, people would say “I like the Special Support Section” or “I like the Crossbell Police” instead of a specific character, showing how the Crossbell arc focuses on a whole group that’s like a family. It’s thanks to writing strong human bonds in Zero and Ao that they were able to write a touching story about human relationships in Trails of Cold Steel.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel
As they moved on to Trails of Cold Steel/Empire arc talk, Ai Nonaka joined the stream. They chatted about Towa a bit and she mentioned how when Trails of Cold Steel 1 released, a lot of fans thought she’d turn out to be the true final boss of the arc. Because Towa is way too nice and wears glasses, as it already happened with characters like that in Falcom games.
Initially, Falcom planned to make the protagonist of the Empire Arc a soldier of the empire. However, when creating an RPG, having a normal soldier as a protagonist is a bit hard to write and makes certain situations unnatural, so instead they created the Thors Military Academy and made the protagonist a student of the school. That way they could depict a school-life themed story and show the bonds between each of the students of Class VII, and how they’re guided by the older students like Towa and co.
The battle system changed a lot starting Trails of Cold Steel because they wanted to show even more the bonds between the characters. That’s how the Link Attack system was born, to show the character’s relationships with both the story and the gameplay.
As for why they picked the number 7 for the protagonists’ class, it’s because the number has a special significance in the world of Kiseki, with the Sept-Terrion, or the Septian Church.
Kondo added that back then at Falcom, they had a lot of fun writing the arc and thinking of different ways to foreshadow and reveal to the players they’re actually playing Osborne’s son.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II
Back then, they were hesitating a lot on whether they should end the first game with a bad ending or not. Kondo joked how they did abrupt endings in the previous games, but you don’t often see a game ending with the protagonist screaming in despair. At the same time, that’s what makes it interesting, with how they made II start right after. Kondo said one of his old friends from university who’s currently playing through the games praised him for doing unorthodox stuff like that.
Ai Nonaka talked about how Towa becomes the acting captain of the Courageous, and how she had a lot of cool lines thanks to that.
Next on, they spoke about how Crow’s development and death scene shocked the players. Kondo also shared how at an event in Hong Kong back then, they did some kind of cosplay contest. A female cosplayer who was cosplaying Crow was among the winners, and when she went on stage to get her prize from Kondo, she started crying and read a note in Japanese she prepared beforehand, which said: “please revive Crow”. They already wrote the story back then so they were already planning on bringing him back, but these kinds of anecdotes made them realize how loved the characters are, meaning they did a successful job at writing them.
Lastly, they spoke about the part of the game with Lloyd and Rixia. That part was definitely fanservice for those who player Zero and Ao, but was also a necessary step for what would happen next in the Empire Arc. Falcom was undecided on whether to end the Empire arc in 3 or 4 games. They were wary about doing 4 games as some players could get tired of it. However, when listing everything they still had to do and show, they realized 3 games aren’t enough. They decided on 4 games and to cover as much as possible in the next game, hence why Trails of Cold Steel III is much longer than the others.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III
Trails of Cold Steel III was the first game Falcom developed exclusively for PS4. At the beginning of development, they were unsure of whether to bring back all the members of Old Class VII or not. Because the staff was at their limit with just doing all the models for New Class VII characters and the new characters. In the end, they managed to pull through and include all of Old Class VII.
The scene at the beginning with Rean and Towa chatting together is one of the Kondo’s favorite scenes in the arc.
Trails of Cold Steel III also has new battle mechanics and a new, one button=one action, battle GUI. At the time, Falcom saw how other games were evolving to have easier and enjoyable GUIs, so they decided to do the same as well (they definitely were influenced by Persona 5).
Kondo also joked about how Trails of Cold Steel III has an even worse bad ending than I, and how they felt bad for having Rean suffer so much. However, he stressed out these kinds of tragic scenes are necessary for the story, and they do things like killing characters for shock value. Kondo also noted doing these kinds of bad endings and tragic story developments is actually a risk they’re taking as game developers, as it can alienate some players. However, they steeled themselves and did it anyway.
Eiyuu Densetsu: Sen no Kiseki IV – The End of Saga-
Kondo mentioned how Trails of Cold Steel IV is the first time they finally felt like they got a load off their shoulders. Every game in the Kiseki series until now was build-up and foreshadowing for the end of the Empire Arc. Trails in the Sky’s development started in 2001, meaning it took them 18 years to finally show what they wanted to show since then. It’s not an exaggeration to say everything until now was for that scene with all the protagonists uniting on the Pantagruel.
Falom also wished to show Sen no Kiseki 4‘s importance as a turning point in the Kiseki series by including as much content as possible. This is why it has tons of mini-games and why they included as many playable characters as possible. It took around 2 months to record all the voices in Sen 4. (This is much longer than the average it takes for a Japanese game to get its dubbing done). Some of the developers were wondering if they weren’t going overboard with the game, but at the same time, they didn’t want to have any regrets.
Sen 4 is also the first time they revealed all of Osborne’s story. Kondo mentioned until now they only portrayed him as a scary villain, but they also wanted to show how strong of a person he is and everything he did for the citizens of Erebonia and his family.
Kondo also explained why unlike most games with multiple endings, you can’t directly unlock the True Ending in Sen 4. There are two reasons. First, they believed players would be more moved if they saw the Normal Ending first. Second, seeing both endings in this order serves as foreshadowing for what will happen next in the story. Sen 4 is a game where for the first time some of the “taboos” of the Kiseki world are explained or hinted at, like “what happens with McBurn revealing another world exists”. Sen 4 explained the mysteries of the Empire, so now the next games will finally start to explain the secrets of the whole world.
Ending the discussion on the Trails of Cold Steel games, Kondo stated once again they initially didn’t think it’d end up being four games long. And while they wrote the outline of the Empire Arc back when making Trails in the Sky, they didn’t write about what comes next. So in a sense, for the first time, they’re making the story of the upcoming games by starting from zero. This is why Trails of Cold Steel 4 is a huge turning point in the series, both for the series’ story and for Falcom themselves. Kondo mentioned that back when he first joined Falcom, the senior developers taught him how the core concept of the Legend of Heroes is “creating a really great story”, so they will keep upholding that concept.
In the next, much shorter corner, Ai Nonaka read messages from fans, with Kondo and herself commenting on each. Most notably they talked about how Falcom used to do more events like this, co-organized by Dengeki PS, where its staff met directly with fans. This would let them receive feedback directly and chat more in detail about the games. They didn’t promise anything but they will try to redo these kinds of events more often, and the reporters from Dengeki PS mentioned they wish so as well.
Starting that point on stream, they started sporadically playing video messages from some of the characters’ seiyuu. Each message has the character congratulating the series for the 15th anniversary and the seiyuu themselves looking back on the series.
The first message was from Estelle’s seiyuu Akemi Kanda. It was particularly funny as Kanda mentioned that when they did the fully voiced, Trails in the Sky Evolution games, Falcom sent her so much material it felt as if someone was moving in at her place. Kondo mentioned it was at least “2 or 3 cardboards of material for Estelle alone”. As the publisher of the five PS Vita Evolution ports, Kadokawa also helped Falcom back then, as they couldn’t handle all the work for the recordings by themselves.
Ai Nonaka also mentioned that there wasn’t really any scene in Trails of Cold Steel 4 with Estelle and Towa properly chatting with each other. Kondo mentioned we can imagine it happened while they were all on the Pantagruel even if we didn’t get to see it. Nonaka would really like to have a scene with Towa and Estelle together, so maybe it’ll happen in a future game. Kondo added how Towa has a “universal design” which makes it easy for her to appear, hence why they even put her in Tokyo Xanadu.
The second message was from Lloyd’s seiyuu Tetsuya Kakihara. Lloyd mentioned he’d like us to see one day how Crossbell reached true independence. And Kakihara most notably mentioned he’d like Lloyd to appear in another fully-voiced game, to which Kondo said they’re thinking about it.
The third message was from Juna’s seiyuu Nao Toyama. Commenting on the message, Kondo mentioned that Juna can be considered as the protagonist of the first part of Sen 4. While everyone is depressed about Rean being captured, Juna is the one who doesn’t lose hope and manages to rouse up everyone, both the old and new members of Class VII. In a sense, Juna is also like a more realistic version of Estelle, because Estelle is so optimistic it feels unnatural.
The fourth and last message was from Osborne’s seiyuu Jouji Nakata. Osborne stated that future games in the Kiseki series will explain the mysteries left hanging until now. Jouji Nakata mentioned it was an honor to voice such an iconic character, and how he particularly enjoyed the revelations and the relationship between Rean and Osborne shown in Sen 4. He’s a bit sad Osborne probably won’t appear anymore, but he’s looking forward to what will happen next.
Kondo commented how Osborne’s backstory was built up since the start of the series and how Jouji Nakata did an amazing job portraying him.
The last important corner of the stream was Toshihiro Kondo being asked five important questions sent in from fans.
The first question was straight on: When will the next Kiseki game release?
Kondo repeated what he already said in the past, that there are parts of the story they didn’t get to show in the Trails of Cold Steel games. So a spinoff like game should be released soon, and more information should be coming before the 15th anniversary (2019) ends.
Second question: Did you already write the unrevealed members of Anguis?
Kondo answered they already wrote the characters to a certain extent, but some slight changes might happen depending on how they write the upcoming stories. Idem for the Enforcers they didn’t reveal yet. He also noted how until now, they always foreshadowed the characters before making them play a big role, like how Clotilde technically first appeared in Trails in the Sky the 3rd. So it’s not impossible we actually already seen these characters but don’t know they’re part of Ouroboros yet.
Third question: Why do you always switch to a new protagonist at the beginning of a new arc?
Kondo answered they know a lot of people would rather keep the same protagonist because they don’t want to part with them. But the Kiseki series is about people’s growth. Meaning once a protagonist managed to overcome their problems, they switch to a new protagonist. Each protagonist is always part of a certain organization, so switching protagonists allows them to depict a different group each time. Lastly, they change protagonists so it’s easier for newcomers to get into the series at the beginning of each arc. Kondo mentioned there are many fans who started with Zero no Kiseki or Trails of Cold Steel, and who played the older games later.
Moreover, nearly all the characters of the Kiseki series until now were part of a state’s force, like the police and the army, or were “allies of justice”, so it’ll be interesting if the next protagonists are people part of a group opposing these. Even more so because the next arc is set in the east of Zemuria, which is said to be full of chaos. Falcom actually already decided what kind of group the next protagonist will be part of, but won’t reveal it yet.
Fourth question: Will you port the Evolution versions of the older Kiseki games to PS4?
A lot of fans sent in this question to Dengeki. Kondo answered they’re currently “planning different things” so we should look forward to future announcements. He also mentioned it’s a bit hard because of the difference of graphics between PS Vita and PS4, but “promised” to make the older games easily playable in some way. The staff at Falcom themselves are unhappy that past games are becoming harder to play. Even more so because the Kiseki series is story heavy, so console accessibility is important for fans who are only getting into it now, and considering the series isn’t ending anytime soon.
Fifth question: Which scene or character do you like the most?
Kondo answered he likes the scene when Estelle and Joshua get back together in SC. The scene itself left an impression on him but he’s also influenced by the feelings he had when working on the game back then. Another scene he likes is when Agate berated general Morgan, saying “what the hell was the army doing till now?!”. It would be nice to see how Agate’s relationship with Tita evolved, and if Tita’s mom still hates him or not, hinting we might see that in the upcoming spinoff game.
Next up was the final corner with new information on the next games, which we covered in a separate article.
Wrapping up the event, Toshihiro Kondo and Ai Nonaka thanked the fans of the series. The Kiseki series will continue until we see of all the continent of Zemuria, and Falcom won’t disappoint us. Lastly, Kondo added it’s important for newcomers to simply start from the game which looks the most appealing to them, instead of forcing themselves to play them from the very beginning or the start of a new arc. Playing any game will make you wish to learn more, thus naturally going back to past entries.
Besides the four video messages shown on stream, multiple other seiyuu of the Kiseki series sent text message for the 15th anniversary. If you understand Japanese, you can read them on Dengeki Online’s official report on the stream.
The latest game in the Kiseki/Trails series is The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel 4 -The End of Saga-, which released in September 2018 in Japan. In the west, Trails of Cold Steel 3on PS4 will launch on September 24, 2019, in North America and on September 27, 2019, in Europe. An English stream organized by NIS America with Toshihiro Kondo will also be held next week.