There are many ways of writing stories, and RPGs have seen a lot of them demonstrated over the years. Trails in the Sky doesn't do anything particularly unique in terms of its overarching subject matter — bad people are after a long vanished thing and must be opposed. Over the years not many RPGs have successfully pulled off what Trails does though, which is to be very specific and effective. Its characters come across as individuals, and the Liberl nation they move through is depicted very effectively, while the antagonists introduced are also given enough characterization to be more than mere mustache-twirlers. This is a country with specific regions and people who inhabit them, plus enough of the country's history is presented to give us a very good idea of how it came to be in its present state. While XSEED Games does not try to make this into a comedy in the fashion of Working Designs years ago, it also succeeds in making sure that the moments intended to be humorous remain so. Few games try this hard to build a detailed, believable world, and Falcom's perseverance at that task with The Legend of Heroes series as a whole is to be commended.
It certainly doesn't hurt that XSEED turned in another strong localization effort. Simply going through the core story isn't so bad, but the voluminous expanse of additional dialogue to be found take a lot of time and work to effectively translate. Trails in the Sky would have been a very different experience with an indifferent or outright poor localization, and it's doubtful that many fans would have popped up in that case — witness what happened with three other The Legend of Heroes games on PSP for strong evidence.
The Trails series of Legend of Heroes games quickly earned a place amongst many RPGamers' favorites thanks to an amazing cast and incredibly engaging story. Moving on to a new country for the Cold Steel trilogy gives the series a chance to introduce and develop a new, thoroughly likeable cast of characters and interesting locations while keeping the strong storytelling and themes. It's not just the main plot thread that gives Cold Steel such a great story. Virtually all of the game's NPCs have their own stuff going on and it's great to see that developing throughout the game. The way everything about the setting and various plot threads develop through the game, with a very well told overall tale of behind-the-scenes intrigue and the growth of its student main cast, means Cold Steel is another game in the series where the story rightfully takes center stage.
Whether it's because it has strong enough source material to work with, or because CD Projekt RED can write really strong secondary characters, The Witcher 3 is one of the finer examples of quality writing in a year that was full of it. While the main story's outline is fairly generic, incredible detail and care are given to even the most menial of side quests. Some of the longer ones feel as though they could be entire games in and of themselves. Meanwhile, the stock story is elevated by excellently well-rounded characters who give a noticeable spark of life to the entire world, even one as large as The Witcher 3's. It's a testament to the writing's quality that not much feels like filler in a game that can take over a hundred hours to complete.
by Mike Moehnke, Alex Fuller, Zack Webster