OnlySP had the opportunity to speak with Erin Kim, who is in charge of media relations at NIS America. She spoke about localizing The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III, the future of the Trails series in the west, and what NIS America has learned from publishing other Nihon Falcom titles.
OnlySP: I’m a huge JRPG fan, and I love the Trails series. But even then, it still seems a bit niche even by JRPG standards. For those who are unaware of the series, can you give a brief breakdown of what Trails of Cold Steel is?
Kim: For Trails of Cold Steel as a whole, we have the protagonist, Rean Schwarzer, who was a student at Thors Military Academy. He, along with his peers, come to be the renowned Class VII. They’ve been going around the Erebonian Empire on little trips, but little do they know they’re entrapped in something much bigger like huge political schemes; no spoilers! Now, we bring it to Cold Steel III. There’s been a time skip and now Rean returns as a newly minted instructor, but this time at his Alma Mater’s branch campus, called Thors Branch Campus. Now, he’s leading a new generation of students and forms a new Class VII with them. You would think peace fell upon the land, but that is not the case! Many more things arise that the new and old Class VII have to come together to fight against.
OnlySP: So, in the first two games, the main protagonist, Rean Schwarzer, is a student at Thors Military Academy. However, now he’s a military instructor. That seems like a mature shift in tone for him from the first two games. Is that something that we should expect going into Cold Steel III?
Kim: I would, yes, but it doesn’t get drastically dark. Rean has much more responsibility thrust onto his shoulders. He carries the burden of being a war hero, basically. But now, he has to not let that get to him and at the same time show the ropes to the new students. I think it also changes in the fact that he’s a teacher now. The player doesn’t necessarily get involved in activities that people expect from student life. You can still interact with the students and all that, but I’ll say that with Rean as a teacher, it’ll be a different experience than in Cold Steel and Cold Steel II.
OnlySP: What is the most exciting thing about publishing Trails of Cold Steel III for you, and why did NIS America as a whole decide to go ahead and publish it?
Kim: Personally, as a JRPG fan, I loved the art style, combat, and animations, so I was super pumped to know we were publishing the third installment! For why we decided to do so, I’m not too involved in the business discussions, but we did publish a previous Falcom title, Ys 8: Lacrimosa of Dana. With seeing how Ys did, and then bringing Cold Steel III over, we wanted to work on building stronger ties without partners and we’re doing so with Nihon Falcom.
OnlySP: NIS America is known for its special editions and limited editions, even for niche games. What is the company’s thought process when deciding what to put in a premium edition for a game?
Kim: We pretty much have a limited edition for almost every game that we release. As far as the thought process behind what kind of components go into it, we have meetings, mostly headed by our design team, but everyone gets input. It doesn’t matter if you’re in multimedia, marketing, or localization; we all have ideas to pitch. We do a group vote and have discussions on what we would think would work best with a game’s concept. For example, for the limited editions of La Mulana 1 and 2, we included a jigsaw puzzle because they’re puzzle platforming games. It’s kind of like a community vote. Additionally, we are planning a launch called Pram’s Wishlist (from the Disgaea series) where NISA fans can come and suggest what kind of merch they want to see, whether in separate merch or in a limited edition. We want to listen to people’s voices!
OnlySP: NIS America started localizing Falcom games rather recently, starting with Ys 8: Lacrimosa of Dana. Was there anything that you’ve learned from the release of that game that you applied to prepare the release for Cold Steel III?
Kim: As some people may already be aware, there has been some localization troubles with the first release of Ys 8, but having been experienced that, we’re more careful going forward. Especially for Cold Steel III, we want to make sure that what we put out is solid, so we had staff who worked on the previous two installments come on board. They’ve been a great help with us, making sure the tone and lore were consistent.
OnlySP: I know that NIS America contacted people who worked on the first two previous Cold Steel games in order to maintain consistency going into the third game, which I really appreciate. Can you describe to me what that process has been like?
Kim: Personally, I haven’t communicated much with them and I’m not too involved, but I know they are in constant contact with our localization team checking up with each other.
OnlySP: So, one problem I see with Legend of Heroes is that not all of the games have been localized. So far, Trails of Cold Steel and Trails in the Sky have gotten official releases. Zero no Kiseki and Ao no Keseki are the two missing pieces and also provide important context to the overall story. Fans would love to play an official release of them. Are there any plans to bring them over?
Kim: The answer wouldn’t come from us. Falcom would have to have the desire to release them in the West. I’m not saying it’s a fact, but I think Mr. Kondo has been asked a lot if he has plans to release the Crossbell series in the West. I think he would consider it! It’s not a hard no, but I’d say we’re optimistic on the possibility!
OnlySP: There’s also Trails of Cold Steel IV. Are there any plans to bring that over too?
Kim: We’d love to! But, we have no concrete plans right now!
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III will release on October 22, 2019 on PlayStation 4 for Western audiences.