How A Team Of Two People Is Bringing Us 2014's Largest JRPG

How A Team Of Two People Is Bringing Us 2014's Largest JRPG

There are a lot of big, highly-anticipated games coming out next year: Watch Dogs, Titanfall, Dragon Age Inquisition. But in certain circles, there's only one game worth counting down the days for: The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky SC.

That oddly-titled game is the second of a trilogy and the sequel to the first The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky, which came out for PSP in 2011. SC, which stands for "second chapter," will be out on PC and as a digital release on PSP next year. Finally. SC has become something of a white whale for JRPG fans over the past few years, and getting it out in the States has been a massive headache for XSEED, the U.S. publisher behind both games.

See, when XSEED first announced plans to bring Trails over from Japan, they promised to release the entire trilogy in North America. That was an ambitious goal, made more difficult by both a time-consuming localisation process and unimpressive sales for the first game. Worse, they were working with these games on Sony's PSP, a console that was already on its last legs.

But they couldn't just stop with game #1. The first Trails ended with an explosive cliffhanger that left fans going nutty, to the point where every new XSEED announcement led to a barrage of comments asking "Where's SC?" (At one point, I may have threatened to chain myself to an XSEED E3 booth until they announced the game.)

In September of this year, XSEED finally dropped the bomb: they'd struck a deal with a two-man company called Carpe Fulgur, best known for localizing the adorable PC game Recettear. Carpe Fulgur would translate and edit SC's massive script, and XSEED would publish the game.

It's a lot of pressure for Carpe Fulgur editor Andrew Dice and his partner in crime, Robin Light-Williams. They've been given the reins to what might not be 2014's most popular JRPG, but, with a script clocking in at three million Japanese characters, is most definitely the largest. Now they have to live up to the standards set by the first game.

"If I screw this up I may as well just jump off a bridge because my professional life will be over," Dice told me in a recent phone interview. "But at the same time, it's one of those things where neither Robin nor I would have taken the job if we didn't think we were up to it, so in that sense I don't feel that much pressure simply because I'm confident we can actually pull it off."

Carpe Fulgur actually started working on the script in 2011, not long after the release of the first chapter. For two years, both XSEED and Dice kept the deal secret. They had to. Nothing was finalised. And as they kept plugging away at the script, they didn't even know for sure if anyone would even see it.

It was the success of XSEED's Ys action-RPGs on Steam that convinced the publisher that Trails 2 could be a feasible release. Instead of just releasing the second Trails on PSP, like originally planned, they would put it on Steam, too. By releasing the game on Valve's huge distribution platform, XSEED could reach enough of a potential audience to make the investment worthwhile.

"For a long time there was a little uncertainty if the project would actually go forward, even after the two Ys games came out," Dice said. "We had to be sure they'd sell enough to justify working on other titles, and to prove that XSEED could sell PC titles — which, by the way, they can."

Dice, who had worked with Steam before, helped connect XSEED to Valve for Ys Origin and Ys: The Oath in Felghana, which quickly became two of XSEED's biggest sellers ever. Good news for anyone looking forward to SC. If the Ys games hadn't sold, "Trails wouldn't have happened," Dice told me.

But the games did well, and SC is happening. The script is almost done, Dice says — in fact, they're totally done with the main story.

"We are getting the script inserted into the game right now on the PC version so that we can see what works and what doesn't," Dice said. "The sidequests and NPCs and whatnot are also getting pretty close to done. We've got everything outside of the towns basically done at this point."

Comforting news for anyone who's seen the insane size of SC's script and wondered just how anyone could translate it. And yeah, it's a huge endeavour, but Dice says they've been working six or seven hours per day for the past two years to get SC together (Another fun fact: Dice says a big chunk of the script is actually repeated text used for multiple versions of the same scene — like, say, meeting a character in the plaza as opposed to meeting them at the city entrance.)

Now that they're closer to release — XSEED is hoping to get both versions of SC out next summer — I asked if they're working extra "crunch" hours to get things done.

"We aren't actually crunching," Dice said. "We don't want to crunch on Trails partially because if you really tried to crunch all the way through Trails, you die. You would die. It would take your life, either through pure exhaustion or through being driven to suicide. I'm only partially joking here."


Comments

    So... Judging from the title... Square Enix has finally admitted that Final Fantasy Versus XV is taking so long as only 2 people have been working on it for the past forever?

    I only just played The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky this year after getting my Vita (the only reason I actually bought it was the back catalogue of PSP games/P4G).

    I really enjoyed it and find myself in a lucky position not having too long to wait for the second chapter.

      I'm looking to play more JRPGs and recently finished P4G (two playthroughs). How would you rate The Legend of Heroes? Is there anything similar to P4G you would recommend?

        LoH is a very good JRPG, but it's not all that similar to the Persona games. Rather than the social sim stuff, you wander around a virtual game world being given missions (which usually involve fighting monsters) and upgrading your gear. It also doesn't have the constant clock that the Persona games have - you can take your time in finishing most missions. (There are some locked out by other missions or storyline elements).

        So while there are some basic similarities (leveling, equipment, combat, boss monsters) they're fairly different games.

        LoH actually follows the standard JRPG "formula" a lot more closely than Persona does, so if you enjoy it there are a bunch of other games out there you will probably also enjoy.

        The nearest thing to P4G would be Persona 3, available as a digital download for PSP on PSN. It's not quite as good as P4, but it's still pretty darn good. There are also some other Shin Megami Tensei games around which have the monster breeding/combat elements but not the social sim stuff. Recently those have mainly been released on the 3DS.

        I don't know of any other games offhand that have both the RPG and the social sim elements.

          Thanks! That all makes sense. I get the feeling I should look into Devil Survivor. The way you describe it, it sounds a lot like Monster Hunter (another game I've heard lots of good about, but never had the time to pick up and play), so I'll definitely look into it.

            Devil Survivor is nothing at all like Monster Hunter. It's a turn-based strategy RPG a la Final Fantasy Tactics or Disgaea or similar.

              Haha... you'll have to pardon my ignorance for now (still getting my head around all of the games mentioned x] ). Thanks for fixing that.

        Honestly, I thought Trails in the Sky was pretty damn spectacular. It was the first game I had finished in a long time. That said, as gregorvorbarra mentioned, it really is standard fantasy JRPG fare. Not very similar at all.

        The combat is turn based, and has a grid based system. So, moves/characters have different ranges and there are, of course, physical attacks and special artes. It's not necessary complicated, but it can have a nice tactical element.

        Don't expect much from the graphics... it is a port of a 2004 PC game to the PSP on the Vita...

        It is a long romp though, and the story will keep you interested through the 40+ hours (it did for me, anyway). Heaps of side quests, AND OH MY GOD THE ENDING.

        Your second question... There isn't that much like P4G other than Persona 3, really, which you can get on Vita as the PSP game Persona 3 Portable.

        If you want some other games, sort of similar, other Atlus SMT games, like Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor for DS, or Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers on the 3DS.

        We should also be getting Shin Megami Tensei IV for 3DS, should be out here sometime next year.

        You may also want to try Atlus' Etrian Odyssey IV on the 3DS. A dungeon crawler in the vein of Wizardry.

        Ummmm.... other PSP RPGs you may want to check out include Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions, Lunar: Silver Star Harmony, Tactics Ogre: Let us Cling Together, and Ys Seven.

        Oh, and why not give Bravley Default on the 3DS a shot?

        Sorry if I listed games for systems you don't have.

        In fact, I apologise for the whole reply.

        Last edited 20/12/13 9:14 pm

          Hahaha, no need to apologise x] I'm trying to get around to playing the best games from as many genres as possible and JRPGs are pretty niche, so I like to hear other people's experiences. I don't have a 3DS (yet... very tempted by fire emblem, pokemon x/y and a few others you've listed), so I'm trying to get the most out of my Vita at the moment.
          Personally, I enjoy story and character development (two favourites have been P4G and 999/Virtue's Last Reward), so I'm definitely interested by the LoH story. If I can deal with cliffhangers.
          Thanks for the suggestions!

            Hey, no trouble!

            Definitely recommend Fire Emblem and Pokemon X/Y (Get Y). In fact, I could recommend so many 3DS games it isn't funny.

            In relation to the Devil Survivor games, Ozgameshop is your friend.

            I'd also be interested in what you consider the best games in various genres. I'm trying to do a similar thing.

            Last edited 20/12/13 9:54 pm

              One last question: I've had a look for LoH on PS AU store, but can't seem to find it. A little research suggests it's only available on NA & JP PSN (can't get physical copy cos of Vita). How did you play it? Separate NA account on new memory card, PSP or other?

                I played it as a digital download on my Vita.

                It's official name on the PSN is just 'Trails in the Sky'... which is weird.

                Searching for that should get you out of trouble as it is on the AU/EU PSN.

                Last edited 21/12/13 7:08 am

    I've had a few beers but this article basically reads: Sequel to game you've never heard of has been in translation for 3 years. May come out next year. Might be good based on..............................
    Look I'm going to say it, If it's an ambitious goal to release an entire trilogy in English it's probably because it's not very good. English speakers aren't inherently adverse to good story. If the gameplay is subpar and can't carry a bad story why should a good story carry poor gameplay?

      It's in fact extremely good in both gameplay and story.

      The issue isn't quality, it's simply how enormous the games are. The scripts for the three games of the Trails in the Sky trilogy plus the two subsequent games (Trails of Zero / Trails in the Blue) are bigger than the entirety of the Wheel of Time novel series. They're years of work to translate, mainly because of the enormous amount of NPC dialogue. Every time you do some action in the game, every NPC in the town's 3-4 dialogue lines updates correspondingly. In the first game this might happen 10-15 times for a given town, and you visit four towns over the course of the game. There's probably at least 50 NPCs in each location to deal with. And this isn't even counting the actual story dialogue. The game's a good solid 40-50 hours worth to play through. The scripts get bigger as well, Trails in the Sky 3 is quite significantly larger than 1 & 2.

      The bigger issue is that Falcom cranks a new one out every 12-18 months. At the moment the English releases are 5 games behind and by the time SC comes out, they'll have released a new one again.

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