The Legends of Heroes series is a JRPG series developed by Nihon Falcom. The first game in the series can be traced all the way back to the late 80’s with Dragon Slayer. But, for the sake of everyone’s sanity we’re going to be focusing on the Trails section that is started in Trails In The Sky. Let’s find out where to start in The Legend of Heroes!
How many Trails games are there exactly?
So as of right now, there are 9 games in the Trails series which are split into 3 arcs which then intertwine towards the conclusion which will be coming in the 10th instalment to the series. You heard me right, a 10th game. Trails in the Sky has 3 games, Trails of Zero/Azure has 2 games, and Trails of Cold Steel has 4.
Now, this definitely is a bit of an intimidating series to get into, especially considering the games are all linked, with Zero, Azure and Cold Steel taking place shortly after the events in Sky. It’s a bit different from something like the Final Fantasy series, where each numbered game is a different story.
If you want to start from the beginning and see it all the way through to the end without feeling like you have missed out on elements of the 3 stories, then that’s a whole lot of games to play. And these games are all meaty JRPG’s. My playthrough of Trails in the Sky took me roughly 40 hours to complete, and Cold Steel 1 even longer.
Timeline of the story arcs and release date by @alexChew_ on Twitter
So, Where To start? … And Where Not To Start.
Let’s get this out of the way…
THE ONLY WRONG WAY TO START, IS WITH ANY OF THE DIRECT SEQUELS!
For example, Trails in the Sky Second Chapter is a direct sequel to Trails in the Sky and will take place right where the first game finishes. This is the same with regards to Zero/Azure and Cold Steel/Cold Steel 2. I know this is obvious, but i just want to put it out there that playing a direct sequel will definitely ruin the experience. With that out of the way, let’s get to the fun stuff!
The simple answer for where to start is from the beginning, which in this case would be the first game in the Trails of the Sky series. Not only was this game the first released, but it takes place the earliest in the timeline. Trails from Zero and Azure take place shortly after the events of Trails of Sky Third Chapter, and Cold Steel takes place just after the beginning of Trails of Zero.
Trails in the Sky follows the adventures of Estelle and Joshua, 2 young and upcoming Bracers travelling across Liberl to gain recommendations from the numerous Bracer guild branches to become fully fledged adventurers.
Starting here will give you a necessary backstory about certain elements of the world that you may not understand if you were to start at other points. For example, you will learn what the Bracers are exactly and who certain well known characters, such as Cassius Bright, are. As you play through each of the following games, you’ll know exactly what characters are talking about, as you will have been introduced to them during your playthrough of Trails in the Sky.
HOWEVER, just because Trails in the Sky takes place at the earliest point and was the first released in the series, that doesn’t mean you absolutely have to start there. Personally, I was introduced to the series through Cold Steel and then went back to play Sky.
Trails of Cold Steel follows the story of Rean Schwarzer and the fellow members of his class, enrolled at the Military school, Thors Academy. There they take part in a brand new form of class, which mixes both common folk and members of Noble families.
You have a large group of characters that you gradually come to know and each month you are tasked with different assignments. These take you all over the land of Erebonia, where Cold Steel takes place, and then the plot begins to thicken.
As I mentioned before, by starting with Trails in The Sky you’ll be introduced to certain aspects of the world, such as the Bracers. And although Cold Steel does a good job at filling you in on any missing information, characters and certain events which happened prior to the game, may still remain a bit of a mystery to you until you play the previous games. But hey! When you go back and play Sky after Cold Steel, you’ll get that feeling of “Oh so that’s where this character comes from” or “So that’s what caused this event to happen!”.
Cold Steel is a great way of easing yourself into the series. The games feature an anime-esque setting, persona-style social links between the characters, a large step up in graphics, along with Japanese and English voice acting. So, if the old graphics of Sky is a little bit of a turnoff for you, dip your feet into the series via Cold Steel and by the end you’ll be gagging to start Trails in the Sky.
Lastly, Trails of Zero, the Crossbell arc of the Legends of Heroes. Trails of Zero takes place 3 months after the end of Trails of the Sky’s third instalment and is set in the land of Crossbell, a small country located between the 2 larger countries of Liberl and Erebonia. The story is centred around Lloyd Bannings, a rookie investigator who joined the Crossbell police in order to investigate the death of his brother.
Now, the situation surrounding this arc is rather unique. Trails of Zero and Trails of Azure haven’t been localised in the West and it’s unlikely that we will be seeing official localisations of these 2 games. There are however, fan-translations of these games, so if you are absolutely set on playing them, you still can.
However, unlike ColdSteel and Sky, it is probably best to play the Crossbell Duology AFTER you have finished the other 2 arcs. By this I mean either one of these two orders:
Trails in the Sky -> Sky 2 -> Sky 3 -> Trails of Cold Steel -> Cold Steel 2 -> Trails of Zero -> Trails of Azure -> Cold Steel 3 -> Cold Steel 4
Cold Steel -> Cold Steel 2 -> Trails in the Sky -> Sky 2 -> Sky 3 -> Trails of Zero -> Trails of Azure -> Cold Steel 3 -> Cold Steel 4
I understand that it may be a bit inconvenient playing the Crossbell duology as you will have to go through the effort of setting up the fan-translations, but I would still strongly suggest playing these games. ColdSteel 3 and 4 are the culminations of all the previous arcs and everything about these will be made that much sweeter if you’ve played all 3 arcs.
The Legend of Heroes is one hell of a commitment, that’s for sure. However, it is such an ambitious JRPG series that genuinely delivers on all fronts. The characters are great, the plot twists are awesome and will genuinely take you by surprise.
I hope this piece has been helpful and a decent insight into where to start. Now go out there and play some Legend of Heroes!
The Story Is Still Continuing…
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