Are you a JRPG fan? Have you played The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky yet? If not, you should probably do that. It is, without doubt, one of the best JRPGs I've had the pleasure of playing in the last few years.
Why is it so great? Well, there are a ton of reasons, not least of which are the excellent main characters (who have a very realistic, human relationship with one another); an interesting, unusual story; a fun, accessible but deep "tactics-lite" battle system where position and line of sight is important; plus a great soundtrack. Frustratingly, though, while the overarching plot wrapped up nicely by the end of the game, the tale of the relationship between the two protagonists Estelle and Joshua was just getting started.
There was some worry over the future of the series, in fact; although Western publisher Xseed Games had been working on the second chapter of the game -- a considerably longer, more complex tale -- things had been somewhat quiet for a little while. Some were concerned that Xseed had perhaps taken on more than they were able to handle, and that we might never see a resolution to the cliffhanger at the end of the first game -- and that would be a real shame.
Fortunately, there's great news: not only is Xseed still determined to bring Second Chapter to English speakers, it's doing so in collaboration with renowned localization specialist Carpe Fulgur -- the team behind the English releases of the rather wonderful indie JRPGs Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale, Chantelise: A Tale of Two Sisters and Fortune Summoners: Secret of the Elemental Stone. Even better, Second Chapter will be coming to PC as well as PSP. The first game will also finally see an English-language PC release for those who are yet to play it.
Carpe Fulgur made a name for itself by its extremely high-quality localization work on the aforementioned titles, all of which included not only a stellar translation from the original Japanese, but also some well-considered use of Western-appropriate cultural references and jokes. This helped to make Recettear and its stablemates a lot more accessible to a general audience than JRPGs that remain more stubbornly entrenched in Japanese culture and literal translations. It's also meant that Recette from Recettear in particular has become something of a minor "celebrity" in Internet terms, with her trademark phrase "Capitalism, ho!" often seen used as a meme.
To date, the English version of Recettear has sold over 300,000 copies in the three years since its original release. While this may not sound like a lot when compared to a triple-A title, it has provided a steady income for Carpe Fulgur ever since -- particularly around Steam Sale time -- and allowed the team to continue working. Similarly, both Chantelise and Fortune Summoners turned a profit within their first six months on sale, and have produced nothing but pure profit ever since.
Carpe Fulgur founder, project director and lead editor Andrew Dice took to the Internet to address the studio's fans directly earlier today.
"I'm sorry that we've had to be quiet about this for so long," he writes, "and more importantly that we ended up scaring a number of our fans with our silence, as the quiet led many to believe that Carpe Fulgur had folded. This was not the case at all; we have been, at many times, busier in the period after the release of Fortune Summoners than we have been at any other time in our history until now."
Dice goes on to explain that "Project Four," as he has been referring to Second Chapter up until today, has involved not only the game itself, but also previous collaborations with Xseed on the Western PC releases of titles such as Ys: The Oath in Felghana and its siblings. He also notes that the secure, stable position the studio is in right now has put them in something of an enviable position -- being able to work on a project as massive as Second Chapter without fear for their own future or for wasted time investment.
"This ties in with the mission of Carpe Fulgur, the principal reason we are in business," continues Dice. "To ensure that deserving, excellent games can get exposure outside of Japan, and are given the localization they deserve. This is the greater part of the reason Carpe Fulgur exists -- our 'grand project' if you will. Previously, our focus has been purely on independently made software, but ever since [our] inception it has always been our intention to offer our services to anyone who desired them. Trails SC is the first project to be the other side of that coin -- working with another company to bring a product they wish to publish to English-speaking audiences."
Trails in the Sky Second Chapter picks up directly where the first game leaves off and follows Estelle's story as she comes to terms with the revelations at the end of the first game -- and the growing chaos that threatens to engulf the land. Dice notes that the main scenario for Second Chapter alone is about the size of Recettear's complete script, and this isn't even taking into account the numerous sidequests along the way -- which, in the case of the first Trails game, at least, were pretty much all just as well-crafted as the main plotline.
Trails in the Sky First Chapter (as the first game is now known) will be released for PC via Steam this winter; Second Chapter will follow for PC and PSP/Vita (digital download only) in 2014. There's no release date just yet, but Dice promises that from today onwards, their silence ends.
"The largest reason for our silence since the release of Fortune Summoners was that any detailed discussion of what we are doing would necessitate discussing the situation around Trails in detail," he writes. "Any other discussion felt awkward without being able to acknowledge what we were doing currently. With this no longer a problem, expect much more regular communication from us, including more game announcements and blog posts."