Trails into Reverie's long-awaited release is just days away at the time of writing, and with the series finally ramping up here in the West, we wanted to reach out to developer Falcom in order to organise our biggest interview with the company yet.
Luckily for us, Falcom president Toshihiro Kondo has been kind enough to answer our questions (again!). We asked him about Falcom's immediate future, the imminent Trails into Reverie, Kuro no Kiseki's potential localisation, and more. We even got answers to a series of quickfire questions, in which we put forth some particularly daft queries about the Trails franchise. Fans will definitely want to give them a look.
Toshihiro Kondo, Nihon Falcom President: Since then, in terms of the Trails series, we worked on the sequel to Kuro no Kiseki. On the Ys front, we have just reached a critical point in the development of Ys X. Additionally, we have begun work on another new game.
Can you tell us about how Falcom has evolved over recent years? For example, has the increased popularity of the Trails series changed the way the company operates?
Amongst Falcom titles, games in the Trails series have the most amount of data that needs to be created. In order to get everything created, I have to constantly remind staff members to keep the schedule in mind. Consequently, the main staff members get very busy, so they have less time to think up new ideas. Taking all this into account, we have been working on improving development efficiency, as well as how to best arrange staff and grow their talents.
What are Falcom's goals for the near future?
For the immediate future, the most important thing is to make sure that Ys X, which is the series’ 35th anniversary title, is a rousing success. It’s also the tenth entry in the series, so there’s that aspect as well. Beyond that, we want to show fans something brand new that isn’t in either the Ys or Trails series. We’re currently working on that.
Now that the two Crossbell games are available in the West, what was it like seeing the positive response from fans and reviewers?
Ten years ago, we never believed that a story-focused JRPG series like Trails would find support in the West. From that perspective, this has been very moving. At the same time, we felt relief knowing that, when these titles are made with care and dedication, there are ardent players not only in Asia but the world over. That fact is a great source of motivation.
Moving on, Trails into Reverie is the next big Trails release here in the West. Can you give us a brief overview of what the game is about?
Trails into Reverie is the culminating work of the Cold Steel series, but at the same time, it is also the beginning of the next arc in the series acting as a bridge. Those players who enjoyed Cold Steel will see plenty of familiar faces one after the other and see what happens next for them. It also serves as a prologue to Kuro no Kiseki with brand new characters who will feature in that title. From a gameplay perspective, Trails into Reverie features the largest playable roster in the series to date, with many other fun things in store, so this title has a lot to offer for fans.
Trails into Reverie obviously first released in Japan several years ago — do you have any memories of its development? Did its three storylines change the way that you approached the project?
Because this game has so many characters, keeping track of the timeline and locations was complex. We couldn’t really have it play out like previous titles in the series, so we decided to embrace that and let the players have fun; the result of that decision was the 'Trails to Walk' system.
There have been similar conceits in the series to this point, but this time, since there are so many main characters, there are three separate stories to follow. I would say that this approach has had an effect on projects we’ve developed since, and I'm looking forward to players finding those things for themselves when they play Kuro no Kiseki in the future.
Can you tell us more about the three storylines in Reverie, and how they influence the game's flow and structure?
The story does follow a linear timeline, however the three primary main characters, Rean, Lloyd, and C‘s routes can be switched to basically at the player’s discretion as the narrative proceeds. Also, when two of the primary characters get involved in the same event, they won’t always work together; they might find themselves at opposition to the other or even miss each other entirely.
In Trails games up till now, basically, the story is told from the point of view of one main character, however this title allows for the story to be enjoyed from multiple angles, which is a first for the series.
We've read that Reverie has over 50 playable characters, which is impressive. Does Reverie do anything to streamline the process of equipping weapons, armour, and quartz over such a huge cast?
In terms of new features, Trails into Reverie has an extremely useful one in the form of the 'Edit' menu. By pressing left on the d-pad, the player can not only change their party layout, but also each character's equipment loadout or arts automatically. When the player moves on to a new chapter and gets new characters, they can remove all accessories or quartz and then have them automatically re-equipped to the new party in a balanced manner. From there, the player can make finer adjustments as they’d like.
Was it difficult to balance so many playable characters, in terms of combat?
The more playable characters there are, the more indefinite elements increase, so balancing becomes difficult. Actually, one the reasons for the aforementioned 'Trails to Walk' system was so that we could decrease these indefinite elements and better balance the combat. Within that, we still took great care to give the player ample freedom, fine tuning everything, so please look forward to an enjoyable gameplay experience.
Have you made any notable changes to the combat system in Reverie, compared to Cold Steel IV?
One new element is the 'United Front' system. When you destroy certain objects on the field, your Assault Gauge will increase and you can use it to unleash either a party-wide heal, a physical attack, or an Arts attack in combat. Every enemy in battle will be affected and the party will regain a fixed amount of BP, HP, and all status ailments will be cured. Please try this feature out and use it to its fullest.
Additionally, there is a new AT bonus called Zero Craft whereby any Craft will cost Zero CP, so you can use your powerful S-Crafts at that moment. There are times when the enemy can also gain the upper hand, so you might find yourself in a bind, but overall, this makes for some thrilling battles!
We've also read that Reverie has a huge, replayable dungeon called the Reverie Corridor. Can you tell us more about it, and why you decided to include something like this in the game?
The True Reverie Corridor is something that will need to be tackled a bit within the main story, but can freely and repeatedly be explored in-depth on its own later as well. You will be able to include characters in your party who don’t feature in any of the main stories, so you can create you dream team from characters across the series. The reason this place exists is properly explained in the main story.
The reason we added this system to begin with is that with over 50 playable characters in the main stories, not everyone’s favourite gets their time to shine. Therefore, in the True Reverie Corridor, you can use and grow your favourites to your hearts’ content. Of course, there are ample reasons and rewards for venturing into the True Reverie corridor beyond this, so please look forward to it!
With Reverie building on so many previous Trails titles, is it strictly a game for longtime fans, or can it be enjoyed by new (or newer) players as well?
For new players, there are ample in-game resources that allow them to see main character visuals and story recaps and even if you are a longtime fan, you can dive into these resources for a refresher. That said, and I think this is true of any long running series, but it’s always best to play the older titles for maximum enjoyment.
Is it fair to call Reverie a 'finale' for all of the Trails games so far? Is the new Kuro no Kiseki saga something of a new beginning for the series, or do you still see it as a continuation?
We explained to the production staff members at the beginning of development that this is the finale for one part of the series but also the raising of the curtain for another. In the Japanese title, the 創 character also has the meaning of “beginning”. While the main thrust of the story follows Rean and Lloyd and their allies’ activities, as you play and dig deeper, you will see many keywords and other elements that link it to Kuro no Kiseki. Particularly, the latter half of the game is full of these elements, so please look forward to them.
Speaking of Kuro no Kiseki, we asked last year if you had any plans to bring the new games West, and you said that was the intention. Has anything changed in regards to those plans?
Of course! We have been hard at work to get these projects started. There is nothing to announce quite yet, but we hope to be able to provide some news as soon as possible.
We asked Kondo-san a series of (admittedly quite stupid) questions regarding the Trails series. Here are his decisive answers...
Push Square: Who do you think is the best love interest for Rean?
Kondo: The Cold Steel series started as an RPG that allowed players to experience the life of one person, so we leave that decision to the player. However, personally, I hope that it’s Alisa.
Why isn't Aurelia a romance option in the Cold Steel games?
Possibly because she is so strong, she never lets her guard down for it to happen.
Who's your favourite Trails villain?
It has to be the mysterious McBurn.
How do you come up with character names?
How we choose depends on the situation. There are times we have an idea in mind from the beginning, as well as times when it just comes to us. In any event, we take great care to select names that perfectly fit the characters.
What's your favourite Trails minigame?
Pom Pom Party. However, it does irritate me sometimes.
Who's the coolest member of Class VII?
For me, that would be Jusis.
Which Trails character would you most like to go out drinking with?
That would be Zin because I think he would be the one most likely to be a good listener.
And finally, Is there anything you'd like to say to Western Trails fans?
I would like to express our deepest appreciation to the fans who have supported us with Trails from Zero and Trails to Azure releases and who are now eagerly awaiting Trails into Reverie. Because of your support, we are able to continue creating these titles for you. It seems that the completion of the Trails series has become my life’s work and the next step for the series is Kuro no Kiseki. So that we can bring that title and the titles beyond to you, please continue to offer us your warmest support.
Huge thanks to Kondo-san and Falcom for once again taking the time to answer our questions. Special thanks to Kerry Barrett and the teams at Reef Entertainment, NIS America, and NIS for making this interview possible.
Are you a fan of the Trails games? Are you looking forward to Trails into Reverie? Assemble a huge team of heroes and bring justice to the comments section below.