Q1. Could you shed some light on the series for newcomers who aren’t familiar with Nihon Falcom’s The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel series?
AC: The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel series is actually part of an overarching series, which began way back in the 1980s. There have been several sub-series within this main series, but Cold Steel in itself falls within what fans refer to as the “Trails series”, which kind of a loose translation of the word “Kiseki”. Starting with The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky (1, 2 & 3), then two games that were unfortunately never released anywhere, but Japan called Ao no Kiseki and Zero no Kiseki. After that, we come to the Cold Steel saga. The reason they’ve divided it into different games is that each sub-series takes place in different regions of the world. So, the Trails in the Sky games took place in Liberl, the Japan-only releases Ao no Kiseki and Zero No Kiseki took place in Crossbell, and the Cold Steel series takes place in the Empire of Erebonia.
As you can probably guess, it’s a really long and involved series, definitely the type of game for people who love lore and love to get lost in game worlds. To give massive praise to the creators of this series, the President of Nihon Falcom, Mr. Toshihiro Kondo, joined the company because of The Legend of Heroes series; matter of fact, it was because of the series before the Trails series, which is called the “Moonlight Witch Trilogy”. He’d actually played that trilogy back when he was in college and he loved the games very much, which led to joining Nihon Falcom, and then he was able to write some additional story parts for that trilogy. He and another colleague actually built this entire world of the Trails series together.
Q2. Where does the story of Trails of Cold Steel III begin, after the events of the previous entries?
AC: The story begins one and a half years after the events of Trails of Cold Steel II, and the main protagonist Rean is now a little bit older. Rather than being a student now, he’s become an instructor to a New Class VII. This actually relates to people who have just discovered this series and wondering if they can jump in, the simple answer is yes they can! This is because although Rean is older now, he’s still the main character and is in charge of the growth of the New Class VII. In a way, they’re kind of similar to the player, as they have a lot of things that need to be explained to them, so in general Trails of Cold Steel III is a great place to start whether you’re veteran or a newcomer to the series.
Q3. Having previously localized Nihon Falcom’s Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of DANA, what experience and knowledge has NIS America gained from it going forward when localizing Trails of Cold Steel III?
AC: A lot! The experience of localizing Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of DANA made us reflect on our localization process internally, and with Trails of Cold Steel III, players will be able to see the results of those efforts, meaning that we really want to give the staff enough time to do their research, and we’ve actually got staff who are big fans and really enjoy playing the series itself.
As you can guess, playing something for fun and playing something for work are very different mindsets. So we really wanted to give the staff the right tools to help them do their best in localizing this game. Another thing is that we’ve brought people on board that are not part of NIS America who’d worked on previous games in the series and are helping us with keeping the consistency. I feel as difficult as the whole Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of DANA dilemma was, it’s caused us to be stronger and that even shows up on other titles as well. So, with Trails of Cold Steel III, we’re dedicated to making this perfect for the fans, as well as all our other games that we work on too! And we're just trying to tear down whatever barriers staff members thought were there before in order to get the best localization for fans out there.
Q4. What have your experiences publishing Trails of Cold Steel and Trails of Cold Steel II taught you about the fan base for their series in EU? Has this affected your strategy for Trails III in any way?
AC: This is going to be a bit of a personal answer from me, but I really respect the dedication of a lot of the fans, no offence to my brothers and sisters here in the UK, since we share the same language. But for fans who aren’t English speakers, there’s a lot of text in these games and I can remember myself from the first time I started playing games in Japanese thinking “this is such a slog” having to literally have a dictionary open next to me, so I could understand what was happening in these games. And so seeing that there are so many fans of the series throughout Europe that are deeply engaged with the game’s world and characters, willing to say “Hey, I don’t care whether English isn’t my first language, I’m going to dive into this world regardless” is something I find really impressive!
Q5. The series is known for its extensive lore, how has it been for the localization team learning about the intricate details of the Trails of Cold Steel world?
AC: It seems the localization team has been having a lot of fun because when you work on a game like this you can tell if people are enjoying their work on a project, and this is from my experience of having worked on localizing a number of projects in the past. A lot of attention and care has gone into this project, and the team is doing their best to tackle any rising challenges. As the team works more on this project they’ve had a lot of fun learning about all the different plot points of the series, and are determined to make sure everything connects perfectly for fans.
Q6. How has the battle system of the Trails of Cold Steel series evolved this time around compared to previous entries in the series?
AC: The first I can think is the “Brave Order” system where "orders" are activated during each character's turn without using theirs. Each order is given to the entire party for a certain amount of turns. With this, players are able to turn the battle around by carefully using this mechanic. The other thing is the “Break System”, where players can focus on an enemy’s weakness and break them by using attacks they’re weak against.
Q7. Pre-orders for Trails of Cold Steel III –Thor’s Military Academy Edition have been exceptional on the NISA EU Store. Out of all the items included in it, which do you think fans will appreciate the most and why?
AJ: Looking at previous limited editions we’ve done, we know fans really like art books and soundtracks. We always try to bring out what’s best for those components, for example with Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of DANA we gave its art book a leather type cover to it and each page in it was done with a wood print paper effect, which was a different texture from your normal art book. I can’t say we’re doing the same thing for the Trails of Cold Steel III art book. Of course, with the soundtrack included, we know a lot of fans really like music from Nihon Falcom games, so fans can look forward to the soundtrack in the Thors Military Academy Edition. But from a personal point of view, I always like the quirky items in limited editions, so I guess I fans should really look forward to the Mishy Plushie as well.
Q8. How important was it for NIS America to get team members that had previously worked on the Cold Steel series for Trails of Cold Steel III?
AC: Incredibly! Not because we didn’t feel confident in ourselves, because initially, we went into this project without the thought of receiving any outside help. However, the reason it’s so important is that “consistency” is paramount in a series such as this. Since there are so many moving pieces and it’s important for us to get them right, it really helps smooth things over as we localize the project, and making sure that having people who’ve directly worked on this series in the past really helps bring that level of accuracy and extra checking. Also, some of the people working on this game helped give some characters voices, so having their input is really valuable to carry on the consistency fans have come to love.
Interviewees: NIS America's Alan Costa (Sr. Associate Producer) & Adam Johnson (Sr. Business Development Director)
Interviewer: NISA Europe Online Store