Nihon Falcom’s Toshihiro Kondo interview – Bringing Trails of Cold Steel III to the west

The western market has often been an afterthought for many JRPG developers – if indeed it is considered at all. Enthusiastic JRPG fans are used to long waits for titles to see a Western release, and watch jealousy as many games never make it out of Japan. However, with localisation becoming ever more efficient and cost effective, and a hugely passionate fanbase pushing titles such as Persona 5 to the top of the charts in their week of release, Japanese developers are increasing their western ambitions with greater numbers of titles. 

We spoke to Falcom president Toshihiro Kondo about the company’s upcoming Trails of Cold Steel III – released on PS4 on October 22nd, and its hopes of finding success in the west. 

Can you give an overview of the Trails series?

The Trails of series is a Japanese RPG series that represents the best elements of the genre. From wonderful worlds to engaging characters and a very interesting story, the Trails series offers all of these respective layers.

What other titles are comparable to the Trails of Cold Steel series?

We often hear from JRPG fans that the Trails of Cold Steel series is comparable to games such as Bandai Namco’s Tales series, ATLUS’s Persona series and the Atelier series by Gust

Can you give us an understanding of how successful the Trails series is Japan and why is it so popular there?

This kind of goes over what we talked about in your first question, but we feel that it’s because of the detailed lore in the world, characters and story, which are things that our fans really love. To give you some specific examples, in the Trails series all of the town NPCs have their own stories as well. When it comes to these NPCs we go into their family structure, organisations they’re part of and we go really go deep into details about their lives.

As the player progresses through the main game’s story and continues talking to these NPCs, their dialogue changes and they actually have their own story arcs and tales throughout the game as well. What this creates for the player is a sense of this world is really alive and these people are  inhabiting this place, so I believe that’s one of the reasons why this series is so popular in Japan.

The Trails series is one of the top performing RPG titles in Japan.  How has this translated to the Western market? 

So about ten years ago we didn’t really have any presence over here in the west. There just wasn’t an opportunity to have our games out in the western market. However, from about five years back we began to hear more people from the west saying they wanted our games and we were finally able to begin publishing our games in English for the west. It started out mainly in North America, and we gradually grew our fan base from there. We noticed it also started to increase in Europe as well, because we started to release the games over there which included other European languages.

Can you give us an idea of Falcom’s status in the Japanese market and how the partnership with NISA came about?

Although we are a small company, we have forty years of history. And just because we’re an old, small company, that doesn’t mean we don’t have a lot of power, it’s quite the opposite. We’re actually very well-known and established, particularly in the RPG genre. Someone might wonder how a company that’s been around for so long can be so small or how can they compete and stand against other companies that are so established in the JRPG genre. And to that I would say definitely try out Trails of Cold Steel III, because I think the answer lies in there!

Talking about how our partnership with NIS America came about, we received many ideas from them about what they could do for us in various markets and one of the things that stood out to us was the idea of increasing our presence in the European region, and so this was something we wanted to accomplish, so we decided to work together. 

What are your expectations for Trails of Cold Steel III in the West?

Up until now we’ve never really had a chance to release our games in the west at a consistent pace. I believe that it’s more of a matter of players not knowing about us and I believe once the players actually have the opportunity to play our games they will really see what our games are all about, and will really love them. In the future we want to be consistent with realising our games in the west, so players can start with Trails of Cold Steel III and learn about us and enjoy and enjoy what we’ll provide in the future.

Anything you would like to add, as a message to retailers and consumers?  

I understand people might have a little bit of trepidation, due to the number three attached to the game, but I would like to assure everyone that you don’t need to have played previous games in the series to be able to start here. The reason is that Trails of Cold Steel III represents a new beginning within the series, where there are a lot of new characters that come out and these new characters are also not familiar with the events of the past entries. So through the course of the game in a very natural way through these characters eyes you will experience everything to be caught up with the events of the series. So please don’t be afraid to pick up the game, and I hope you all enjoy it very much.  

About Chris Wallace

Chris is a freelancer writer and was MCV/DEVELOP's staff writer from November 2019 until May 2022. He joined the team after graduating from Cardiff University with a Master's degree in Magazine Journalism. He can be found on Twitter at @wallacec42, where he mostly explores his obsession with the Life is Strange series, for which he refuses to apologise.

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