We spoke with Toshihiro Kondo, President of Nihon Falcom, about The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky. This game is the first of three chapters and evolved into a RPG series all its own with Trails of Zero (Zero no Kiseki) and Trails of Blue (Ao no Kiseki) for PSP.
Since we know there are Falcom fans on Siliconera, we asked readers to submit development questions, which we brought straight to Kondo. While Trails in the Sky was the focus, we also talked about bringing PSP games from Japan overseas, Steam, and their upcoming NGP title.
Trails in the Sky has an amazing game world. Did you create the world to fit the characters, or the characters to fit the world? Or were both elements designed separately?
Toshihiro Kondo, President: We created the characters and the world view simultaneously. For the characters, we wanted the main pair to contrast with each other, like light and dark, and build everything from there. For the world, we compiled one idea at a time, all the while setting things up to give players the feeling that something big was about to happen — a small kingdom sustaining independence while still operating as a monarchy, an era of industrial revolution and new energy sources, an “orbment” system that allows people to use magic, etc.
What did you like writing more: the main dialogue between the characters and the plot or all the additional text in the game, like the books and newspapers that defined the world the characters were in?
This is hard to quantify. Normally in Japanese RPGs, a lot of time and effort is spent on the main story. Trails in the Sky is unique in the sense that we spent as much or perhaps even more time and effort working on character conversations and additional elements. By doing so, it really makes the world come alive, and creates a setting that’s both fantastical and realistic in equal parts. So really, both sides of the coin are equally important in this game.
Did Falcom use any historical references as inspiration for creating Zemuria? Was the Septian Church perhaps inspired by the Catholic Church?
Since Liberl Kingdom is located between two political superpowers, yet still maintains its independence, we actually based it on Thailand. It even has a similar shape to Thailand. We also referenced the age of imperialism in Europe. And for the Septian Church, we based it on a typical Japanese impression of what the church represents, so I’m sure there are indeed some similarities to Catholicism.
How do you feel a battle system fits within the game? Could Trails in the Sky be as in-depth if it were an action RPG?
The battle system for this title is similar to chess where you sit down and think about your moves. We thought the players would have more attachment to their characters by carefully customizing each one before heading into battle, and could thus really feel the dramatic impact behind all of their actions.
In our latest title, Zero no Kiseki, players are able to attack enemies on the field before entering into a proper battle. If the party members are of an average level comparable to that of the enemies, control of the game will switch over to a standard battle scene like you’d expect; but if the players’ levels are much higher those of their enemies, the battle will end right then and there, like in an action RPG. This aspect has the same type of satisfaction you get from playing an Ys game, but in the end, I think the command-based strategic battle system is really the best fit for the Trails series.
While still very popular in Japan, it seems like the PSP’s presence is shrinking in North America. How do you think you will release PSP games like the rest of the Trails in the Sky series, Zero no Kiseki, and Ao no Kiseki, overseas?
I think this is an obstacle being faced not only by the Trails/Kiseki series, but all PSP games in Japan right now. It may be hard to imagine in North America, but in Japan, the PSP is the best-selling game platform, so it’s not quite as simple as just deciding to make a game for one of the HD platforms like PS3 or Xbox 360.
It is a dilemma of sorts, but I think the important thing is to let people know that there are a lot of games worth playing in Japan. As the user numbers go up, there’ll be more options to choose from for everyone. So we would like to keep releasing more titles in North America to help spread this mindset.
Falcom said they’re working on a new RPG for the NGP’s launch. What can you tell us or hint at about the game?
It’s a very attractive machine and our staff is diligently working on the game as we speak. Falcom was originally a PC game developer, and the NGP architecture has many aspects in common with that of the PC, so we’re trying to give this title as many benefits as we can — things we just couldn’t do on a PSP. We would love to release this mystery title in North America as well. Please keep an eye out for it.
Will Falcom consider a release of their PC versions on Steam with XSEED’s assistance?
We don’t have anything specific planned at the moment, but we do get a lot of requests to release our PC titles on Steam, so the idea is definitely in the back of our minds.
A lot of fans want to know… what’s next for the Ys series? Will we see another remake similar to Oath in Felghana? Some fans want Ys IV! Will there be a brand new game? A console game?
Ah, straight to the point, I see. We’ve already decided on the hardware for the next Ys game, and development has already begun. I can’t give out any details just yet, however, but I do think people will be surprised when they learn what it is.