Nihon Falcom is 40 years old! And in celebration of this significant milestone, they’ve put a bunch of their games up for sale on the popular DRM-free digital storefront for PC, GOG.com.
Chances are a lot of you reading this are already familiar with Falcom’s spectacular output from over the years. But on the off-chance that you’re not — or if there are some gaps you need to fill in your collection — now’s a great time to pick up some all-time classic games with some of the best soundtracks you’ll ever hear.
Let’s take a look, then!
Trails in the Sky (£7.49-£18.79)
The three Trails in the Sky games are technically part of Falcom’s long-running The Legend of Heroes series, but every game with “Trails” at the beginning of it is part of a distinct subseries (sometimes referred to as the Kiseki series, after its Japanese nomenclature)… and then there are several separate Trails sub-subseries, each of which focus on a smaller part of the overall Trails setting.
The three Trails in the Sky games are the oldest Trails games, having been originally designed for the PSP platform. As such, they’re an ideal place to start exploring this extensive, massive RPG series. Each game will likely take you upwards of a hundred hours to beat in its entirety, and they feature some of the absolute best writing and localisation in the business.
While the Trails in the Sky games are a little “weaker” from a technical perspective than some of Falcom’s later games due to their age, they have a distinct retro charm about them — and they introduce some of the Trails series’ most beloved recurring characters, too.
Trails of Cold Steel (£14.99-£29.99)
At the time of writing, three out of the four parts of this Falcom series have been localised, with a fourth imminent. These titles represent some of Falcom’s most beloved, well-regarded work — and if you find Trails in the Sky a little too “retro” for your tastes (you monster, you), then you’ll find these games a little more up to date, since they were originally designed for PS3 and Vita.
The Trails of Cold Steel games introduce a whole new cast in a different part of the game world from Trails in the Sky — but Trails in the Sky veterans will be pleased to discover that a number of classic characters show up later in Cold Steel.
There’s a markedly different feel to the narratives of both Trails in the Sky and Trails of Cold Steel, and they complement one another well. If you’re after a long-term gaming commitment that will likely keep you busy for several months at the very least — and quite possibly years — then the Trails series is one you should take the time to investigate.
Probably Falcom’s most well-known series prior to Trails becoming something of a worldwide phenomenon, Ys is a long-running series of action RPGs that has evolved considerably over its complete lifespan — and you can enjoy each of its distinct “eras” with all the titles available on GOG.com.
Ys I and II Chronicles+ provides an all-in one means of exploring the most up-to-date rerelease of the first two Ys games, featuring its distinctive “bump” combat, awesome Yuzo Koshiro music and some of the most irritating bosses ever committed to a video game. Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim, Ys: The Oath in Felghana and Ys Origin represent a widely beloved age of Ys, featuring an isometric perspective with fast-paced hack-and-slash combat. And Ys Seven, Ys: Memories of Celceta and Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana show us the series in its current form, featuring party-based action RPG combat with interesting traversal challenges.
The Ys series does have a coherent setting that is explored gradually over the course of each individual game, but for the most part it doesn’t really matter where you jump in as each game has a self-contained narrative. If you do want a certain degree of narrative coherence, though, it’s worth playing Ys I and II Chronicles+, then Ys Origin, then Ys: Memories of Celceta, Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim and Ys: The Oath in Felghana. If, you know, you want to. I’m not the boss of you.
Get Ys I and II Chronicles+ here.
Get Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim here.
Get Ys: The Oath in Felghana here.
Get Ys Origin here.
Get Ys Seven here.
Get Ys: Memories of Celceta here.
Get Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana here.
Tokyo Xanadu eX+ (£9.29)
One of Falcom’s somewhat lesser-known games, Tokyo Xanadu eX+ is a title that will appeal to those who enjoy Ys’ action RPG combat, Persona’s social interactions and the presentation of the Cold Steel series.
Tokyo Xanadu eX+ is noteworthy for being a Falcom game that unfolds in a modern-day setting — albeit a modern-day setting with a nightmare realm starting to encroach on “reality”. Most of Falcom’s other titles are set in pure fantasy worlds, so this is a nice change of style and vibe for them.
Tokyo Xanadu is actually part of the Xanadu series, a broader Falcom franchise that doesn’t get nearly as much attention as Trails and Ys — perhaps largely due to the fact that we haven’t seen many of them localised over the years. This game was an attempt to reboot the franchise, and while it didn’t make as much of a splash as some of Falcom’s other titles, it’s still worth a blast — particularly for this price.
Xanadu Next (£6.49)
Talking of Xanadu, here’s one of the much older installments in the series. It’s markedly different from Tokyo Xanadu eX+ in that it unfolds in a more traditional fantasy realm, and in many ways feels like a combination of Ys and western action RPGs such as Diablo and its ilk. There are monsters to slay, levels to grind and loot to grab — and a lot of exploration to do.
Xanadu Next is a spiritual successor the ’80s cult hit Faxanadu, and is also part of Falcom’s Dragon Slayer series, just to confuse matters. It’s a rather grittier game than some of Falcom’s other fare and as such may look a bit drab at first glance — but give it a chance and you’ll discover it’s got immensely satisfying combat, excellent character progression and a huge, interconnected map to explore.
Also this game came out on the Nokia N-Gage back in the day, which surely makes it worth checking out for novelty value alone.
Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure (£2.29)
One of Falcom’s cutest games, Gurumin casts you in the role of Parin, a girl who lives with her grandfather in a small mining town. She discovers a monster village hidden behind her home, and pledges herself to defend the friendly monsters against the evil Phantoms who seek to destroy them.
The game features a good 35-40 hours of gameplay — pretty substantial for an action RPG, especially one from this era of Falcom’s history — plus the English voice cast features a number of big names including Tara Strong and Amber Hood.
There are some interesting mechanics, too; there’s a “rhythmic” element to attacking, plus some platforming elements to keep things interesting. It’s got a distinctly “retro” feel to it — thanks largely to the fact that it is retro; it originally came out in Japan in 2004 — but that’s rather refreshing amid what today’s games offer.
The two Zwei games are probably some of Falcom’s least-known work in the west, but that doesn’t mean you should sleep on them. They’re super-cute, colourful adventures with some interesting mechanics — most notably the fact that you have two characters who can “tag-team” with one another, and a food-based experience system that allows you to either cash in your experience immediately, or trade up later for bigger bonuses.
Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection features fully 3D visuals, while Zwei: The Arges Adventure features chibi characters on hand-drawn backdrops, giving the two games a distinctly different feel from one another. They both also feature considerable enhancements over their original Japanese releases, featuring massively expanded voiced dialogue in English, new collectibles and a choice of soundtracks to accompany the action.
If you want a quick route into the Falcom fandom, you play a Trails or an Ys game. But if you want to be a Falcom hipster, you play Zwei. Only you know what the correct choice is for you.
What are your favourite Falcom games? Let us know in the comments, or via the usual social channels!
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