Warning: amateur speculation ahead, also spoilers for Infinity War and Trails/Kiseki games.
With the premiere of Infinity War, the Marvel Cinematic
Universe (MCU) has started the “culmination” of a decade of stories, with
almost all the heroes that we’ve seen in the movies come together to tackle a
single purpose: preventing Thanos from collecting all the infinity stones. This
feat of having 10 years worth of stories culminating together has not been done
before in film. Sure we’ve had sequels that built upon their predecessors,
sometimes adding new details to previous events that we never knew about (e.g.
Scream 3), but Infinity War has been hinted at since the end credit stinger in
the first Avengers movie. The MCU has (sort of-more on this later) been leading
to this event, and it is an accomplishment in film making. After watching the
movie (and being quite impressed), there was one thing on my mind: what will
SPOILER WARNING: Background into Trails/MCU first but later we’re going into spoilers for Infinity War and all of the localized Trails games. This means spoilers for only Trails in the Sky (FC, SC, the Third) and Trails of Cold Steel 1 and 2. There will be no spoilers for the Crossbell arc, Trails of Cold Steel 3, or anything about Cold Steel 4. Akatsuki’s canonicity is debatable, and I’m not familiar enough with it.
SKIP AHEAD? If you’re extremely familiar with Trails already, feel free to skip ahead to the speculation! Or scroll down to write about your own speculation!
First, let’s establish a bit of background, if only to gain an understanding of the sheer scope of Trails. The Trails/Kiseki is a sub-series from the Legend of Heroes series that started in 1989. Practically all of them (except Akatsuki no Kiseki) are developed by Nihon Falcom. The first game in the ongoing Ouroboros storyline was Trails in the Sky FC, released in Japan on June 24, 2004 (1). Its localized version was released in the west on March 29, 2011 (1). Its sequel, Trails in the Sky SC, was released in Japan on March 6, 2006 (1), with the localized version being released on October 29, 2015 (1). Since the end of SC, a much larger narrative has been established that centered on the Sept-Terrions, treasures that are said to have been bestowed to an ancient civilization by the in-game world’s goddess, Aidios (1) (the larger storyline was hinted at the end of FC). Effectively, the Sept-Terrions are Trails’ Infinity Stones.
In comparison, the first MCU movie was Iron man, released on
May 2, 2008 (2). While it’s end credits stinger “established” a shared universe
(more of a hint, but it was a pretty dang explicit hint), the first notion of a
grander narrative was established at the end of The Avengers (2012), with the
appearance of Thanos
and his quest to court Death (we need the next Avengers film to confirm if this got retconned out). To be fair,
while the Space Stone was shown as the Tesseract in Captain America: The First
Avenger (2011) (3), we, the audience, never knew it as an Infinity Stone, much
less the Space Stone.
This means that the Trails series has been planting its seeds way toward its grand conclusion since 2006. That’s 12 years ago. Since then, we’ve had more games that have added more details to the world while also propelling the metanarrative about the collection of the Sept-Terrions. However, in contrast to the MCU’s handling of the stones, which served as a movie’s macguffin and weren’t quite part of the MCU’s grand narrative apart from their existence, the Trails series has been quite explicit about how collecting each Sept-Terrion has been part of an ongoing plan by the metanarrative’s villains: Ouroboros. In effect, this means that Ouroboros has been taking a much more active role than Thanos has in the metanarrative. Prior to Infinity War, we’ve only seen Thanos three times, with each time being only for a few moments: at the end of Avengers in a post-credit scene (non-speaking), during Guardians of the Galaxy (first time speaking), and again at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron in another post-credit scene (his last time speaking).
Now, there are obvious differences between a JRPG and film series. For one, JRPGs are known for being extremely long (and Trails is no different), while a film is about 2 hours, give or take half an hour. This means that there is far less time to devote to the metanarrative in films in comparison to JRPGs and that’s fine. This also means though, that Trails has a much bigger weight on its shoulders, as whenever the conclusion comes, it really will have 12+ years of an ongoing story to conclude.
Recap about the Sept-Terrions
There are seven Sept-Terrions (it’s in the name…), each one corresponding to one of the elements: earth, fire, water, wind, time, space and mirage. At the moment we (localized) know of only one Sept-Terrion definitively: the Aureole, the Sept-Terrion of Space. This is currently in the hands of Ouroboros, specifically its Grandmaster, at the end of Trails in the Sky SC. Obtaining the Sept-Terrions is purpose of Ouroboros’s Orpheus Final Plan – of which the Gospel Plan and the Phantasmal Blaze Plan were part of.
However, we do know that something happened in Crossbell during Trails of Cold Steel 1 and 2 (a giant glowing tree is probably not par for daily life in Zemuria), and that the events in Erebonia concerning the Divine Knights were proceeding according to Ouroboros’s Phantasmal Blaze Plan, apart from the Vermillion Apocalypse being awakened and the Phantasmal Blaze Plan being hijacked by Chancellor Osborne.
There is also the tantalizing hint about the Sept-Terrions hidden in Erebonia; there are two of them. In a NG+ exclusive quest, Professor Thomas Lysander, the history teacher, reveals himself to be the second Dominion of the Gralsritter and he mentions that there are two Sept-Terrions hidden in Erebonia. He doesn’t mention which ones though, but at the very least there are three Sept-Terrions accounted for, in terms of the localized games.
SKIP AHEAD TO HERE. Also massive spoilers for Infinity War.
Please note that this is all fun speculation, and to be fair, most of it is quite standard/par for the course when tackling large ensemble casts.
Split up the cast!
This is most likely guaranteed if Falcom decides to bring everyone in as playable characters. The cast is way too large to have traveling around as one large group; sure the Courageous could probably hold many of them but it’s not like the conflicts and battles will be only in one country; they have the whole of Zemuria to play with!
Splitting up the cast to take part in battles and conflicts in specific countries is probably the easiest and most logical way to do things. While Infinity War split the cast into different settings, whether it was in Wakanda, Titan, or deep space, what mattered was the implication that the plot beats were taking place within a small time frame.
In fact, splitting up the cast and having concurrent events is something the Kiseki games have already done. In Trails in the Sky: the Third’s final dungeon, the player splits the cast of 16 (?!) into 4 groups, each taking a path that ends with a boss encounter. The actual boss fight is put on pause until Kevin’s gang reach the Lord of Phantasma, at which point the player must go through a gauntlet of 4 boss battles, one after another, switching groups when a boss is defeated.
Following this idea then, I imagine the final Trails game may have some sort of sub-chapter structure, with say, Chapter 1A focusing on Estelle and co. while Chapter 1B focuses on Rean’s team. It might dramatically increase playtime, however at least in this case there’s less “padding” (e.g. running around all the towns in SC a second time, which is still one of the worst parts of the game).
The final Sept-Terrion(s)?
Going into Infinity War, the audience knew the locations of five of the Infinity Stones, with only the Soul stone being missing. In contrast, so far in Trails we’re missing…many more Sept-Terrions.
Falcom could always write that Ouroboros already had at least one Sept-Terrion in their possession prior to the start of the series, but that would be relatively boring. On the other hand, obtaining a Sept-Terrion is a long, very arduous process. Gaining the Aureole for example, involved taking down two layers of security (the sealed area underneath Grancel castle and the Tetracyclic towers), plus navigating the floating city. Cold Steel’s quest for two Sept-Terrion has expanded to four games. If the arc after Cold Steel is the last, how many games will it have to be to collect the rest of the Sept-Terrions? Alternatively, there could be two more arcs left, one set in Calvard and another across all of Zemuria. In either case, we’re still looking at…a lot of games.
Probably one of the most interesting moments in Infinity War was “the snap.” While we will definitely see many of the dead characters return to life, it’d make sense for other characters in the next Avengers movie to have a more “permanent” fate (they’re still action/comic book movies).
Similarly, for the final arc in the Trails series, it’d make sense for there to be character deaths. That being said, we haven’t had any of the good guys bite the dust; so far only villains have died. I would imagine that the main characters of the different games are safe (e.g. Estelle, Rean) and their love interests (e.g. Joshua, Alisa?) but everyone else is on the table, especially if they’re older, mentor like characters (e.g. Cassius, just to prove how strong the enemy is. That would feel really cheap though…).
Grandmaster as the protagonist?
While Thanos made three appearances in the MCU prior to Infinity War, the Grandmaster has made a total of…one, in Star Door 14 in Trails in the Sky: the Third. As the Grandmaster’s voice actor on a Trails drama CD was female, hereforth I will be referring to the Grandmaster as a she. The audience gets the sense that the Grandmaster has the absolute loyalty of the Anguis and has a relatively humble personality, as she lamented the loss of the third Anguis and the Enforcer no. 2. Furthermore, the Grandmaster has the ability to manipulate the Divergent Laws, drawing out the swords Kernviter (Leonhardt’s sword), Angbar (McBurn’s sword), and Weissman’s staff. However, otherwise we don’t know much about her.
So what if the last games in the series made the Grandmaster the protagonist, just like how the Russo brothers made Infinity War Thanos’s story?
We could follow the Grandmaster as she forms Ouroboros, recruits the Anguis, and develops the Orpheus Final Plan. It would certainly be different and give the Grandmaster much more screen time and development than we’ve had. In fact, once the Anguis have been recruited, they could take over as the playable characters, with the Grandmaster being the “tactician” moving them around in battles.
Controlling the Anguis would also rectify any complaints about “forced loss” battles, where you win easily in the battle, but the cutscene after shows you losing or barely winning. In this case, you’re using the Anguis; they’re all powerful so it’d make sense to win both in battle and cinematic. We could even have Enforcers facing off against the heroes across the continent to collect the Sept-Terrions, then once they’re in the possession of Ouroboros, switch perspectives back to the good guys.
Heck, since we’re likely talking about at least two games
for the final arc, have the first focus on the Grandmaster/Ouroboros, and the
second return to using the heroes as they work to stop Ouroboros. It would
certainly work to flesh out the rest of Ouroboros (whose Enforcers’ identities
are still wrapped in mystery) while providing the opportunity to make the
Grandmaster more sympathetic.
Will it be any good?
Ask any Trails fan which is their favorite game and you’ll probably get a series of different answers, though most would probably land on SC, the Third, or the Crossbell duology. Very few people seemed to take to Cold Steel 1 and 2, for a multitude of reasons (the aforementioned “forced loss” thing being especially prominent). In addition, fans grow up and tastes change. In any case, the only thing we can do now is hope for a solid conclusion to a story that really has been going on for more than a decade.
So how do you think the end of Trails will play out? Who dies and who survives? Will we get an equivalent of “the snap”? Are you a Trails fan or a pondering one? Will you join the fandom now that you’ve read this blog?
1. “List of Kiseki Media.” Kiseki Wikia - http://kiseki.wikia.com/wiki/List_of_Kiseki_media. Retrieved May 14, 2018.
2. “Iron man (2008).” IMDB - https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0371746/. Retrieved May 14, 2018.
3. “Captain America: The First Avenger (2011).” IMDB - https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0458339/. Retrieved May 14, 2018.