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Trails Series Journal: Week X+3

Oh dang today is already Monday! I was about to forget about writing this because of Memorial Day. I've finished Chapter 4, so I'm going to ramble on about that this week. (This is finally starting to look like what I was thinking of at first, a play-by-play journal of the Trails experience).


The rest of Chapter 4:

Quick recap of last week: Joshua is emo, and Estelle is back in Rolent!

First off: It looks like we're still going with the "monster of the week" "Enforcer of the chapter" system? Kind of wanted a little more overall plot development considering how much more interesting Ch.3 was compared to previous chapters, but I guess I'll give it a pass for now. It is somewhat appropriate here, with Estelle in a bit of a downer mood after seeing a scandalous photo of Joshua with another girl (phrasing).

So what's the problem this time? Mysterious fog that is knocking out random townsfolk! I do appreciate the slightly eerie nature of this case, with the usually calm and happy town of Rolent being covered in oppressive white fog, as if to serve as a metaphor for Estelle's lingering doubts about her own resolve during this chapter.

Estelle embraces her childhood friend, who is worried to tears about her unconscious mother.
Estelle embraces her childhood friend, who is worried to tears about her unconscious mother.

After a quick investigation about the fog's range and effects, the crew gets reports about the civilian casualties from the Mayor (cheeky little callback to FC here, btw). The crew then decides to go around the houses of those affected, and investigate each situation. It is quite effective in bringing down Estelle even further, as NPC we've known since the very beginning of the game/people that truly care for Estelle, are seen worried and afraid of what could happen to their loved ones. A small point I wanted to point out here is that the sprite work for this game is truly lovely; We occasionally see Estelle giving warm hugs to other characters throughout this game (like when Tita is being too f'ing cute), but I just love how tender it feels, even to the player. This spritework is really what makes older games feel so warm in my eyes... making the player fill in for the missing details really makes them sympathize with the characters' emotions. Also, I can't get enough of how genuine and kindhearted Estelle is, being able to give her friends kindness and stability even when she is trying to handle some emotional baggage of her own. One of my favorite RPG main characters for sure.

The team comes across Ashton, who is heading towards the town with his trusty troops following behind him.
The team comes across Ashton, who is heading towards the town with his trusty troops following behind him.

Predicting that the fog could be caused by yet another Enforcer due to reports of a suspicious "woman in black robes" showing up at key scenes, the Rolent guild decides to call for backup from the local military post. Here's small point #2, a point I would like to try to revisit as many time as I can throughout the playthrough: The "Cool NPC of the Week" award, which will go to the coolest face-graphic-less NPC that left the biggest impression on me during that week. This week, that award goes to Chief Watch Officer Ashton, whom the team meets on their way to helping the residents at Perzel Farm evacuate to the town to be protected by the military. This guy is another example of fantastic NPC writing in Trails; we've known him since the very beginning of FC, being a hard-ass commanding officer who whips into shape the new and inexperienced recruits at the Verte Bridge checkpoint. We also know that he is a caring father to Luke, a child who unfortunately fell victim to this foggy case. As Estelle starts to awkwardly reassure Ashton about Luke, this badass calmly stops her, telling her to save the sympathy for later; He is a trained professional, who won't let personal misfortunes affect his honor and duty. Even if he doesn't say it, we know that he is worried to bits about Luke... but the goddam Chief Watch Officer knows that he is the only one that can command his troops and protect the rest of the town. Not all heroes wear capes.... or rather, Not all JRPG heroes are teenage main characters in anime costumes. I just LOVE that Trails is able to consistently show that the "average Joes" in the game are all "main characters" of their own life stories, trying their best to survive and make their world a better place. It's also clever that this guy serves as one of many role models for Estelle, who is unable to tell her team about the photo of Joshua and the Capua family. Even though it isn't explicitly stated, I'm sure that witnessing Asthon's resolve and professionalism was one of the factors that lead to her own renewed determination at the end of the chapter.

Moving on, the team finds that they were too late in getting to Perzel Farm, finding the residents unconscious at their dinner table. Estelle breaks down in self-doubt, witnessing yet another close friend falling victim to the mysterious woman in black. I regret not taking a screenshot, but Schera's slap to literally snap Estelle out of her downwards spiral was very satisfying. The NPCs are great, but the hero team's chemistry is also fantastic! It could just be that Schera is awesome overall. We also get another instance of Kevin Shady McShade showing up at the most convenient moment to take care of the unconscious family.... just who the hell is this guy??

Woah momma. Also I guess the hugs run in the family!
Woah momma. Also I guess the hugs run in the family!

Anyways, after a bit of searching around in a Zelda-style maze forest, the team yet again finds the Black Orbment, i.e. the Gospel, being used in some kind of experiment, causing the mysterious fog and knocking out the townsfolk. After fighting off some random fog-ghosts, the team is knocked unconscious by the new Enforcer (Luciola, again not very interesting so far), and Estelle finds herself waking up in her past, back to when her mother was alive. She "lives" an undetermined amount of time in this happy little fantasy, enveloped by the safety of her father and the love of her mother. Even though it's tropey as all hell, I couldn't help but feel my heartstrings tugged at Estelle coming to recognize the illusion by noticing the absence of Joshua. And I LOVED that the final trigger was her playing Whereabouts of the Stars on Joshua's harmonica, complete with a nice callback to one of the first conversations we hear between the star-crossed lovers. After a short but sweet conversation with Illusory Mother, Estelle fully embraces the power of love and reinvigorates her resolve in grabbing Joshua by the collar, and kicking the shit out of Ouroboros.

"Although the paths we walk may be different, I know that we're heading to the same destination."

With the fog cleared and the team back at the guild, Estelle breaks the news: Joshua is doing some shady stuff with the Capua family, but she's more determined than ever to kick ass. It's so very satisfying to see her slowly regain her confidence and professionalism through her interactions with Schera, Ashton, and the other great characters around her during this chapter. We also get a great line from her: "Although the paths we walk may be different, I know that we're heading to the same destination." They all know that Joshua's still a good boy deep down, and trusts that he's doing what he can to take down Ouroboros. Hopefully he can show more of his good boy side soon!

This was a rather slow and introspective chapter, but I don't mind it much when the writing is this good (That and I love introspective moments in stories. Fate: UBW anyone?). The bad guys are making cryptic remarks about the "plan going to the next phase," so hopefully I get more story development in the next chapter! As always, can't wait to get more.

Here are some extra screenshots that I couldn't fit into the main text above:

"It's just a matter of focus, Estelle" "I finally played it right, Joshua" .....MY HEART
We get a quick glimpse of young Schera. Aww
We get a quick glimpse of young Schera. Aww

Luciola. "Woman in black robes".... She ain't wearing much, but I guess what little there's left is technically black?