There’s a sentiment I often see put forth about the Trails in the Sky trilogy that the series doesn’t truly get started until Second Chapter. That First Chapter is a slog, that the only reason to play it is to reach the truly good stuff waiting for you later on. If you’ve read my review, in which I awarded FC a 9/10 and said it is a great game in its own right, you could probably guess that I disagree with that notion. While FC is clearly part one of two, I think it’s a fully satisfying adventure, and I rank it in the top half of the nine released Trails games.
In this article I’ll be counting down my personal top 10 favorite moments of Trails in the Sky FC. The aforementioned sentiment isn’t necessarily the reason I’m writing this; I mostly just thought it would be fun. But maybe this can also serve to help prove my point that there’s more value in FC than just setup for the “real adventure” in SC. I had a hard time narrowing this down to 10 selections. FC is abundant in well-crafted moments that range from epic, to cute, to mysterious, and more. Some of these scenes are vital to the story, while others have little bearing on the plot but serve to draw you closer to the characters. Without further ado, here is my top 10 moments in Trails in the Sky FC.
Spoiler warning: I expect the reader to have played through Trails in the Sky SC.
10. Cassius Adopts Joshua
Synopsis: Set five years before the rest of the game, the opening scene shows Cassius Bright bringing home the eleven-year-old Estelle a present: a black-haired boy near the same age as herself. While the boy is initially clearly resistant to the idea, he is adopted into the family. Estelle asks his name, and with Joshua about to answer, the screen fades to black.
“That’s nice and all, but how about you come clean and fess up… Is he an illi-jit-mate child or something?” – Estelle
Significance: The Estelle-Joshua relationship is the center of the first two Sky games. Given that, what better place to begin than the moment that started it all for our two main protagonists? I don’t think they could have introduced these two characters in a better way. When we first see them after the five-year flash forward, we see that they are clearly very close. But given Joshua’s moodiness and Estelle’s innocent, childish nature in the opening scene, you can imagine it probably took their relationship a while to reach this point. In the first five minutes, the game has established Estelle and Joshua as a compelling relationship you want to learn more about.
The opening scene also does a good job of being mysterious without giving too much away; Joshua has been injured and is clearly upset at having been brought into Cassius’s home, but until you learn the full truth of Joshua’s past and the events that transpired prior to this, you can’t understand what any of it really means. What happened in Joshua’s past is one of the chief questions of the game, and this scene does an effective job at setting that up. This is also one of the best scenes in the game for replay value. Joshua had just been sent to assassinate Cassius. Knowing this, Joshua’s query to as to why he wasn’t just left to die makes a lot more sense. We also learn later that Ouroboros intended Joshua to fail in his assassination attempt, as they were preying on Cassius’s compassion to take Joshua into his home, so he could then be turned into an unwitting spy within the Bright household. Layers upon layers.
9. Picnic in Manoria Village
Synopsis: On the way to Ruan where they will transfer to the Ruan guild branch with the goal of gaining another recommendation, Estelle and Joshua first make a stop at Manoria Village. Upon arriving at the village they decide to grab lunch and eat it at a viewing platform overlooking the ocean. Estelle wants to try a bite of Joshua’s paella, but because her hands are full, she asks Joshua to place it in her mouth. Cuteness ensues.
“Oh, it’s fine. It’s not like anyone’s watching. Unless you can let loose, you’ll never enjoy yourself!” – Estelle
Significance: While this scene isn’t any where near as important, or long, as the others chosen for this article, it’s a moment I often find myself recalling when I think of this game. It’s little moments like this, and the Trails series as a whole, that make these characters feel believable. It’s a nice encapsulation of the difference between Estelle and Joshua’s personalities. Estelle, always acting on instinct and wearing her emotions on her sleeve, asks Joshua to feed her without any thought to how that might be considered embarrassing. Joshua, who overthinks everything he does, and clearly harbors feelings for Estelle that she is completely unaware of, is of course reluctant to go along with it. It’s a cute moment that serves as a nice break between the action at the end of the last chapter and the tragedy that is about to strike Mercia Orphanage. There are many other great Estelle-Joshua moments throughout the game, but I’ll use this one sort of as a way to represent them all.
8. Professor Russell Rescue Attempt
Synopsis: Professor Russell has been kidnapped by who we later learn are Special Ops soldiers under the order of Colonel Richard. While devising a rescue plan in the Bracer Guild, Agate harshly tells Tita she cannot come as it would be too dangerous to have an amateur tag along, leaving her in tears. Despite this, Tita shows up on top Carnelia Tower anyway, botching the rescue mission just as Agate was about to grab the professor by forcing him to divert to protect her. Afterward Agate lays it on her, slapping her and saying it was her fault the kidnappers got away. While initially again reduced to tears, Tita is endeared to Agate when she realizes he only has her best interests at heart.
“Are you okay with things as they are? Are you going to accept that can’t help your granddad and just give up? …You can cry and scream all you want, but first, you gotta learn to stand up on your own.” – Agate
Significance: Agate’s behavior in this scene can be hard to take at first given the severity of his language. He calls Tita a “runt” and a “goddamned kid” and doesn’t hold back when he says they would have been better off without her. Up to this point in the game Agate had really only given the player reasons to dislike him. He’s rude, crass, and slow to trust others. But through this scene we get a glimpse at his true underlying nature. While his interactions with Tita are shockingly blunt, he only ever trying to do what’s best for her and for the mission. Can you blame him for not wanting to take a 12-year-old with no combat experience along for the rescue mission? Not to mention a 12-year-old whose family is in danger and may lose control of her emotions.
But after seeing Tita’s determination, Agate changes his message somewhat. Rather than telling her outright that she can’t help, he tells her that if she truly wants to save her granddad, she first needs to learn to how to take care of herself. She needs to keep her feelings in check, and act intelligently. When Tita realizes his point, she stands up, admits her mistake, and grows as a person. Agate’s flustered response to Tita thanking him for cheering her up (what he said was truly out of his own sense of logic, not intentionally out of any compassion), and Estelle and Joshua ribbing him for being a nice guy at heart, puts a perfect cap on this scene. This is the start of what grows into a beautiful big brother-little sister relationship, one of my favorites in the series.
7. Mayor Dalmore Chase
Synopsis: Estelle, Joshua, and Kloe are attempting to rescue Mayor Dalmore of Ruan under suspicion of ordering the arson of Mercia Orphanage. After his monstrous dogs are defeated by our protagonists, the mayor wields an artifact that renders everyone in the room unable to move. Just as he is about to shoot Joshua, the black orbment begins to shine and frees everyone from the artifacts control. Dalmore then makes a break for it, dashing through a secret door in the wall and taking off in his yacht. Just as it appears Dalmore will get away, the the royal guard flagship Arseille makes its grand debut, cutting off his escape.
“Keep your filthy hands off of Estelle… Don’t you…harm a single hair on her head… Or I’ll use every technique I know…to cut your miserable carcass to pieces…” – Joshua
Significance: This is the first scene that really shows the level of action the Sky engine is capable of. Given the graphical style of the game I had the expectation that even the high intensity moments would remain relatively stiff. That notion would be proven incorrect, as this game can really put together exciting action sequences when it needs to (unfortunately stiffness would later become an actual issue in Cold Steel I and II). The scene keeps you on your toes with multiple reversals. First, it appears Dalmore’s artifact will allow him to escape; then when black orbment activates and you think Dalmore is beat, he dashes through his hidden door, leading to the extremely fun boat chase. It all then comes to an end as the cutting-edge airship Arseille and future party member Julia are introduced. Their appearance of course also offers a major hint as to Kloe’s true identity.
We also get some chilling dialogue from Joshua in response to Dalmore’s threat to Estelle, both demonstrating the extent of his love for her, and further hinting at the darkness of his past. Also, any scene involving Nial is instantly raised to a 10/10. I have to knock Nial though for not instantly reaching for his camera after being freed by the black orbment. You had plenty of time man!
6. Cassius’s Reappearance
Synopsis: Colonel Richard, having realized the error of his ways, attempts to save the others from the Ring Guardian, but ends up in its grasp. Just as Richard chooses to sacrifice himself so the others can escape, Cassius Bright suddenly appears and knocks him free with his staff. The party finishes off the Ring Guardian, and then catches up with Estelle and Joshua’s long missing father. Richard regains consciousness, asks Cassius why he left the army, and says he felt he had to resort to this scheme to protect Liberl from invasion. Cassius then turns to Richard and punches him, sending him flying to the ground. Cassius chides Richard for the mess he made, and for believing the army unable to function without him.
“Stop being such a child, Richard! You’re the one who made the mistake of never letting go of the delusions you had about me! For all your schemes, why could you never stand on your own two feet?” – Cassius
Significance: While this moment uses the whole “oh no the enemy isn’t finished yet, but we’re so tired, how are we every going to get out of – ah, a surprise savior!” thing that later games overuse to the point that it becomes comical, I’ll forgive it here because it hadn’t yet become a trope. This is also a fitting reappearance for Cassius, who had been missing all game, whose legend has grown more and more and more throughout the adventure. When we last saw Cassius he was simply a bracer living in the small, unassuming town of Rolent. Now he’s an S-rank bracer, Liberl’s savior in the Hundred Days War, and one of the most famous men in the country, if not the continent. (Though I suppose everyone in the party knew all that already except for Estelle. But she is our window into the world, so we too knew nothing of Cassius’s past).
After talking to the party, Cassius gives Richard exactly what he needed: a hard punch to the gut. The only reason Richard did any of this was because he thought Cassius’s retirement was such a devastating blow the army would be unable to recover. That, and because he was manipulated by Ouroboros, but these “delusions”, as Cassius puts it, are the reason he was susceptible to manipulation in the first place. While Cassius is a highly accomplished and greatly powerful man, he is just that: a man. There were still capable people in the army who could have carried the torch, Richard included. But now Cassius has been forced to return to his former position with the army in shambles, and the stage set for Ouroboros’s machinations in Sky SC to begin.
5. Jenis Royal Academy Play
Synopsis: In order to raise money and cheer up the orphans who just had their home burned down, Estelle and Joshua are tasked with helping to set up Jenis Royal Academy’s school festival and participate in the play, titled “Madrigal of the White Magnolia”. Little did they know, the gender roles for this play are being reversed, resulting in Estelle and Kloe playing knights, and Joshua playing a princess, much to his horror. While preparing for the play Estelle and Joshua fully integrate into campus life, living in the dorms and attending classes every day. The play ends up a rousing success, raising one million mira and giving the orphans a memory they won’t soon forget.
“Just one thing at a time, huh? Well, I guess I’ll just focus on the boy in the dress then. That’ll be easy.” – Estelle
Significance: Sometimes it feels like there is no end to what bracer work can be. Need someone to teach a Sunday school class? Not a problem. Want someone to spy on your maid’s dating life? Bit weird, but sure. How about renting a couple of bracers for two weeks for them to star in the school play? Why not! Despite the absurdity of it, this is an immensely charming slice-of-life section that allows Estelle and Joshua to be kids, if only for a while. Estelle becomes fast friends with Jill and Kloe, who of course seem only to want to speak about Joshua, and Joshua himself integrates surprisingly well with Hans, proving that he can lead the normal life he will soon come to believe to be impossible for himself. This whole section may seem like a weird detour for the game, and it is, but it’s incredibly well done, and serves as an effective way of forming a deep bond between our protagonists and Kloe.
There’s also plenty to parse here on repeat playthroughs. We get our first glimpse of Loewe, who checks in to watch a bit of the play. He couldn’t miss his old friend Joshua’s theatrical debut. Given the presence of Weissmann and Joshua’s disappearance shortly before the play, it’s easy to assume that Weissmann had Joshua give him one of his unwitting reports at this moment.
4. The Tournament Arc
Synopsis: Lacking any leads on how to reach the queen and deliver Professor Russell’s message, Estelle and Joshua decide to check out Grancel’s annual martial arts tournament which was holding its preliminary matches that day. After they watch Zin beat a team of four single-handedly, Duke Dunan announces on a whim that the winner of the competition will be receiving an invitation to dinner at Grancel Castle, shocking everyone in the arena, and giving Estelle and Joshua their chance to deliver their message. The two find Zin, and together with Olivier who forces his way into the group, form a new team of four. They take down the Ravens from Ruan in the first round, a team of bracers in the semifinals, and finally a team of special ops soldiers led by none other than the mysterious Lieutenant Lorence in the finals, securing their invitation to the castle.
“The winner of the competition will not only receive a prize in mira, but will also get a special gift from me! This gift is to be… A written invitation to a Royal Court dinner party at Grancel Castle, to be held in three days!” – Duke Dunan
Significance: Including the tournament may be cheating as it’d be more accurate to call it an “arc” than a “moment”, but I couldn’t leave it out. Tournament arcs in games are always fun, and this one is no exception. Could they have come up with a more perfect way to reintroduce Zin, and also Olivier, back into the story? This is a great chance for Zin to demonstrate how he earned his nickname “Zin the Immovable”, and Olivier’s scenes in the bar are hysterical. While Dunan’s invitation may seem overly convenient, it totally fits something he would do, as you can see he is clearly having way too much fun with the newfound power Richard is investing in him.
The game uses this arc to bring together a large number of its characters. The reappearance of the Capuas is smart way to remind the player they exist before they take on more importance in SC. The Ravens begin their arc of redemption, demonstrating the effort that they have put into their training. You see Anelace and Kurt’s team in action for the first time. Many of the little character interactions but Falcom peppered throughout the game pay off in this moment, as none of this would have the same impact without that preparation. A lot of these characters, such as Zin, Anelace, and Grant, had appeared very briefly prior to this point, and it’s fun to see them finally enter the main stage. And then it’s all capped off with your first fight against Loewe, who you’ll soon learn was showing only the teensiest fraction of his full strength.
3. Olivier in Prison
Synopsis: Estelle, Joshua, and Scherazard have just been thrown into prison at Haken Gate under suspicion of conspiring with the sky bandits. As the three are discussing their predicament they are suddenly addressed by a man in the cell next to them, who turns out to be none other than Olivier, the debaucherous musician whom they had just escorted from this very gate to Bose. Over their objections, he proceeds to tell them the tragic tale that resulted in him being thrown into this cell. In short: he had been hired as a pianist for the Anterose restaurant in Bose, but was thrown into prison after drinking a wine worth five-hundred thousand mira without permission. The next morning Mayor Maybelle arrives to free Estelle, Joshua, and Schera from prison. Luckily for Olivier, Maybelle also happens to be the owner of the Anterose, and taking the situation remarkably well considering she is the one who bid five-hundred thousand mira for the wine, she frees Olivier in good spirits.
“To think we’d meet again in a place like this… It seems that we are bound by destiny.” – Olivier
Significance: It was not an easy thing to prevent myself from filling this entire list with Olivier moments. As far as comic relief characters go, he’s one of the best in all of video games, and it’s impossible for me to see him without a huge, stupid grin appearing on my face. (He’s much more than that, but man, nearly every line he utters is pure gold.) Something I’ve noticed while putting this together is that the Sky series is very good at introducing its characters. Every party member is introduced in a meaningful and memorable way. And what more Olivier-esque way for him to enter this story than the sequence of events that led him to this prison cell?
The funniest thing about this scene might be how shameless he remains throughout. Not only does he not regret drinking the chardonnay, nothing holds him back from telling the story with a smile on his face, despite having ended up in jail. He may have a mission to do in Liberl, but he is also treating his stay as a vacation, and he is enjoying himself to the fullest, as he is wont to do. He may have temporarily lost his freedom, but as long as he’s having fun, it doesn’t really matter. This particular scene may not have much plot importance long term, Olivier is one of the most important characters of the trilogy, and I don’t know if his character would work quite as well if he hadn’t been introduced in such a ridiculous, hilarious manner.
2. Weissmann Reveal
Synopsis: Just after Estelle runs off in embarrassment after letting it slip that she thought Joshua was going to confess his love for her, Joshua is approached by Professor Alba. Joshua tells Alba that he has always made him uneasy, and that he suspects he is responsible for the various incidents that have been occurring throughout Liberl. Alba, whose true identity is Weissmann the Faceless, an Anguis of Ouroboros, commends him for being able to piece all this together, and with a snap of his fingers restores Joshua’s stolen memories. Weissmann also reveals the truth behind Joshua’s original mission to assassinate Cassius Bright, that he was meant to fail, be taken in, and act as a spy for the society. The knowledge breaks him.
“However much you may model your behavior after a normal, decent person, you are no such thing.” – Weissmann
Significance: This is the game’s shock twist, and the execution is perfect. The coup has been stopped, the game is over, and everyone is celebrating. Estelle and Joshua are having a cute moment, and it looks like a confession is imminent from either of them. Then Estelle runs off, and of all people, Professor Alba shows up. For some reason the music cuts out. Then as Joshua levels his suspicions Alba’s portrait slowly changes – first he opens his eyes, then his face turns toward the screen, and finally he unleashes his evil grin. It’s all effectively creepy. I’m not really fan of Weissmann as a character, but his reveal is spectacular. Joshua’s portraits also effectively convey his horror. He is overwhelmed by all this information flowing back into his head at once, and the final kicker that he had been acting as a spy sends him into a spiral of shock and despair. His portrait no longer even looks human; he looks rather like the puppet that Weissmann proclaims him to be.
The fact that Joshua had been unwittingly acting as a spy on Cassius is a smart twist and heartbreakingly sad. As we see in the opening scene Joshua was at first resistant at being brought into the household, believing that he would only place them in danger. Eventually Joshua gets over this fear and fully integrates into the Bright family, accepting that he can live a normal life. Just before Weissmann restores his memories he was even talking to Estelle about their future, about continuing to work together for the guild as a team. But then this reveal confirms his original fear; he can’t trust himself to be around his family, as he can’t guarantee their safety from him if he is still susceptible to Weissmann’s control. Sure, as Weissmann says, he could just continue to live with them and never mention that he had been delivering regular reports to the society for the last five years. But despite Weissmann’s claim that he has cut Joshua loose, he can’t take him at his word. As a result, he feels he doesn’t have a choice but to run.
1. Joshua’s Confession
Synopsis: Following the sound of his harmonica, Estelle finds Joshua on the roof of Grancel Castle. Joshua then tells her calmly that he wants to tell her about his life before they met. After a tragic moment in his past, Joshua forgot how to speak, eat, or feel. He remained in this state until Weissmann, whom he refers to as “The Magician”, found him and remolded his heart into that of an assassin. Joshua was made to kill every day, for years. Then one day he was ordered to kill Cassius Bright. After failing at this task, he was brought into the Bright household and lived the happiest five years of his life. But he had been unknowingly betraying them all this time. Because of this, he is going to leave them and hunt down the magician on his own. Estelle, not accepting that his heart is “broken”, tells him she loves him, and wants him to stay. Joshua says he has always loved her, and kisses her. As he does so, however, he pricks her with a sedative. As Estelle falls to sleep the screen fades to black, and Joshua says goodbye.
“He lived there for five years, always feeling like he was lost in some wonderful dream. In the real world he would never be allowed to have such dreams… But all dreams must end at some point.” – Joshua
Significance: Now that’s how you do a cliffhanger. I feel bad for anyone who had to wait for SC to come out to see the continuation of the story. This scene gives me chills every time I see it. Joshua is calm as ever, but his manner has totally changed. You can tell he no longer sees himself as a human being, but rather as a broken puppet who has woken from a dream he cannot return to. The third person narration he uses to tell his story is devastating. I remember being shocked by his past; I knew he must have had a rough life, but he’s killed hundreds of people. This changes how you see him forever.
And then there’s Joshua’s final confession. His portrait turns toward the screen resulting in him looking nothing like the Joshua we thought we knew. “My Estelle… you shine like the sun. My time with you was the happiest…and the most painful…I’ve ever known.” These are poetic words that clearly show the depth of passion he feels for her. But they are delivered in a sort of detached way that shows he feels that this is a life he can never have. He is of course wrong about this, but given the nature of his past, I can understand how he came to think this way. If you are invested in these characters at all, this is a ferocious cliffhanger. It’s a shocking twist that upends Estelle’s world, but if you’d been paying attention, the breadcrumbs had been laid for the reveal. Even more than the climax under Grancel Castle, this is the moment the game had been building toward. And I believe it to be the best moment in Trails in the Sky FC.
What do you all think? Agree, disagree? Any moments that should have made this list, or should not have? Leave a comment below!