On6/24/2004, the first game in the Kiseki series would be released in Japan as The Legend of Heroes VI: Sora no Kiseki. As this title was released, there was no hint at all as for what the series would bring with it- which is arguably one of the most expansive worlds designed for an RPG series.
Since that date, many changes have happened to Falcom as a company- they’ve gone public, joining the Mother’s List of the Nikkei Stock Exchange, changed leadership with Toshihiro Kondo taking the helm as the company president, and abandoned PC development to release games to Sony systems: the Playstation Portable, the Playstation Vita, and the Playstation 3.
In ten years, this series has seen six titles released: Sora no Kiseki, Sora no Kiseki Second Chapter, Sora no Kiseki the 3rd, Zero no Kiseki, Ao no Kiseki, and Sen no Kiseki- with Sen no Kiseki II looming over the horizon for release in September of this year. Each of these titles is identified by its massive script- with First Chapter being the shortest at a whopping 1.5 million Japanese characters- to give some perspective, Final Fantasy XII’s script sits at 750,000 Japanese characters. Over ten years, Falcom has written a series of six titles, containing an approximate total of 17.2 million Japanese characters over all of their scripts combined.
The series tells the story of the Zemuria Continent. Through the perspectives of different casts in each game, the mysteries and events of the six games are all interlinked in what is an unprecedented style of storytelling in a video game series. The concept of a continuous story over the course of many titles is not looked on favorably with may game developers, because it makes it difficult for newcomers to jump into a series.
The original trilogy, Sora no Kiseki is three games- the first two, now often referred to as First and Second Chapter, tell the story of Estelle Bright while the third title opens the doors to the full expanse of mysteries to be presented throughout the Kiseki series, from the perspective of Kevin Graham, a newcomer to arrive to the series in Second Chapter. In 2011, seven years after its original release, Sora no Kiseki FC found itself to be published for English audiences as Trails in the Sky by XSEED Games. Its startling cliffhanger ending has left the players scrambling for the eventual release of Second Chapter, just as it did with those who frantically waited 20 months after the initial Japanese release in 2004.
Little did the those who played the title in 2004 realize what they were getting into, those doors have yet to be fully opened for the English speaking fans of the series. It’s an exciting time to be someone who has played the Kiseki series since its original release, as it means I can- in a way- relive the same excitement I had for the series through watching the newcomers to the series experience the new twists and turns it has to provide for the first time.
For some bonuses before we get into the pic spam… Here’s the original video for Sora no Kiseki, as released with the Falcom Special Box 2004. This was the original announcement for the game itself:
If you notice that the song isn’t in Sora no Kiseki’s soundtrack, you are very right. This song was, in fact, from the soundtrack of another little known game released by Falcom by the name of Rinne.
And one other blast from the past- Falcom’s IR Report (PDF) to announce the release date of the game. It was posted on 3/24/2004.
Continuing on through this article is an extensive series of photos of the original limited edition boxed sets, as they were originally released. This series has its roots in PC gaming, as will be evidenced by the three sets.
You can find the images and details of the boxed sets past the cut below.
The original box for The Legend of Heroes VI Sora no Kiseki was released on 6/24/2004, for 9,975 yen. This was the only version of the game initially available, and while preorders were opened in April, Falcom was forced to close them by the time May rolled around.
The box contained the following items:
1) A 200-page, full-color visual guide to the characters, setting, and other various development materials.
2) The Super Arrange Version of selected tracks from the game’s soundtrack.
3) A CD single of the game’s theme Hoshi no Arika.
If you ordered from Falcom’s mailorder, you would also get the Unused Music CD as well.
The game box is one of the last of the ‘large profile’ PC game boxes that Falcom would release. Xanadu Next, released in 2005, would then begin the new ‘slim’ heavy cardboard slip cases you will see with the SC and 3rd boxes below.
In the case of this box, the large exterior box is a thin cardboard slip to hide a the containing box within to show all of the goods for the game.
My copy came straight from Falcom’s mail order- I had my preorder in within the first week. As a result, I got an extra CD of Unused Music and the pamphlet that includes a demo CD of the game. You can see the collection as a whole from what I received, however. This includes the book and the slew of discs with it.
However, let’s start with the CD sets. The case that the CDs were kept in is a neat, folding set. I don’t have the original sleeves for them, unfortunately. Not anymore. It’s been ten years! If you have the CD version, the game is on three discs, and one disc if you purchased the DVD version.
You have the thick instruction manual. Most of the book itself is in black and white with a few color pages at the beginning for the characters. On the back, you see the blurb for the game that Falcom released. This blurb has changed over the time of the game. If you see it in older pamphlets and so forth, you’ll see slight variations that imply the earlier versions of the game.
The special collection book released for the game has some character artwork dated as far back as 2000, and you can see sketches and early screenshots from Falcom’s Hot Information page on archive.org from back in 2000 that show evidence of the game’s development back then.
This is the cover of the amazing 200 page Visual Guide and Materials book. There are no real gameplay hints or data in this book- it’s entirely character data and setting information. They have a mock travel guide of the various locations within Liberl in this book, and you can find profiles and sketches of many characters, playable and NPC throughout its pages.
I hadn’t ever actually really opened the demo CD packet until doing this shoot. It was a little redundant to have the game demo while I had the game itself, but it was a nice addition, and it still looks great.
Now we get into the three CDs that I got with my box.
The first CD I have is the Unused Music CD that was the exclusive to ordering from Falcom’s Online Store. The disc has ten tracks on it:
1. Otousan da mono
2. Estelle Punch
3. Suku Suku Scratch
4. Itsumo no Kanji
5. MOUNTAIN PATH 2
6. Hotte Horarete
7. Agate noa ha Akage noa
8. Yamagoya no Stroke 2
10. a tempo
Many of the tracks from the Super Arrange Version CD should sound familiar, as they were finally released with the two disc Super Arrange Version after SC’s release over two years later in September of 2006.
This CD has the following tracks:
1. Silver Will
2. Amber Love
3. Rock on the Road
4. Sophisticated Fight
5. Amber Love (Vocals: uumi)
Madrigal of the White Magnolia
6. First Movement: Princess’s Troubles ~ Knights’ Grief ~ Each One’s Expectations
7. Second Movement: Castle ~ Colisseum ~ Duel
8. Third Movement: Princess’s Death ~ Finale
9. Those Who Protect The Greatest Treasure
10. Sora no Kiseki (vocals: uumi)
If you haven’t heard these, or are interested in the album, you can find it here digitally on Amazon. (Note: the link will pass through to my affiliate account- there’s no cost to you to use this link.)
The CD single for Hoshi no Arika is probably one of my favorite CD designs ever. This CD only contains two tracs- the song with vocals and the karaoke version of it. The CD itself is a full size CD, but it only has the CD coverage of a small three inch single disc. As a result, beyond the three inch diameter in the center, the rest of the disc is clear, with the artwork printed on it in translucent ink to provide an amazing look to the disc.
With this, we end our tour of the Sora no Kiseki boxed set. As you may have noticed, they still used the number in ‘The Legend of Heroes VI’ and didn’t add FC to it. This is because, despite the game’s killer cliffhanger, those who had gone into the title from preorder, there was no hint that the game would be the first part of two (or many, as we’ve since discovered!)- and when that ending showed up, most people who played were thrown completely off-guard.
So much that the twenty month wait for Sora no Kiseki Second Chapter was killer. Falcom did little advertising for it, as per their usual manner. The first images for Second Chapter didn’t start showing up the November before its release in March 2006. Character sketches were revealed in a book published with character data for multiple games, a blog post in December on the Fal-Column that talked about taking screenshots from the game, and featured one such screenshot of the cast at a table for dinner.
The game was released in multiple boxed sets in March 2006. One such set was the Sora no Kiseki Complete Set FC&SC – this contained both games packaged together for 10,000 yen. But there was also the limited edition set of SC that had the photo story book, ‘Omoi no Kiseki’ and a drama CD of events from the first game. This was released for 8,400 yen on 3/9.
Just before SC, was the release of Xanadu Next in October 2005- this featured the first of the smaller, hard cardboard slipcases that Falcom began to use through the rest of their PC publishing era. The case is just slightly larger than the DVD box inside. Sora no Kiseki SC also marked the first time the series would go DVD only and when the series would drop the ‘6’ from the main title. It was no longer The Legend of Heroes VI.
While the limited edition didn’t have as much as the box for First Chapter, it still was a fantastic box, and much of its contents were a bit of a surprise. As you can see from the offset, the most obvious contents are the game, the instruction manual, the drama CD, and the storybook.
Starting with the Storybook, this is one of the reasons why I love the books of the Kiseki series. The whole thing is treat as just that: a book retelling the first game’s story, with new artwork all presented in a scrapbook type format. There are many great illustrations of various key scenes from the first game, and it is a great retelling of the game to prepare people for the story they’ll find in Second Chapter.
Within the DVD case, you’ll find that Falcom managed to pack in a few more extras, along with the game disc.
The first is a surprise- sheet music of the game’s title music, The Shine of Eidos. The music is three pages long, and written for piano.
Item #2 is a pamphlet advertising the music for download on the Famitsu.com Game Music Download system- plus a card to give you access to five tracks: 1) Gin no Ishi, Kin no Tsubasa, 2) I swear…, 3) The Fate of the Fairies, 4) Illusion, 5) Legion.
The most important part of the drama CD, beyond the disc itself, is the cover and cast information on the back.
With Sora no Kiseki SC concluded, the story still had loose ends, but nothing so much that would really desperately need anything to tie them up soon. As a result, Falcom fans were surprised at the Falcom Live event in March 2007, when a promotional video to reveal Sora no Kiseki the 3rd was shown. The video displayed that the game would step away from Estelle and Joshua as the game leads, and turn to Kevin Graham, who first appeared in Second Chapter, and introduce a new character by the name of Ries Argent.
The box cover features the first piece of artwork by Haccan for the Kiseki series, who would go on to do artwork for the first two games later on, which would then be used for a variety of covers, including the Sora no Kiseki Kai HD releases for both First Chapter and Second Chapter.
Sora no Kiseki the 3rd was a very different game from the first two in the trilogy- all in leads, presentation, and even straight up storytelling and updates to the gameplay in the game itself. As a result, the new font and patterns show a sign of this change in direction. Like the SC box, however, Sora no Kiseki the 3rd would continue the hard cardboard slipcase look that Falcom had picked up.
The limited edition set sold for 7,980 yen on 6/28/2007, almost three years exactly after First Chapter’s release. This set would include the game itself, the manual, and a visual collection book.
Like the other instruction manuals, this one features a few color pages at the beginning, with the rest of the gameplay instructions in black and white through the rest of the book.
The back of the book, of course, features the game’s blurb to go along with it:
Beware the Falcom engrish??
Slight ambivalence induced the evil one.
It crawled on the fields and ran through the hill
and brought was disaster to sky.
Ezer 1:2 “unleashed disaster”
What is this relevance to the game? Patience- you will have to play to find out!
My poor copy of the visual guide is battered as it has a LOT of information in it that’s actually not in the game. It also contains some information not found in the other books- things relating to Alteria, the City-State from which the Septian Church runs, and various other details related to the side quests found in the game.
The book is full color, features character artwork, setting data, and even rough sketches from Haccan that led to her art as seen on the cover of the game.
The three boxed sets are part of the legacy that has begun over the past ten years. It seemed as if the series would not continue on after 3rd, after the silence and show of interest towards the other games- which was a shame as 3rd opens so many more mysteries for the new series. Sora no Kiseki the 3rd would be the last title of the Kiseki series to start on the PC.
Three years later would see The Legend of Heroes Zero no Kiseki released for the PSP- and bring about a new era of fans and interest to the series. Since then, in the past ten years, the Kiseki series has crossed over four platforms: PC, PSP, Playstation Vita, and Playstation 3. Kondo has said that it doesn’t sound like it will go to PS4 any time soon, but I will be surprised if it doesn’t make the jump at some point, especially as Falcom has been playing with a PS4 devkit of late.
For now, on its 10th anniversary, amazing news slips out about the upcoming game in September, which leaves many fans excited, and raises the hype quotient immensely, and soon with XSEED’s release of Second Chapter for PSP and Steam around the corner, the English fans will begin to learn what the Kiseki veterans often call ‘THE WAIT’ – the excruciating last few weeks leading to the game’s release.
Don’t worry, everyone. It will be well worth it.
Let’s hope for many years to come with Falcom continuing to maintain this high standard of story RPG series with the Kiseki series.
Congratulations on this anniversary, Falcom! Thank you for the laughs, the tears, and the wild hype.
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— ??????? (@nihonfalcom) June 24, 2014