Take a dash of Suikoden's world-building, add some Grandia-style combat, stir it all in with the setting and social links of Persona, and bam, you've got Trails of Cold Steel, which comes out for PS3 and Vita in North America today. Australians will have to wait until January 29. I haven't played too much of Cold Steel — been trying to finish up Trails in the Sky SC and put the cap on one of the decade's best JRPGs — but what I've seen so far is great, blending an evolved version of SC's combat with the charm you might expect from an XSEED-localised game. (The loading times on Vita are a bit too long, especially when entering battles, but it is what it is.)
If you're confused by all these games with Trails games and want to know exactly which ones lead to which, here's a quick breakdown via XSEED's Brittany Avery:
Arc 1: Liberl Kingdom
- Game 1: Sora no Kiseki FC = Trails in the Sky (You can start here if you're new to the series)
- Game 2: Sora no Kiseki SC = Trails in the Sky Second Chapter
- Game 3: Sora no Kiseki 3rd = Not in English
Arc 2: Crossbell State
- Game 4: Zero no Kiseki = Not in English (You can start here if you're new to the series)
- Game 5: Ao no Kiseki = Not in English
Arc 3: Erebonian Empire
- Game 6: Sen no Kiseki = Trails of Cold Steel (You can start here if you're new to the series)
- Game 7: Sen no Kiseki II = Trails of Cold Steel II
- Game 8: Sen no Kiseki III (Just announced earlier this week in Japan)
If you're new to the series, you can either start with Trails in the Sky First Chapter on PC/PSP or this one, Cold Steel, which is on PS3 and Vita. Both trilogies are set in the same world and feature some crossover characters but tell different stories. Trails in the Sky SC, you might remember, is the game that took four hellish years to make it to North America.
All of the Trails games are slow burns — prepare for a whole lot of reading — and they're also the closest we'll get to new Suikoden games in the modern era, so goddamn if I won't keep preaching about them. Trails is comparable to Suikoden in both charm and scope.
I'll surely have more to say about Cold Steel as I play more over the next few weeks and months, so stay tuned.