NISA Europe Interviews Toshihiro Kondo on Trails of Cold Steel III - Part 1

How does it feel to know that western fans of the Trails of Cold Steel series will be able to get their hands on the third chapter soon?

TK: I want to begin with an apology that it takes so long to get these games out to everybody. One of the major reasons is that we’re actually still working on these games till the end of production, right up to when we submit the master and because of that, we can’t really talk to publishing partners like NIS America until we finish the game and are happy with its quality. That’s one of the reasons it takes our publishing partners so long to bring these games to you. Also, these games have a lot of text in them, so it then takes our publishing partners a while to localize them. So please forgive us for this. On the other hand, we’re really excited that you will be getting your hands on the third chapter of the Trails of Cold Steel series!

With a new set of characters in the new Class VII, how does this Class VII differentiate itself with the previous one?

TK: The thing about Class VII in the first two games is that the students in it were kind of a representation of the society of Erebonia. As you know, Erebonia is a country with a nobility system and so some students came from a noble family, noble warrior family, political family, foreign countries and some came from a commoner’s background. This was something we wanted to show in the first two games. However, starting with Trails of Cold Steel III the focus shifts from these internal issues that Erebonia has, to more of an outward-facing war.

To talk about the characters, looking at Juna she’s from the nation of Crossbell, which has been recently annexed by Erebonia. You have a character like Altina who is formerly an intelligent agent for the government. You have someone like Kurt, who is from a noble warrior house as well as other mysterious characters. In this situation the characters we have created really suit each other well and allow us to showcase an integral part of this story, so please look forward to meeting the new Class VII.

Trails of Cold Steel III is the first game in the series for the PS4, how has the planning process and the work process changed, what have you learned from then to now?

For the development staff, one of the first things they were really excited about was the fact that the PS4 has a lot more power. As you know previous games in the series were on handhelds, so they were incredibly limited, not only from a technical standpoint but by the lack of button variety on the hardware to navigate menus, particularly in combat. For example, if you wanted to move around the menu you would use the directional buttons. Whereas now, PS4 has a lot more buttons, which you can actually assign different commands to one button, which makes things flow quicker. Also, you can now cast Arts with one button, so that was one of the things the development staff was excited when we knew we would be developing for the PS4.

And then from a technical perspective, as you know there are many different characters that show up in these games. With the memory limitations of previous portable hardware, we could only show a limited number of character models on screen at a given time. For example, if we were doing a scene, we would have to switch the camera between characters. It was really troublesome to be able to show what we wanted. However, thanks to the PS4 we’re able to show many more unique models on screen, which means more characters, can be on screen at the same time. This really lends itself well to these really gorgeous character interaction scenes, which is what the Trails series is all about.
By and large, we’re really happy to be able to show off so many models on screen. Following off with that, now thanks to the PS4 we’re now able to have characters be more expressive. For example, a character might move their head but will keep their eyes on the subject of the conversation. Things like this allow us to make the characters feel more alive, whereas this was a lot more difficult to do with previous hardware. I feel like long term players will be able to appreciate this level of detail.

I noticed there are two master quartz slots, which is completely different from past games in the series. How does this affect the gameplay of battles and building characters?

TK: In previous games, you could only have one master quartz equipped at a time, but now you can equip more than one. The instant impact of this is that your character’s stats will be increased greatly; one of the reasons why we decided to go with two master quartz was because in previous games by the end of the game you would end up having a lot of master quartz that you won't actually be able to use, so we thought that was kind of a waste, so we wanted to give players the opportunity to be able to use them. Within that, by being able to use two master quartz you can make your character builds a lot more strategic depending on the ones you’ve selected. Obviously, by being able to use two master quartz your characters get really strong, so people on the planning team for combat were upset at first because they had to rebalance everything. However, please doesn’t worry, the game was balanced properly, so it remains challenging. Fixing all the characters parameters actually had to come in a patch for the Japanese version, however, this will all be implemented in the European version of the game from day one.

The series is known for its extensive in-game history surrounding the Goddess Aidios. In that regard, will players learn more about the not yet mentioned Sept-Terrion treasures bestowed to humans by her?

Aidios has been mentioned in various games in the series, and as the question points out she bestowed humanity with these seven treasures (Sept-Terrions). The good news is that you will learn a lot more about the seven treasures in Trails of Cold Steel III. In terms of learning more about the Aidios, you might not learn as much as you’re hoping, as she specifically relates to the history of Zemuria as a continent, so it will take a little longer to learn more about her.

Will Trails of Cold Steel III dive into the mysterious history of the Hexen Clan and Gnomes?

TK: Players will begin to learn more about the Hexen Clan and just who they are by looking at their history and what their motives are. Obviously, after Trails of Cold Steel III follows Trails of Cold Steel IV, so not everything will be revealed in Trails of Cold Steel III.

With so many new and old characters, how do you make sure that they all have enough time on screen so they feel fleshed out?

TK: I wish there was an easy method we could mention how we control all of this, but unfortunately there isn’t. It’s just a lot of hard work and planning, we actually have a flowchart of all the characters and of when they should appear. That’s how we have to manage it. It all boils down to careful planning and management.
And obviously, we have your main party characters, but as you know the town’s people of this world also have story arcs, which we go as far as to write down in deep detail, from things like their motivations, family members, likes, dislikes etc.… and this all boils down to the detailed and mapped out work we do to make these characters interesting.

With Trails of Cold Steel III being in a school setting, does it sometimes remind you of your time when you were a student?

TK: To be honest, I don’t think I had as much fun in school as the characters of Trails of Cold Steel III do. Plus I don’t remember there being a lot of head patting whilst I was at school; you’d probably get in trouble for doing that.


TK: When I was in grade school I was pretty quiet and more in the background. But, after that, I was really into sports and, as I played more sports, I made friends and my school days gradually became more fun. I have to say a lot of the staff had their own memories from their school days, and I think we have implemented various aspects of what cool elements we would have wanted to have in our school days in the game’s script.

NISA Europe: Kondo-san, what was your favourite sport in school?

TK: Honestly, I played a ton of sports. I always used to change which sport I played between baseball, tennis, badminton and football. I was also part of the golf club in college.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III is the best selling ever Limited Edition on NISA Europe Online Store. Which of the items is your favourite and why?

TK: I really like the collector’s box! This is something everyone back in Japan is jealous of due to how hard it is to manufacture and design a box such as this. We want to know the factory that built it!


The NISA Europe Online Store recently started selling T-Shirts of characters from TOCS III. Out of all the T-Shirts Rean’s one the best seller closely followed by Altina – is she that popular in Japan as well?

Out of the ladies in the group Altina is the most popular back in Japan; I’m actually surprised that this is the same over here in the west. Japanese people tend to like girls like Altina, so I understand why she is popular, but to find that this is the same over here I’m really surprised.

We have the biggest European fans of many different RPG series on our online store such as Disgaea from NISA, Persona from ATLUS, Atelier series from GUST etc. not all of them have tried a Trails game as yet. What would you say these players to encourage them to play Trails of Cold Steel III?

TK: First of all, if you’re a fan of JRPGs you have to try this series! We’ve put our hearts and souls into creating these games, and we think they’re really great games. Secondly, this is a series that has been around for fifteen years and the reason is that its something we believe only we at Nihon Falcom can make, it’s a special world with special characters and is a culmination of all that we can do as a company. So, if this sounds interesting to you, please definitely give it a try!

End of Part 1

Translation by:  NIS America's Alan Costa (Sr. Associate Producer)

Interviewees: Nihon Falcom's Toshihiro Kondo (President & Trails series Producer)

Interviewer: NISA Europe Online Store