Why Falcom’s Trails from Zero & Trails to Azure Deserve a Western Release

Nihon Falcom’s epic, generation-spanning series The Legend of Heroes has been slowly picking up steam in Western territories over the last few years, as the combined localization efforts of publishers Xseed Games and NIS America have done an excellent job of introducing the titles to a broader audience outside Japan. Fans of the long-running series have praised its persistent overarching storyline, immersive and detailed settings, masterful character development (right down to the NPCs) and a unique battle system that blends elements of a grid-based RTS with more traditional turn-based RPG trappings.

The positive commercial and critical success of the series has led to a relatively short turn-around time for English translations of new entries, with the latest title Trails of Cold Steel IV coming to Western audiences just two years after its initial release date in Japan. And yet with all the praise Falcom has received for their efforts from their rapidly growing fan base, it has yet to localize two titles that are absolutely crucial to understanding future events in the series’ ongoing narrative: Trails from Zero and Trails to Azure, otherwise known as the Crossbell duology.

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Officially titled Zero no Kiseki and Ao no Kiseki respectively, this two-part story arc takes place in the independent city-state of Crossbell, where two adjacent superpowers are constantly fighting over ownership of the tiny country. The story follows protagonist Lloyd Bannings, a rookie investigator for the Crossbell police department in search of the truth behind his brother’s death three years prior. He’s joined by his colleagues Ellie McDowell, Randy Orlando and Tio Plato as they uncover a hidden plot taking place behind the scenes that threatens the safety and autonomy of Crossbell and its people.

While other JRPG series like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest don’t require players to have pre-existing knowledge of previous games, The Legend of Heroes relies on it for some of its biggest reveals and character developments. The overarching storyline follows a huge cast of characters from across the continent of Zemuria, and each of their story arcs has lasting implications on future games in the series. The events that unfold in Crossbell introduce major revelations that tie directly into recently localized games like Trails of Cold Steel III and the upcoming Trails of Cold Steel IV, meaning fans are expected to be familiar with these story threads and characters without actually being able to play the games they originated from.

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The odd thing is, developer Falcom has been no stranger to re-releasing both of these games in the years since their original debut. In fact, there have already been two separate remasters of the fan-favorite duology since Zero no Kiseki first launched on the PSP back in 2010. The latest iterations, titled Zero no Kiseki Kai and Ao no Kiseki Kai, are coming to PlayStation 4 exclusively in Japan and include upgraded visuals, Japanese voice acting, turbo mode, a 60 FPS framerate and several easter eggs to tie them in even further to future games in the series.

While there hasn’t been any official announcement concerning a Western localization of the PS4 remasters, there are still slivers of hope that the games could see the light of day outside of Japan. In a recent interview with Gematsu, Falcom president Toshihiro Kondo expressed his regret that they were unable to release the Crossbell games in English and believes that the PS4 versions could pave the way for an eventual Western release. With Zero no Kiseki Kai already out in Japan and Ao no Kiseki Kai coming at the end of May, the possibility of an announcement is as high as it’s ever been for fans of the long-running series hoping to play these missing entries.

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At this point, bringing the Crossbell games to an English audience wouldn’t even be particularly risky for Nihon Falcom. An unofficial fan translation of Trails from Zero was recently released for those with legally purchased Japanese copies of the game, and fan demand for the patch resulted in localization group Geofront’s servers crashing before bouncing back and tallying over a million unique downloads in the first week alone. There is clearly a demand for the games in the West, and the developers would be crazy not to take advantage of the opportunity to introduce The Legend of Heroes series to an even broader audience.

Trails from Zero and Trails to Azure are considered some of the very best entries in Nihon Falcom’s popular The Legend of Heroes saga and hold crucial narrative ties to several future games in the series. And with the upcoming Fall release of Trails of Cold Steel IV being especially reliant on the Crossbell arc’s characters and events, it’s become imperative for the developers to localize the duology as soon as possible for their growing fanbase’s understanding of the ongoing storyline.

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As The Legend of Heroes saga continues to grow in popularity, two of the series' critically-acclaimed games have yet to see an English localization.

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