A few years ago we’d laugh at the famous line from Death Note subtitles “Just according to keikaku” but nowadays it’s becoming more and more normal to leave some words without translation even in official (crunchyroll, hidive, etc) subtitles. Who is laughing now? =) Recently we watched an anime where the parents were routinely called Otou-san and Okaa-san because why not, and in the latest episode of Bocchi the Rock the translators decided that everyone knows what seishun means anyway =) I actually think it’s a good idea, that could remove some awkwardness from translations (the same with honorifics, every time I see that -san is replaced with Mister it just feels… wrong, just leave it as is, not to mention attempts to make various Mya-nee sound more or less plausible).

I’ve been trying to get myself familiar with the Star Ocean series recently and currently playing The Last Hope. Wouldn’t say that it’s an amazing game but it’s pretty entertaining and that’s what really matters, right? Anyway, wanted to find some fan-art on this game and, surprisingly, found almost nothing of this sort. While I was searching though bumped into some pretty nice cosplay =) Yeah, it’s Reimi, Reimi and more Reimi, she’s certainly the cutest character in this game.

Trails From Zero

Finally, a new Trails game, hooray! Well, “new” is a bit of a stretch here — Zero no Kiseki came out in Japan on the PSP in 2010 — but only now we finally got the official English release, thanks to NISA and the Geofront. Not gonna lie, this is the first time I’ve heard of a fan-group translation used in an official release, that’s pretty cool.

The Crossbell duology is usually highly praised and I read multiple times that these two games might be the peak Falcom, the best ones the studio has ever released. However, I also read similar claims about Sora SC and wouldn’t say that game was better even than First Chapter, not to mention my personal favorite, Cold Steel III. This time around though I have to agree — Zero No Kiseki is a fantastic game. Not sure if it’s truly the number 1 in entire Kiseki series but I had great time with it and liked almost everything it has to offer.

Let me get my list of complaints and things that could’ve made me enjoy the game even more off my chest first, it’s going to be pretty short. Zero was released after Trails In the Sky and it uses a similar orbment and combat system. Sora games difficulty was kind of hit and miss, so based on my previous experience I picked normal difficulty. Unfortunately, turned out that Trails From Zero is on the easier side comparing to the Sky trilogy, I think I would’ve had more fun if the game was harder. Oh well, Nightmare for the second playthrough maybe? =) And now (haha) let’s address my main (haha) complaint about this game (haha). Or should’ve I said “barrier” instead of “haha”? Lloyd Bannings is a surprisingly boring main character. Yeah, more boring than our overprotective big brother Rean Schwarzer. I didn’t actively dislike Lloyd but oh boy does he have a personality of a friendly potato. It’s truly a shame considering that the rest of the cast is so, so good.

I knew in advance that Tio and Randy would be my favorites and they didn’t disappoint. Randy’s remarks are pure gold most of the time and Tio, despite being a totally different type, keeps up with him perfectly. The way she treats poor Chief Roberts… =( Elie is a surprisingly okay heroine. She doesn’t have any quirks (weeeell, well-well-well, unless you want to talk about the “dynamic duo”, as Randy once said), her past is not that mysterious, but I wouldn’t say that she’s boring, she’s just… relatable, kind of a normal person in this world. Sergei, Noel, Dudley, Grace, Rixia, Ilya, Arios, Estelle — all the supporting cast is also super likeable (yah, even Dudley). I’m desperately trying to recall any really annoying character or scene and drawing blanks. Okay, maybe Wazy is so-so? The antagonist in Zero is your typical Falcom villain. Funnily enough, in the middle of my playthrough I grabbed my Trails artbook to flip through a few pages (Estelle’s portraits bothered me a little, so I wanted to double-check that I’m not crazy and she looked differently in previous games) and spoiled myself to who the mastermind behind everything was =) Although, to be fair, if in a Trails game you see a pleasant middle-aged scientist, the only one among his colleagues who has a portrait in dialogues, and don’t automatically assume that he’s going to be either an Enforcer or at least a Really Suspicious Guy — that’s on you =) I’m a firm believer that if a game or book is good then a spoiler or two won’t matter much (detective novels are an exception of course). Not only Trails From Zero is good, to me Kiseki games’ main selling points have always been their fantastic characters, dialogues and fun combat, not the plot, so I could only chuckle when I had opened the page with Joachim =) Though the plot in Zero is built competently. What start off as relatively mundane investigations eventually transform into a large-scale operation against an evil cult. Surprisingly, Ouroboros doesn’t actively participate in this game. Yeah, they are around: we have a side quest from Phantom Thief B; Renne is running around the city; I already knew about Mariabell (although I’m not sure if she’s already with the Society in Zero) but they never actually intervene in anything. Even more surprisingly, Zero No Kiseki doesn’t end with a cliffhanger. There are some loose ends, for sure (Who is KeA? When will SSS learn about Rixia? When will Mariabell show her true colors? Will Randy finally go on a date with Cecile?) but by and large this is a finished story.

It was an interesting change of pace to spend the entire game in a single city. In Cold Steel I and III we had the “base” towns of Leeves and Trista, and because you spend quite a bit of time in these places you eventually get to know all the people there, learn what kinds of relationships they have with each other and see how these relationships are changing as the game is progressing. Crossbell offers the same but on a grander scale. I’d been trying to talk to everyone in the city at least once a day (NPCs can change their dialogues after some plot event during the same day) but frankly burned out a little after a few days of the festival chapter. I had already missed a bunch of collectibles anyway (guides are for weaklings), so decided to just speak with the people whose stories seemed to be the most interesting. As a side note I want to express my displeasure with the fact that Juna’s family (and Juna herself) are pretty much missing from this game (her little brother and sister can be seen a couple of times but that’s that).

I was thinking to write something about gameplay as well but, honestly, it’s a case of “if it’s not broken why fix it?” Gameplay-wise Zero is more or less a copy-paste of Trails in the Sky the 3rd. The camera outside of battles is fixed now and in combat we have access to combo-crafts, I think that covers most of the changes =) So instead of some gameplay-related wisdoms here comes just a list of random things from my playthrough.

The party of Lloyd, Randy, Elie and Tio is well balanced and fun to use. Randy is obviously a Crossbell version of Laura, all he needs is love accessories increasing the amount of CP and as many ATK cranking quartz as possible. Elie and Tio are both decent mages and can be used interchangeably. In my opinion Elie has better attacking crafts, so my “primary” mage was Tio (meaning I sped up casting for her as much as possible) but the roles can be reversed for sure. Lloyd is a bit of an oddball, because he doesn’t have a clearly defined “class”, but it’s the fate of all Trails protagonists.

Whereas I said that I don’t remember any really weak scenes there were episodes which were the highlights of the game for me. I liked how Tio and Randy were joking about Lloyd and Elie’s relationships (were they joking though?), the running gag with Cecile having fun at Lloyd’s expense (“Lloyd, I hope today you’ll finally tell me who you’re dating!”) is cute and, well, funny; the same goes to the scene when Noel is interrogating her sister about the “man she loves”: “Is it Lloyd? It’s Lloyd, isn’t it? No, please, no, please don’t tell me it’s Randy!” It was surprisingly touching to see how Renne was learning the truth about her family and their reunion with Estelle and Joshua was equally heartwarming. Goddamn, and I don’t even like Renne!

Trails games don’t surprised me anymore, that would be an impossible task after I’ve played so many of them, but every time it feels so nice to return to Zemuria and see all these characters again. Can’t wait to play Ao and Hajimari next year! And Kuro of course too… one day =)

P.S. And as a bonus some random screenshots from the game =)