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AdvertisementNonTitle/NARITAYUTAKA Akasaka

Falcom’s long-running Trails series is considered by many to be one of the greatest JRPG series of all time, with an overarching story, characters, worldbuilding, lore, and history shared by 11 games (and more if you count supplementary material!).

Unfortunately, the sheer number of entries in the series can make it daunting for a newcomer wondering where to start. In this spoiler-free guide, we go through the games in original release order one by one and advise you on the different versions, availability in English, and whether it’d be a good idea to begin with it each time.

 

The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky

The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky FCIdeal starting point

PC, PSP, PS3 (JP), Vita (JP)

The very first game in the Trails series, also known as Trails in the Sky FC (for First Chapter). Trails in the Sky follows the story of Estelle Bright and her adopted brother Joshua, as they go on a pilgrimage to become full-fledged Bracers, members of a multinational peacekeeping organizations.

As the very first game in the series, Trails in the Sky is the ideal starting point for newcomers to the series. Though being the first game means it is the oldest entry in the series, the original Japanese PC release (2004) was very well-made and still looks and plays magnificently in the present day, and the English language PC release (2014) makes further improvements to the formula.

The PSP version has some additions and changes compared to the original Japanese PC release, the English PC release includes these changes and also improved graphics, and so the only reason one might choose the PSP version over it would be for the mobility.
The Japan-only Vita remaster Eiyuu Densetsu: Sora no Kiseki FC Evolution also adds new art and full voice acting to the main story, but it was unfortunately never released in English.

 

The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky SC

The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky SCAbsolutely not recommended for new players

PC, PSP, PS3 (JP), Vita (JP)

A direct sequel to the first game, with SC standing for “Second Chapter”. The story picks up immediately after the end of the first game, and is not a recommending starting point for new players.

All three Trails in the Sky games were released for the same platform and share the same properties: If looking to play the game in English, the English PC release is the definitive version, while if one is fine with a Japanese version the Vita remaster includes new art and full voice acting.

 

The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky the 3rd

https://www.frontlinejp.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/03.jpgNot recommended for new players

PC, PSP, PS3 (JP), Vita (JP)

Though the three Trails in the Sky games are commonly referred to as a trilogy, the story is actually wrapped up in the first two games: 3rd is an epilogue and side story featuring a new protagonist (one of the party members from Sky SC) with his own standalone story.

Though this might sound like it would make the game accessible for new players, this is not the case: While the main story of the game revolves around the new protagonist and has little to do with the previous games’, the majority of the game is side content involving wrapping up loose threads from the previous games and foreshadowing future content, and assumes that the player has already cleared the first two games. The main story also includes huge spoilers for the previous games. It’s thus really not a good idea to start here.

All three games in the Sky trilogy were released for the same platform and share the same properties: If looking to play the game in English, the English PC release is the definitive version, while if one is fine with a Japanese version the Vita remaster includes new art and full voice acting.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero

 The Legend of Heroes: Trails from ZeroDecent starting point

JP Only: PSP, PC, Vita, PS4, Switch

Trails from Zero is the start of a new sub-series in Trails, taking place in the city-state of Crossbell, and following protagonist Lloyd Bannings, a new detective in the Crossbell Police Department’s Special Support Section. With his colleagues, he investigates various crimes, which lead them to butt heads with politicians and the mafia.

The new setting and protagonist make Trails from Zero a decent starting point for new players, except for one problem: A plot thread from the Sky series is brought into Zero, and resolved here. This might not be a problem for new players who want to skip the Sky series entirely, but if you want to see the entire series, it would probably be better to start with Sky.

Unfortunately, Trails from Zero is not yet officially available in English: The game will be released in English on the PC, PS4, and Switch in 2022.

As for the Japanese releases, the game was originally released on the PSP, before getting a remaster with full voice acting for the main story on the Vita, and later a remaster with additional content tying in to the Cold Steel series on the PS4.

While the game is also currently available in Japanese on the PC, this is a reverse-translated version of the Chinese PC release, which was a bad port of the original PSP release with none of the additional content from the Vita version, with numerous technical issues. Additionally, though the sequel Trails to Azure allows players to import their Trails from Zero save, meaning that players would ideally play the two games on the same platform, Trails to Azure was never released on the PC in Japan.

 

The Legend of Heroes: Trails to Azure

The Legend of Heroes: Trails to AzureAbsolutely not recommended for new players

JP only: PSP, PC, Vita, PS4, Switch

Trails to Azure is a direct sequel to Trails from Zero, and while it does not require as much knowledge of the previous game as Sky SC does, it would still be a bad idea to start with it. Also, though the Japanese version was released before Trails of Cold Steel, someone going in to the series completely blind might want to play Cold Steel before it, as a certain plot twist in Cold Steel and Cold Steel II would be completely negated with knowledge of Azure’s story.

Like Zero, Trails to Azure is not yet officially available in English. The game will be released in English on the PC, PS4, and Switch in 2023.

As for the Japanese releases, like Zero, the game was originally released on the PSP, before getting a remaster with full voice acting for the main story on the Vita, and later a remaster with additional content tying in to the Cold Steel series on the PS4.

 

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold SteelGreat starting point

PS3, Vita, PC, PS4, Switch (JP)

Trails of Cold Steel is the start of the third sub-series in Trails, this time taking place in the empire of Erebonia, and following new protagonist Rean Schwarzer, a freshman in a prestigious military academy. The story sends Rean and his classmates on field trips around the massive empire, each to a unique and interesting locale, where they see various societal problems and unrest.

Though it has a few returning characters, Trails of Cold Steel is mostly completely unrelated to the story of previous games, and would be a great starting point for new players.

Trails of Cold Steel has been released for the PS3, Vita, PC, and PS4 in English. The PS3 and Vita releases were simultaneous, and the PC release was based on them but added English voice acting and some improvements.

The PS4 version is the latest, definitive version of the game, with improved graphics, an emulator-like high speed mode that can be easily toggled at any time, and all of the DLC from the original releases included. Unfortunately, this version also has some draw distance issues, but they are not game-breaking.

The definitive version of the game was also released for the Switch in 2021, but this version was not released in English.

 

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IIAbsolutely not recommended for new players

PS3, Vita, PC, PS4, Switch (JP)

Trails of Cold Steel II is a direct sequel to Cold Steel in the vein of Sky SC, taking place immediately after the previous game, and so new players should definitely play Cold Steel first. Though it does touch on some events of Trails to Azure, it does so lightly, and someone going in to the series completely blind might actually want to play Cold Steel II before Azure.

Like the previous game, Trails of Cold Steel II was released for the PS3, Vita, PC, and PS4 in English. The PS3 and Vita releases were simultaneous, and the PC release was based on them but added English voice acting and some improvements.

The PS4 version is the latest, definitive version of the game, with improved graphics, an emulator-like high speed mode that can be easily toggled at any time, and all of the DLC from the original releases included. Unfortunately, this version also has some draw distance issues, but they are not game-breaking.

The definitive version of the game was also released for the Switch in 2021, but this version was not released in English.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IIIConditionally a possible starting point

PS4, PC, Switch

Though Trails of Cold Steel III is the third game in the Cold Steel series, following the same protagonist and with most of the characters from the first two games returning, it also features a new setting, starting with protagonist Rean starting in his new job as an instructor in the academy, and revolving more around the new characters, his students there.

That being said, though the game’s developers and publishers have said that players can start with Cold Steel III, this would be far from ideal, as the game assumes some level of familiarity with the returning characters and the story thus far.

Thanks to the perspective of Rean’s students, however, it would not be as bad as trying to jump in with Sky FC, Azure, or Cold Steel II. If you want to just get into the newest game possible to catch up with the latest releases and have no intention of checking out the older games, Cold Steel III might just be a feasible choice.

All versions of Trails of Cold Steel III (PS4, PC and Switch) are available in English.

 

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV

The Legend of Heroes: Cold Steel IVAbsolutely not recommended for new players

PS4, PC, Switch

Trails of Cold Steel IV is a direct sequel to Cold Steel III, and also brings together characters from Sky and Zero/Azure. New players should not start here.

All versions of Trails of Cold Steel IV (PS4, PC and Switch) are available in English.

 

The Legend of Heroes: Trails into Reverie

The Legend of Heroes: Trails into ReverieAbsolutely not recommended for new players

JP only: PS4, PC, Switch

Trails into Reverie is an epilogue to the Cold Steel and Zero/Azure series comprised of three intertwining stories, one of which follows Cold Steel protagonist Rean and another which follows Zero/Azure protagonist Lloyd. As such, players should finish both of those series before playing it.

Trails into Reverie is not yet available in English, with English PS4, PC and Switch releases announced for 2023.

 

Eiyuu Densetsu: Kuro no Kiseki

Kuro no Kiseki

Great starting point

PS4

Kuro no Kiseki is the start of a new sub-series in the Trails series, much like Zero and Cold Steel, and takes place in a new locale with mostly new characters. As such, it is a feasible starting point for new players.

It should be noted, however, that protagonist Van is well-informed of the events of previous games, and is even mentioned as having taken part in some of them (albeit off-screen), and is already acquainted with several returning characters. While the player could arguably take the perspective of one of Van’s new assistants, who do not know any of this, some might still find this bothering.

 

“So, where do I start?”

The best places for a new player to start on the Trails series would be:

1: Trails in the Sky

Though the game was originally released in 2004, the original Japanese PC release already aged very well even before you factor in how the 2014 English released heaped on tons of improvements. This is where it all began.

2: Trails of Cold Steel

Though it’s the sixth game in the series, Cold Steel is sufficiently detached from the previous games that new players should be able to jump in with no problems, and move on to Cold Steel II fine too. If you do intend to check out the older games eventually, though, make sure you do it before playing Cold Steel III!

3: Kuro no Kiseki (English release TBA)

Kuro is the latest game in the series, and also the start of its own sub-series and is to some degree detached from previous games, making it a great starting point for players to jump in. It is not as detached as Cold Steel, however, with frequent references to previous games and a protagonist who is already very familiar with the world.

4: Trails from Zero (2022)

Zero, as the start of its own sub-series, is also a good starting point for new players. It does have an important plot thread that ties in to Sky, however, so someone who intends on playing Sky should finish the Sky games first.

5: Trails of Cold Steel III

If you don’t care about the older games and just want to catch up with the English releases as soon as possible, the current best option would probably be Trails of Cold Steel III, which focuses on a new group of characters.

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