Jan's Playing Trails! Any questions?/An Intro

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Snigs

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I'm usually a lurker here on the site, but when I saw

Party of One: Jan in the Sky with Trails

I couldn't help myself.

So, as someone that's been playing and enjoying the games since the original US PSP release back in 2011 I wanted to make myself available to anyone who wants to know more about the series. As well as a place for other "Kiseki" nuts to gush and answer questions here. The first two games in the series, which are literally just one game split into two, are my favorite games of all time. So much so, that I worked with another fan to create English patches for the Sky Evolution vita games that were never brought over here (Sky FC Evo, Sky SC Evo, 3rd Evo).

I also plan on giving out copies/PC keys of Trails in the Sky in chat during Jan's stream, so ;) look forward to that if you want a chance to jump in for free.

For a spoiler free generalized introduction to what the "Trails" series is I highly recommend this video from KillScottKill on YouTube (disclaimer, I'm a patron of Scott's):

As for where to start the series I would recommend his follow up video:

They are older videos, since Cold Steel 3 has come out since then and Cold Steel 4 has been announced for release this year (on PS4, PC/Switch will be released in 2021), but they are still very good intros. I'll echo his advice that I recommend you play the original Trails in the Sky first, but won't fault anyone for wanting to try out Trails of Cold Steel first instead since it does have a lot of quality of life improvements over sky. Just, please, PLEASE for the love of video games don't start with Cold Steel 3 (yes, I know it's the only one on or coming to Switch any time soon, I'm sorry).

Now, I do have a couple of warnings for those of you starting or considering the series. Trails in the Sky is a slow burn (even by JRPG standards), and is meant to serve as generalized world and character introductions, but if you make it through and aren't too mad at its MASSIVE cliffhanger (RIP me circa 2011, I had to wait until 2015 to get a resolution to that massive bombshell), TitS SC makes up for it. This is alleviated somewhat by the fact that XSEED patched in a turbo mode into the trilogy a while back that speeds up combat and exploration in the PC version, but it's still worth knowing going in. My other piece of advice/warning I want emphasize that tthe Trails games are games that reward investment, for example, all of the NPCs in the Sky trilogy are named (some even come back in Cold Steel) and will change their dialogue after every story event. Not after every major story event. They update after every story event and many of them have mini internal subplots that start in one game and are paid of in a later one. This extends to NPCs that are ridiculously out of the way. Take your time, enjoy the scenery and Trails will reward you for it.

I could easily keep going, but I'll leave it there. Oh, and I recommend tracking down the Evo voice mods for the PC version if you have the gumption, I won't link out to anything here since I'm one of the crazies that has access to dumping the JP voices from the Vita games on my own, but it is out there and it does help the game. As I mentioned earlier Sky and Sky SC are my favorite games of all time (as a duology--3rd is an extra/"gaiden" game that's sort of its own thing), but not because they do anything in particular new or exciting on its own. They are my favorite games of all time because of how well executed they are as JRPGs, so I wouldn't go in expecting anything to subvert your expectations.

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Rabidlamb

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I am actually just getting into this series myself. Half way through FC right now and got really hooked all of a sudden after starting it years ago and putting it down after an hour. The Prologue to FC took me over 6 hours so yes, slow burn is a good way to describe this game. I am not sure how this will play for a stream / audience but it's nice its getting some attention

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Snigs

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#3  Edited By Snigs

@rabidlamb: To be brutally honest, I agree that it's not a great stream game. I've watch a couple of Sky streams, its hard to stream text heavy games in an entertaining matter if they don't have voice acting.

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fugoy

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Honestly this kinda stuff is what turns people off on trails and it's one of my fav series. Anytime someone has a passing interest people go off about the right way to play. Ultimately, yes, it's great to start from Trails in the sky and go from there. But I'm not gonna stop someone from starting on Cold Steel. Sure they won't get everything, but there is still plenty of enjoyment to be had in the games without all the prior knowledge.

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Relkin

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As someone who just started getting into these myself (I'm currently in the second chapter of SC), I'm equal parts excited and worried about this upcoming stream. GB has a tendency to button though dialog quickly to keep things moving, and that dialog is the main draw in Trails in the Sky. The combat is fine, but isn't especially engaging. Not only that, but the first game's difficulty isn't tuned that well; it leans on the easy-to-the-point-of-being-trivial side of things (see Grandia 2).

I don't expect or even want Jan to obsessively talk to every NPC in the game, as that would probably make for a boring as hell stream, but I do hope that he gives the interactions between the main cast some room to breathe, and not just rush through it. The Turbo Mode that snigs mentions is a great QoL feature; I hope Jan makes good use of it to save time in battles or when running around a town, field or dungeon. Just maybe not during the game's best feature: it's writing.

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Rayeth

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I love Trails, but I agree that generally they are bad Streaming games.

Sky is fantastic and Zero/Ao and the Cold Steel games are also great, but half the fun in these games is going around talking to NPCs. And then coming back and talking to them between EVERY story beat when their dialog updates and the go on with their lives. Following the lives of the townsfolk in every town for the whole game is a large part of the fun of these games and that is franky pretty boring to stream.

Which is too bad because when things get real....things get EXTREMELY real. Trails is very anime (less so in the Sky games, but way more so in Zero/Ao and Cold Steel), and it shows. Jan would probably enjoy the games, but I doubt he'll get into it on stream. But then again, I didn't think he'd enjoy Bloodborne so who knows what can happen?

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MindBullet

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I'll add to the sentiment that the Trails series (especially the Liberl arc) is some of the most anti-streaming content you can get. But I get it, if you're going to start playing it in lockdown mode, might as well stream it.

I will also say that I know how adamant some fans can be about it, but I think starting with Cold Steel 1 is absolutely a fine way to get into the series. It's probably a little easier to stream if that's the route you want to go, and the more modern design and aesthetics are likely easier for non-Trails fans to get into. Then if that hooks you, go back and muscle through the Sky trilogy at some point.

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Efesell

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#8  Edited By Efesell

Trails is rapidly reaching a point in its meta story that if you don't play the entire thousand hour library you will end up rather lost on a lot of points. Cold Steel 3 brings in characters from the (officially) Japanese only Crossbell games and Cold Steel 4 is a game that brings in basically every relevant character and plotline that has happened thus far.

That's not to say that you can't pick one of the later games to start at and have a perfectly good time but I do think it's something of a shame because not a lot of video games...do a story quite like this.

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Snigs

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I'll reiterate as I said in the post:

I'll echo his advice that I recommend you play the original Trails in the Sky first, but won't fault anyone for wanting to try out Trails of Cold Steel first instead since it does have a lot of quality of life improvements over sky.

KillScottKill actually started with Cold Steel himself and talks about his experience starting with Cold Steel in his "where to start" video. If you have better access to Cold Steel than you do to Trails in the Sky, I wouldn't say you should still wait and figure out how to play Sky first instead, just that its worth the effort to start with Sky if you have the access. In fact, I agree that Cold Steel makes a much better option as a streaming option, it has voice acting, it's a bit more... anime, it's easier to look at and watch in action, ect, ect.

But if you want to understand why people like me won't shut up about the series, Trails in the Sky FC and SC is why. The rest only add to what it did so well. In my opinion the Cold Steel arc on its own doesn't really hit the same overall quality as the Sky and Crossbell arc, but for us "fans of the series" it's been well worth the effort to play through them. (Especially when it comes to CS4. WOOO BABY).

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FancySoapsMan

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Trails in the sky 1 is one of my favorite games ever. I remember how sad I felt when I saw that bombshell of an ending and worried I might never get to see the conclusion lol.

I'm currently making my way through Cold Steel. I think its surprising that despite looking so much better it still captures the same feel of the Trails World.

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CommodoreGroovy

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I definitely did a double-take when I saw this was getting streamed today. I never really expected the series to be covered here. But well, I hope Jan enjoys it, it's not usually a game that lends itself to being streamed. Whether you like the series or not comes down to if you can tolerate its slow, novel like pace, with lots and lots of build-up that does eventually have great pay-offs.

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SethMode

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#12  Edited By SethMode

I have considered giving this series a go many times, so I'm very thankful for this thread.

Question though: do people really commonly abbreviate it to "TitS"?! Kind of hilarious, if true.

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Snigs

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@sethmode: Not all the time. The first game is usually abbreviated as FC or "First Chapter" since the second game is called "Second Chapter", and the arc as a whole as the Liberl arc. You'll typically see people use the "TitS" moniker if you're talking with people unfamiliar with the series as a whole, but don't want to type out "Trails in the Sky" all of the freaking time.

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dazzhardy

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A list of where these are available would be great. As far as I can tell, all three Trials in the Sky games are on Steam, and the 3 released Cold Steel games are there, so PC seems like the easiest place to play them. They seem to be across generations and portables otherwise, some on PSP, some on PS3, some on Vita and PS4 ?

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Snigs

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#15  Edited By Snigs

@dazzhardy:

Availability in English

Trails in the Sky ("Fist Chapter"/FC)

  • PSP (Not recommended due to out of date script)
  • PC (Humble/GOG/Steam - Recommended for up to date translation and Turbo mode)
  • Vita (Via PSP digital store/JP only EVO version via fan patch)

Trails in the Sky Second Chapter

  • PSP (Not recommended due to out of date script)
  • PC (Humble/GOG/Steam - Recommended for up to date translation and Turbo mode)
  • Vita (Via PSP digital store/JP only EVO version via fan patch)

Trails in the Sky the 3rd

  • PC (Humble/GOG/Steam - Recommended for up to date translation and Turbo mode)
  • Vita (Via PSP digital store/JP only EVO version via fan patch)

Zero no Kieski (JP only)

  • PC (DLSite via fan patch)
  • Possible future PS4/Switch/PC release via NISA thanks to the recent release of Zero no Kieski Kai on PS4 in JP.

Ao no Kiseki (JP only)

  • No good or recommended methods.
    • Can via import and translation spreadsheet or with a less than legitimate PC patched version that's floating around the bowls of the internet that's OK, but neither option is recommended.
  • Possible future PS4/Switch/PC release via NISA thanks to the release of Ao no Kieski Kai later the month on PS4 in JP.

Trails of Cold Steel

  • PC (Humble/GOG/Steam - Recommended thanks to turbo mode and more VO than Vita/PS3)
  • Vita
  • PS3
  • PS4 (Recommended thanks to turbo mode and more VO than Vita/PS3)

Trails of Cold Steel II

  • PC (Humble/GOG/Steam - Recommended thanks to turbo mode and more VO than Vita/PS3)
  • Vita
  • PS3
  • PS4 (Recommended thanks to turbo mode and more VO than Vita/PS3)

Trails of Cold Steel III

  • PC (Humble/GOG/Steam)
  • PS4
  • Switch (June 30th)

Trails of Cold Steel IV

  • PS4 (Holiday 2020)
  • PC (2021)
  • Switch (2021)

Hajimari no Kiseki

  • PS4 (August 27th in JP, presumed localization by NISA at a later date)
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Justin258

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TitS SC makes up for it

So this is really another one of those series whose abbreviation is maybe a little inappropriate?

I have the first one in my Steam library but I couldn't get into when I tried it. I didn't play it for very long, though, so maybe I'll give it another shot?

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Zeik

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@justin258: The first game is a very slow burn. I had a hard time getting into it myself until I later came back to it after playing Cold Steel. (Which is a bit of a slow burn game in its own right, but less so.)

If Sky doesn't grab you I'd consider giving Cold Steel a shot. Even though it is recommended to play Sky first, I found it a lot easier to get invested in Sky once I was more familiar with the world and some character and events.

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MindBullet

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I think Sky FC is kind of a tough sell, and probably the major roadblock people run into when trying to get into the Trails series as a whole. It's a great JRPG, but its definitely showing it's age when it comes to visuals and design. That coupled with its notoriously glacial pacing, the length, and the knowledge that there are two more games on top of it that complete the story being told in FC and set up the most modern looking entries in the series can be a significant hurdle.

If you can appreciate it for what it is without already being hooked on the Trails canon, than it's well worth playing. Otherwise, starting with Cold Steel can give you that extra push you might need.

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Efesell

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The voice mods really add a lot to the experience, in my opinion. Even if the quality the audio feels a bit iffy, probably just a Vita thing.

But while I got into the games with just the text and I think the writing is strong enough to carry it.. recent replaying just had a lot more personality to it with all that included.

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deactivated-5ecd59dd4c6c0

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I hadn’t realized the Evo games were vita exclusive. I thought they brought it to steam at least. I’m playing through Evo FC right now on vita and the moving character portraits while talking, voice acting, and better textures are already noticeable just a few hours in. It really is a better experience. Do the PC mods make it the same game as Evo FC on vita?

The voice acting has been great so far. Jan does have a vita so the English patch of Evo FC might be another option — especially now with the recent mod for vita to output to OBS.

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Efesell

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@solaaros: You can add all of Evos voice acting and art in to the PC version, though the portraits probably don't animate, not sure.

I usually only mod in the voices, I'm not too crazy about the new artwork.

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dazzhardy

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@snigs: oooh, Cold Steel is all on PS4, nice! Thank you so much :D

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ronindrummer200

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Is there a strong opinion on soundtrack preference between Evo and Original for Trials in the Sky FC, SC, and Third? I am digging the original Soundtrack on FC but, not sure if I should mod in the Evo music or not.

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Snigs

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@ronindrummer200: The fan base tends to prefer the original soundtrack. I'm happy with both, but tend to lean towards the original as well since it has a more personality.

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Efesell

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Going back to any of these without Turbo now is rouuuuugh. So was playing CS4 which does not have it either since it's all localization.

Localizations doing gods work making sure turbo carries forward forever.

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SethMode

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@efesell said:

Going back to any of these without Turbo now is rouuuuugh. So was playing CS4 which does not have it either since it's all localization.

Localizations doing gods work making sure turbo carries forward forever.

I ended up dusting off my Vita to play it as that was where I purchased it. Needed to charge it first so I haven't yet. One aspect I like of older JRPGs is playing them on a portable so that I can be doing some of the more drawn out things absent-mindedly while doing something else. Would you say it would be worth it to just scrap playing on Vita and get it for PC?

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Zeik

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@sethmode: I played the game on Vita for similar reasons, but I kinda wish I had played it on PC instead. I definitely feel like turbo would have been a bigger boon than the portability, especially to speed up battles, as they feel quite slow in the Sky series. (I played Cold Steel 1 and 2 without it and it felt fine, but I still welcomed it in 3.)

It really depends on how much you value that portability. It might be worth the trade off if it's big deal to you. But if not, go for the one with turbo.

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Efesell

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@sethmode: I guess I would play a bit and get a taste of the combat specifically because it's.. the combat of Trails in general is very simple and traditional but in the Sky trilogy is also Extremely Slow.

So if you find that it doesn't bother you all that much I can see the portability still winning out if you prefer that in general, but once you do play a version with the turbo mode it will be extremely difficult to ever do the battles again in its normal speed.

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SethMode

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#31  Edited By SethMode

@zeik: @efesell: After reading both of these, I'm super curious to see what I think when I boot this up, because now I'm wondering if in my mind I'm thinking it will be so slow that when I play I'll be like "Oh, not that bad."

Fingers crossed?

Thank you both for the help.

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Efesell

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I mean the turbo modes are a relatively recent addition, they were patched into the PC version like a couple of years ago and then the PC releases of Cold Steel 1-2 brought them forward and then the localization of 3 brought it to PS4.

So I definitely played Many Hours of Legend of Heroes games without it and enjoyed it a lot but it's definitely hard to go back once you've used it.

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norm9

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I bought this a few months ago but have had only enough time to play through the tutorial sewer before getting distracted with other things. Looking forawrd to watching this.

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SethMode

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So, I started it this weekend on the Vita, and honestly, it hooked me almost immediately. I'm only about 2 hours in, but the writing is surprisingly good and the world building it is doing is top notch. The only thing keeping me from really digging into it is that I just started the new semester in Person 5 Royal.

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Arcitee

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A really great JRPG and the world building across so many games is great.

Some have mentioned already but the turbo mode in the ps4 re-releases is amazing for grinding, backtracking and new game plus.

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hiphopza

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im new here

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Genessee

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1. Estelle is a force of nature. To stand against her is foo.ishness.

2. The music is RIDICULOUSLY good. You will always be floored by the most lauded tracks even AFTER all that hard sell.

3. Trails goes for gutpunches. Hard. You will also be floored even if you're spoiled or sorta figured where it was headed. Over and over again.

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dazzhardy

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I just got my copy of the first Trails of Cold Steel, and it has a 50 page full colour manual and I couldn't be happier about that small fact. It might be the first PS4 game I've gotten with an actual manual and its delightful :D

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xbob42

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I dunno about "TitS," that's a real torturous and kind of hilarious acronym. I just call it Trails... since, you know. That's easy to recognize and not a weird acronym.

Anyway, my only problem with the Evo releases are those hideous portraits. Estelle kind of sort of looks okay, but Josh looks like a generic anime boy. Now, Josh has some wild hair in the original, but the portraits were much softer and conveyed much more personality, despite not being animated. Eyes had a kinder, softer look that really made a great contrast when a character's mood changed. I think this problem has only gotten worse as the series has gone on. The faces in the Cold Steel games might as well be emotionless automatons compared to the subtlety on display from a select few portraits in the original games, which is really interesting and impressive to me.

As for where to start, you'll probably be fine starting with Cold Steel, but really if you bounce off Sky hard then the series might actually not be for you? I still think the original 3 games have been significantly better than anything that has come since, sans the Japanese-only Crossbell games (praise be to Geofront) and them being "slow" isn't something that changes. Cold Steel might have voice acting and... sorta kinda better graphics, but the glacial pace doesn't change, and maybe it's a personal thing, but I found it a little sad that they copied Persona so hard. I mean the stories are still there, but the setup of being in a school with a calendar (even if you're not actually doing it day-by-day like Persona) just made it seem less like an adventure and more like a poor man's Atlus title at times.

I will also say, if you see people here talking about the series going hard when it finally gets going, that's almost all Sky/Crossbell. I'm early on in Cold Steel 3 and there's been far less gut punches, the series seems to have gotten really bloodless and shied away from some of the darker themes that were found under the peppy layer of the original trilogy and plenty of Crossbell. Cold Steel, at least 1 and 2, went through a "horrors of war" phase where they actually presented a war that didn't seem all that bad, which was REALLY bizarre.

I've been rambling enough, though. You play enough of these games (I only started really digging in about 2-3 months ago, despite beating Sky FC in like 2016 and starting SC the second I beat the first... only to completely drop the series for 4 years for no real reason.) and you'll have a bunch of hyper-specific opinions like us, too!

But regardless of anything else anyone here says, if you're gonna start with Sky or Cold Steel, start with the FIRST ONE of either series! These games are continuous story arcs, they pick up right where the previous one left off, or sometimes after a small time jump, and they expect you to know about the events of the previous game in their entirety! So start with Sky FC or Cold Steel 1!

I only came here to ask if anyone knows when Jan's doing the next episode and now I've gone and written a crazy JRPG fan post. This is all your fault, Jan!

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SethMode

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So, I'm roughly 35 hours into Trails FC and really am just adoring it. It does move slowly, but I'm really enjoying the pace just the same. And I know much has been said of the quality writing, but I just didn't expect to be SO impressed with it. I've laughed out loud countless times at how genuinely both endearing and funny some of Estelle's lines are.

Although boy, there is a part early on that seemed pretty homophobic that made me cringe.

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MindBullet

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@xbob42:I think Cold Steel deserves more credit than that, but it mostly comes down to personal preference I suppose. I will agree that it does have it's issues, though. I just recently finished replaying 1 and 2 in preparation for Cold Steel 3 and I came away with some more complicated feelings than I remember having when I originally played them on PS3. I've been thinking about trying to write something about it as a way to organize those thoughts, but I kind of want to get through more of CS3 first.

@sethmode: That is, unfortunately, an issue that plagues the series as a whole. I'll refrain from getting too deep into it, but Trails' handling of what queer characters it has isn't... Super great...

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SethMode

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#42  Edited By SethMode

@mindbullet: That really sucks, in addition because I find it not that surprising. I have concerns that the queer character in question (I don't want to spoil anything but I'm sure you probably know who I am talking about given I'm still fairly early in the first game), whom I think is REALLY great, will become kind of a walking punch line because that has basically been the path they have been on so far.

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Efesell

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@sethmode: Unless I'm blanking on someone specific I don't think the series is ever particularly terrible about it though.. just the same level of out of touch 'jokes' that even the best JRPGs can never get rid of, but I don't think Trails gets even to the level of those Persona 5 guys.

Cold Steel features a main character who is I would say deeply problematic and also happens to be queer and while I don't think these traits were supposed to be linked it does feel kind of weird.

As for Sky the character that I assume you are talking about is definitely more than just a source of bad jokes.

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SethMode

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#44  Edited By SethMode

@efesell said:

@sethmode: Unless I'm blanking on someone specific I don't think the series is ever particularly terrible about it though.. just the same level of out of touch 'jokes' that even the best JRPGs can never get rid of, but I don't think Trails gets even to the level of those Persona 5 guys.

Cold Steel features a main character who is I would say deeply problematic and also happens to be queer and while I don't think these traits were supposed to be linked it does feel kind of weird.

As for Sky the character that I assume you are talking about is definitely more than just a source of bad jokes.

Hah, I almost mentioned P5 in my post because I recently finished Royal and that was one aspect I did not enjoy reliving.

As for the last part, I'm far enough in to see that there is definitely MUCH more to the character (I'm about halfway through Chapter 2), I just don't particularly care for the fact that many of the jokes directed at that character thus far have been in relation to them being a pervert because they're queer.

Having said all of that, it isn't like it is crazy prevalent...just another in a long line of bummers when it comes to JRPGs and how they handle anything LGBTQ.

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xbob42

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I was struggling to think of who this was, because I recently beat Cold Steel 2 and couldn't really think of anyone like that. (I could totally be blanking.) But then I remembered I also recently started Cold Steel 3 and there was that "classic" anime/JRPG scene of getting ridiculously touchy for what I assume is pure fanservice and I couldn't have rolled my eyes harder. I've always hated fanservice, and think it has a terrible name, because it never works as decent comedy, and always makes whatever's going on feel like a trope-filled piece of media instead of a serious or engaging story that I want to partake in. It's not even sexy, not that that would excuse it, it's just fucking embarrassing.

Luckily in the grand scheme of things these moments are rare and fleeting, but still unfortunate. They never really feel malicious or hateful or anything, but they always feel like they're there to check a box to... make more money, I guess? And I think that's almost as bad. Feels like compromised artistic integrity to provide creeps with just the lamest ultra-softcore garbage.

Dang it, I only came here to reiterate my previous question! Anyone know if Jan mentioned this again on a stream or anything? I've been avoiding his Bloodborne streams since I'm holding out hope for a PC version as I was not able to stomach the stuttering of the PS4 version. He doesn't seem to Tweet much, so I was hoping maybe I just missed it. I'd really like to see another episode. I'm hoping he didn't drop it for being too slow.

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xbob42

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I'm starting to think this isn't coming back. :(

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Relkin

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@xbob42: I think he's just focusing on beating Bloodborne before he dives into anything else in a big way. Doing full playthroughs of multiple games at the same time is a good way to make sure you finish none of them. We'll see what he does once he finishes his time in Yharnam.

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xbob42

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@relkin said:

@xbob42: I think he's just focusing on beating Bloodborne before he dives into anything else in a big way. Doing full playthroughs of multiple games at the same time is a good way to make sure you finish none of them. We'll see what he does once he finishes his time in Yharnam.

Ah, you make a good point. Any idea how far in he is? I haven't watched his Bloodborne streams as I'm hoping for an eventual PC release (which we've seen hinted at by multiple sources lately) and don't want to spoil it.

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@xbob42: There isn't much left for him to do in the main game, but he plans on doing the DLC, which might be a few episodes in of itself. That being said, he mentioned in the most recent episode that be plans on stopping when he gets up to the end, but before beating it, and then will return at another time to play through the DLC and then finish the game. I can't imagine that'll be a long break, but we may see a return to other stuff in the meantime to gauge peoples interest. I bet we'll see another episode of both Trails and Judgement, and he'll determine which of those two will get his full attention later on, based on audience reception.