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All the Announcements from Anime Expo 2024
Falcom's Trails through Daybreak Panel Shows Western Love for RPGs

by Kalai Chik,

ANN's coverage of Anime Expo 2024 sponsored by Yen Press and Ize Press!

Photography by Kalai Chik

One of Nihon Falcom's long-standing franchises made a splash with gamers at Anime Expo. President Kondo took to the stage, and much to his surprise and delight, was greeted by a room full of eager fans. Despite lacking the scale and size of bigger competitors, the forty-three-year-old company is beloved for its game's unique mechanics, specially crafted storytelling, and intricate worldbuilding.

The title of the panel promised a “Big Reveal,” which was delivered with the announcement of the English localization of The Legend of Heroes: Trails Through Daybreak II in early 2025 across all platforms, including PS4. This coincided with the launch date for the first Trails Through Daybreak game, but President Kondo communicated that he can't speak more on the sequel yet. For newcomers who have never heard of the game, Falcom put together a quick slide to get everyone up to speed. However, most in the room were longtime fans and knew exactly what they had gotten into. President Kondo expressed his gratitude for the crowd's support, as he never expected so many people to show up.

After my own playtest of the first game on the Entertainment Hall floor, I could grasp exactly how deeply the staff thought about the player's experience in a JRPG. I was skeptical because I never expected such enthusiastic excitement for Trails Through Daybreak II, as it's been released in Japan for over two years, and three years for the original game. But story spoilers are meaningless without context, and Falcom's focus on storytelling in the Trails series urges the player to think carefully about character motivations and anticipate their development. This is the heart and strength of the Trails (or Kiseki) franchise as opposed to Falcom's action-oriented Ys series.

Admittedly, I've been bored to tears by bigger titles and hack-and-slash battles. I've often wished for a skip button amid dungeon crawling instead of thoughtlessly defeating enemies one after another. “At any time, you can change it to a turn-based system that has a high tempo to make it fun to play,” shared President Kondo in the panel Q&A. “We've gotten a lot of feedback from players in Japan and in the West about combat, especially how turn-based combat can be stale.” Trails Through Daybreak's combat system is nothing to scoff at as it blends turn-based and real-time battle systems and creates an excellent formula to keep players engaged.

Protagonists Van and Agnès initially have a tense relationship, with Van looking down on her with his standoffish personality. However, it's clear he has a good heart, but you'll have to play the game to find out exactly how they build and grow. The English voices of Van (Damien Haas) and Agnès (AmaLee) joined President Kondo on stage to talk about their characters. Although they couldn't speak in-depth about their characters, Kondo wanted to emphasize the importance of reading between the lines during character interactions. Their first interaction has layered meanings, as they are people from different hierarchical backgrounds.

As both Damien and AmaLee recited their lines from an early scene in the game, Kondo challenged the crowd to think about these characters and their personalities as this is the player's first impression of both characters. “As the creators of this game, we take these introduction scenes very seriously, there's a lot of depth even though it seems like they're having a normal conversation.” Between the first Daybreak game and the sequel coming later next year, Kondo noted that Van is the oldest character in the Trails franchise history and gives advice to others. “He takes on a role where he takes charge of others. As you play through Daybreak 1, pay attention to how these characters will change and in what direction they will grow. In 2, I'd like you to pay attention to how they've achieved that, like how these characters have taken Van's advice and changed as people.”

Turning back to more general questions, Damien asked Kondo who his favorite character in the franchise is. With some hesitation, Kondo admitted it was hard to answer in front of the voice actor. However, he does like Van because he's a different kind of protagonist than the ones the series has had up until now. “He stands out because he's older and an adult. Starting with Agnès, he has an opportunity to work with people much younger than him and gives them advice,” explained Kondo. “At the same time, they love to tease him because he likes sweets, hanging out and sleeping in the sauna, etc. He's like an old man and has really good back-and-forth banter between them all.”

The Falcom president closed the panel with a reflection on the series' previous combat system and the inspirations behind the armor designs. “When we made Sky, we were around the same age as Van, although he was a lot more mature than us since we were kids when we made it,” he said, referring to the updated combat system. “We thought that this would be a good opportunity to explore.” Speaking of self-reflection, Kondo explained how the Falcom staff take inspiration from popular series like Kamen Rider for Van's Grendel transformation. “In 2, there's another character that is in direct opposition to Van's Grendel, because we saw an opportunity to rival each other—like the contrast between Spider-Man and Venom.”

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