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The Spoiler Filled Post-Release Sen no Kiseki III Interview with Toshihiro Kondo (Part 1)

On 11/16/2017, Dengeki released the second volume of their Sen no Kiseki magazine series, which contained a variety of information, including a long-form interview with Toshihiro Kondo regarding Sen no Kiseki III. This is a ‘no holds barred’ interview, with the exception of some expert dodging and trolling, in lieu of answers from Falcom’s president.

Due to the length of this interview, it is being split into two parts. The majority of the translation here is from Guan, while I’ve done editing and formatting of the interview.

The second half of this interview will eventually be released at some point in the near future.

As a warning, there are major Sen no Kiseki III Spoilers in this article. Please take note before reading on in this article.

Cutting Sen no Kiseki III was a mortifying decision for the developers

Sen no Kiseki III has been out for more than a month now. What sorts of feedback have you received from players?
Toshihiro Kondo: As we switched to PS4, the graphics were particularly well received. The contents of the game and the systems that were introduced were enjoyed by everyone. On the other hand, we have heard various opinions of players who made it through the end that we will have to consider. With the way it ended and the sequel on their minds, I want to get information out there as soon as possible.

Sen no Kiseki III was intended to be the final game for the Erebonia arc. How long ago did you decide on this setting?
Kondo: Correct. It was decided on from the time we were planning Zero and Ao no Kiseki. Of course, details have changed since we started the development of the Sen series. During the initial stages of development, Rean and the others weren’t military students but actual military officers.

The story told by the Sen series isn’t over with Sen III. (sweats) Have you been planning this from the very beginning?
Kondo: The staff intended to have it end with Sen no Kiseki III. However, after having received the planning from the development team and with our experiences up until now, we concluded that no matter how we looked at it, working toward the conclusion in just one game would have been relentless…(sweats). Not taking into account that some among us have not familiarized themselves with developing for PS4 yet, we concluded that volume-wise it would become difficult. If we wanted to have the Erebonia arc climax in this single game, we would have to rush through the story. We thought it would be better to just take our time and to properly wrap up the empire’s story. From now on the Kiseki arcs will be split in two works, and as we run into the cut-off mark, we will have to take whatever follows into consideration.

Speaking of which, in Sen III it felt that there were a lot of important revelations flowing from normal events.
Kondo: We really wanted to give a proper explanation to things, but there was too much that had to be told. Throughout the entire game, there are almost no unnecessary scenes…

So the way Sen no Kiseki III ended was decided much later. Did the decision to end it at that very scene met with much resistance?
Kondo: I was actually greatly worried about that. However, it wouldn’t work to have the cut after that conversation, and, again, the long story is far from over. That’s why we decided to settle on that particular scene.

If you think of the Kiseki series as a whole, including Sora and Zero, how far along on the grand scale of things do you think the ending of Sen III would be?
Kondo: It’s 60% completed. I think that when everything of the Sen series has been resolved, the story of the Kiseki series has made significant progress.

How was the reception of the characters? We have the popularity results [elsewhere in the issue], but what characters do you consider popular?
Kondo: Based on the DLC, Altina is most popular. People have warmed up to Yuna as the story progresses because her behavior is so crabby in the beginning. Musse is considered a strong girl. Among those members, Kurt is seen as incredibly “ordinary” while he should be in Laura’s position, really. (laughs)

The History of Erebonia’s Past as
Read in the Black Records

Please talk a bit about the course of Erebonia’s history as chronicled in the Black Records.
Kondo: If we’re talking about the course of history, there was the Great Collapse in the beginning, but details surrounding that event haven’t been touched upon yet. There were two Sept-Terrion in Erebonia, the Blaze and the Earth. Treasures targeted by the the Phantasmal Blaze Plan include the Mirage of Crossbell and the Blaze of Erebonia, so many were confused when the third one, Earth, came up.

Was the Great Collapse caused by the sudden war between the Earth and Fire Sept-Terrion?
Kondo: The Great Collapse is an incident where all seven Sept-Terrion were lost, so it’s not about just these two. The “Space” Sept-Terrion of Liberl has its own history.

Why are there two Sept-Terrion in Erebonia?
Kondo: Putting together the information from Sora no Kiseki onward, it’s fundamentally about the relationship between Sept-Terrion, Holy Beasts and humans as the unifying force, with the Septian Church serving as backup. That is, the situation was fortunate for the Septian Church to spread and this ties in with the mysteries surrounding the Church. As imperial territory expanded, humanity was represented in two factions: the Hexen Clan and the Gnomes. With the power of the Sept-Terrion they prospered, the witches with their Blaze and the gnomes with their Earth.

And now, the Hexen Clan and Gnomes oppose each other.
Kondo: Initially, they worked together. They collaborated during the Dark Dragon’s events of 800 years ago and when they discovered the danger brought forth by the Great One, together they sealed it. The Gnomes, however, cut their ties for reasons that will touch upon later. However, why the Sept-Terrion of Blaze, Arc Rouge, and the Sept-Terrion of Earth, Lost Zeum, ended up fighting each other has not yet been revealed.

Check: The Sept-Terrion that appeared in previous games
The Sept-Terrion are seven artifacts granted to humanity by the goddess Aidios during ancient times. So far, the only ones that have been identified were the Sept-Terrion of Space- the Aureole- in Trails in the Sky, and the Sept-Terrion of Mirage- the Demiourgos- in Ao no Kiseki. The Sept-Terrion of Space possessed the ability to “limitlessly grant the wishes of humans” was deemed dangerous at one point in time, which motivated humans to seal it in a different dimension. The Sept-Terrion of Mirage possessed the ability to “manipulate the laws of cause and effect”, but erased itself from existence after certain events. This led to the birth of the “Sept-Terrion of Zero”, an artificial re-creation of the Sept-Terrion of Mirage by the Crois Family.

Those “Guardians”, now empty shells, are the colossal statues in Nord and on Bryonia Island, right?
Kondo: That’s right. It has already been revealed that the empty husks were the Sept-Terrion manifested as guardians. As for the Holy Beasts that watched over these Sept-Terrion, the Holy Beast of Earth has already shown up, though at the end of Sen no Kiseki III one might be wondering of the whereabouts of the Holy Beast of Blaze. In fact, I think it’s more out of the question to think that that this didn’t cross the mind of other players with the way the game ended. Actually, the history of the Gnomes on how they received their Holy Beast and what became of it still has to be addressed. After they cut ties following the era of the Dark Dragon, the Gnomes were involved in one way or another every time the Divine Knights engaged in a proxy war. But because the they didn’t come out publicly, the Hexen Clan was the only one to properly guide the Awakeners. This time, the destructive nature of events is so vast that the Gnomes have finally showed up again after hundreds of years of absence.

What about the original natures of the Sept-Terrion of Blaze and Earth?
Kondo: I can’t tell you that right now. (laughs)

Then, can you tell us something about the effects of the Great One’s “curse”?
Kondo: As depicted by the endgame events of Sen no Kiseki III, the Great Twilight instigates hatred amongst people, resulting in driving them into conflict with each other. Originally, the fight between the Sept-Terrion led to the both of them merging as one, so the easiest way to interpret this is to magnify the principle of strife. Although, I don’t know whether it’s right to call it a “curse.” It can also be interpreted that it’s the Great One itself; the Great One may have been planted into the Empire as a “truth.”1)Translation note: the term being used here is ? (kotowari), which can be read as ‘reason,’ ‘truth,’ or ‘way of things’ – much like a law of nature.

The Great Twilight spreading through Erebonia. – As a black wind blows across the entire Empire, the people who were washed in it appear to be overcome with malice. Along with the black miasma that begins to rise from their feet, you can also see red-black pleroma blooming.

How far do the effects of the Great Twilight reach?
Kondo: It expands quite a bit. Basically, it remains within Erebonian borders but it’s too inconsistent to just stop there. There are also cases where people try to resist it. Similar to how the Orbal Shutdown Phenomenon in Liberl affected portions of the empire, it’s possible that other nations are also dragged in by this effect.

Who wrote the Black Records?
Kondo: Remember that they’re no ordinary old books. No matter how you look at it, they have been written from an overhead perspective. Considering they are records that transcend space and time, they’re definitely no ordinary history books.

How are the Black Records that Rean and the rest obtain arranged?
Kondo: That’s a mystery, right? Based on their contents, it appears that they’re not from Rean’s period of time.

What’s the relation between the Dark Dragon and the Nameless One?
Kondo: According to Roselia, the Nameless One is no more than an underling of the Dark Dragon, which appeared underneath Heimdallr. Anything beyond that has not yet been revealed.

Revival of history’s worst cryptid, Dark Dragon Zoro-Agruga.

From the Black Records we learn that the Dark Dragon was subjugated by Emperor Hector, right?
Kondo: That’s the case if we go by Emperor Eugent III’s remark, yes. But since details of that part of history have not been revealed yet, I can’t completely answer that question. We don’t yet know exactly how much of that era was written in the Black Records.

The mysteries surrounding Divine Knights and the Awakeners

As the power of the Great One was divided into vessels, was the curse inherited as well?
Kondo: The Great One was originally the only “principle of strife”, and we know that throughout history the Divine Knights have repeatedly ended up in conflict against each other. The principle that the curse was handed over is likely. Looking through Erebonia’s history, from seeing the fact that the Divine Knights have been used to settle unusual phenomena, you could say that the curse has indeed been passed down.

What hasn’t been clearly revealed are the conditions to become an Awakener, correct?
Kondo: Yes, those conditions are still unknown. There are a number of Awakeners that have died and were resurrected, but that doesn’t apply to all of then. If we look at the Black Records, Emperor Dreichels lived out his normal lifespan, so this means that death is not necessarily a condition.

When did Rutger become an Awakener?
Kondo: In the game it’s explained that Rutger did not become an Awakener while alive. However, he did not necessarily become an Awakener because of his death. I think this will be addressed in the developments of the sequel. A rule they have in common is that they can only pilot a Divine Knight after they have taken the trial.

These people were determined through trials, but can the gnomes see them through the trials like the witches do?
Kondo: That’s something that hasn’t been revealed yet. Arianrhod, Emperor Dreichels, Emperor Hector were guided by the Hexen Clan, whereas it is not yet stated whether Rutger was guided by a witch. Incidentally, we continuously changed who would become an Awakener. One might expect Rean to have a bit more Awakeners on his side.

Precisely! Does Crow count among them?
Kondo: Based on Crow’s words during the final scene, he might not be an enemy entirely. The other members were forced into a situation where they had to stop Rean from going berserk.

Please tell us about the ending scenes with the restricted Valimar.
Kondo: It’s bound in the sense that it can’t leave the current situation to look after itself. Rean is still in a state of demonization and we can’t fathom what he would do if he were to be set loose. Or perhaps it’s simply that he’s scheming for a use for Valimar.

By the way, regarding the second form of the Divine Knight, what sort of shape do they assume?
Kondo: For now, think of this as feedback of the Awakener’s power. So far, we have seen two of these second forms: Valimar and Ordine. With these two around, it is hard to imagine that the other machines wouldn’t have these capabilities, so it’s possible they still have something up their sleeves.

The power of the Black Divine Knight is incredibly overwhelming, isn’t it?
Kondo: In the current situation, no one might be capable of competing against it, no. But I suppose a time will come when the Black Knight will have to be confronted somewhere.

Cedric, pilot of the revived Testa-Rossa, but… It is no longer the Vermillion Apocalypse that you once fought in the Infernal Castle?

The Vermillion Knight, Testa-Rossa, was restored. Is this related to the Society’s experiments?
Kondo: I think it’s unrelated. The Society was gathering data from the Aion units for the Phantasmal Blaze Plan, so it’s likely that the restoration of Testa-Rossa was the Gnomes’ doing.

When Zector and Algreion first showed up, they appeared to be transparent. What is the meaning behind that?
Kondo: All I will say is that it is some sort of foreshadowing.

Can you say anything about the last machine, the Golden Knight and its Awakener?
Kondo: Hints have already been provided. There are hints regarding people that have already showed up, so please try to guess. By the way, it is not decided by the color of their hair. (laughs)

Memories of the Divine Knights’ fights have been erased, but for what reason?
Kondo: That hasn’t been stated explicitly, but it’s not like their have forgotten all their memories regarding their fights.

The Black Workshop and the existence of the Gnomes

The revealed information on the Divine Knights – In order to suppress the Great One, after the Hexen Clan used their power to split it, these divisions were stored into vessels created by the Gnomes. What could potentially happen if all of the Divine Knights were brought together?

Please tell a bit about the Gnomes.
Kondo: They’re the faction that received the Sept-Terrion of Earth from the Goddess. They used its powers to prosper before the Great Collapse. After the collapse and the attack of the Dark Dragon, they disappeared from the foreground. There were not always at strife with the Hexen Clan, even when their Sept-Terrion were fighting with each other. In case of the Dark Dragon and the Great One, they collaborated to seal them away. Afterwards, they suddenly disappeared, and equally suddenly reappeared for the Great Twilight incident, which is happening right now. The reason for their disappearance has not yet been elaborated but is related to the events that are currently unfolding. They’re a clan possessing incredibly advanced technological power, and the real identity behind the Black Workshop that has been foreshadowed since Sora no Kiseki.

Wasn’t there a line in the Black Records about the Faceless?
Kondo: That’s right. It says that the units used by Weissmann2)Full Name: Georg Weissmann. Also known as the “Faceless,” he was the third Anguis and was introduced in the Trails in the Sky series. were combat shells. Speaking of cramming ten years worth of material built-up in a single sentence. (laughs) Ever since that time, we’ve been foreshadowing the Black Orbment and topics related to black. It’s also said that they influenced several developments on the foreground while remaining in the shadows themselves. It can be assumed that every time the Divine Knights appeared, the Gnomes were also somehow involved. During every important historical aspect they were absent, but still influenced events through their technology. They just had to have been planning something.

But are they normal human beings?
Kondo: Witches are fundamentally normal beings, just like the Gnomes. They are not a separate species like dwarfs and elves.

It’s said Alberich isn’t immortal, so what kind of being would he be?
Kondo: It’s explained that he has been living eternally by inheriting personalities in some way. In contrast, it’s said that Roselia is actually immortal. She is no ordinary human being.

It’s also said that resurrection is even beyond the Goddess’s capabilities, so how did Crow get revived?
Kondo: That wasn’t resurrection. All I will say is that Arianrhod and Crow, like Rutger, might have revived through the same ancestral means.

Why did Alberich call Osborne his master?
Kondo: Let’s keep that a mystery, please.

Has George, or Copper Georg, been a Gnome since the beginning?
Kondo: Yes. He was a Gnome from the very beginning, working on his mission. However, if we remind ourselves of his last conversation with Angelica, you might have had the feeling that he wasn’t completely backstabbing her. There’s this bit where Towa is thinking about the relationship between those two, and she can’t see George dismissing it just like that. Or perhaps that’s just wishful thinking… Depending on the situation George will be put in, I don’t know what direction he’ll swing in.

Speaking of “Georg”, is there a link with [Georg] Weissmann?
Kondo: That’s a secret. Though, if there was no meaning to it, they wouldn’t be having the same name, right?

Please share some details on the development of the Oz series.
Kondo: As discussed in this game, they were intended to bring about the Great Twilight. We plan to reveal more about their role for the Twilight in the sequel.

Has this plan been the Gnomes’ all along?
Kondo: That’s right. From what we’ve heard from Alberich, they’ve been working on this plan for quite a while now. He has been experimenting for a while and this time he finally succeeded.

What were the requirements to complete the Sword of Demise?
Kondo: That hasn’t been clearly stated, right? Why they had to assume a human body, and why they had to be a homunculus. You might get the chance to visit the Black Workshop in the future.

Is it impossible to revive Millium?
Kondo: We’ve received a lot of comments regarding Millium’s sad fate. Considering her relationship with Jusis, that ending was seen as shocking. Still, since what’s going to happen has yet to be decided, I cannot say anything at the moment. There have been several pieces of final foreshadowing in Sen III.

Mysterious surrounding Roselia, elder of the Hexen Clan

What kind of creatures are the vampires?
Kondo: They play an important role in the history of Erebonia. There is an account in the Black Records that deals with an era overflowing with vampires and the undead, so think of these as remains of that overflow.

Is the staff that was transferred between Roselia and Clotilde special?
Kondo: That’s right, it’s as special as you’d expect. Fundamentally it’s the symbol of some sort of power, but in the end it was Emma who used it. Please try to work out the flow of the staff transferred between Vita and Emma.

Are the details on how Roselia shrunk her body related to the familiars?
Kondo: Consider that the familiars Grianos and Celine were constructed by Roselia. Since the beginning Roselia has had the ability to control life forces, which has you wonder if every time she distributes a chunk of her own life force, she loses something from herself.

What exactly happens during the scenes with Roselia and Rean?
Kondo: You mean the scenes with “here’s a tip” and “I’ll take this as a reward,” right? The first time she hands out strength, then the second time this happens, she steals your CP. By the way, a detail of the direction of these scenes is that only Rean is able to speak, but he is unable to do so when Roselia is talking. I think you should be able to figure out why. Furthermore, it might be wise to remember the fact that “she and Arianrhod and working to settle their dispute from long ago”.

Emma has significantly grown, but has she passed Clotilde by now?
Kondo: Emma manages to suppress McBurn’s flames and use crafts of spatial translocation, meaning she has become incredibly skilled in this game. Assuming she wouldn’t be using her familiar, I feel she would be closing in on Clotilde’s level, but Clotilde would have the upper-hand based on the amount of experience under her belt.

Check: Familiars as supporters of Hexen Clan crafts
Emma’s familiar, the black cat Celine, was created by Roselia for Emma. Revealed in the previous game that she is supposed to keep an eye on Emma, she supports her with both her abilities and knowledge. She herself can also use techniques, such as gaining control over Rean’s ogre mode. Another familiar is Grianos, the bird that accompanied Vita until it was defeated by Rufus in the finale of the previous game. Considering Grianos hasn’t showed up in this game, the chances are likely that familiars can’t be resurrected. Instead of express her sadness, Vita will demonstrate her feelings as animosity toward Rufus.
The “three month gap of time” that changed Osborne

When did Osborne become the Awakener of the Black Knight?
Kondo: As of this moment, that hasn’t been revealed yet. A lot must have happened in the small period between dropping Rean off near Ymir and his intervention in the Hamel incident. It’s certainly a big leap from his involvements in the Hamel incident as a brigadier general. It took him roughly a month to settle that case and the rose to the rank of chancellor. Therefore, something might have happened during that “three-month gap” after leaving Rean in the custody of the Schwarzers. Still, the changed that something happened before that period can’t be dismissed either.

Is the “ogre power” related to Osborne’s heart being transplanted into Rean?
Kondo: It’s not like it’s unrelated. Rean asked Osborne face-to-face, but Osborne smoothly dodged the question.

Was Rean’s mother a normal human being, or did she have some sort of special abilities?
Kondo: At this moment, there’s no information that specifies whether Rean’s mother, Kasia, was actually a demon.3)Translator’s Note: Kondo is using ‘oni’ here for Kasia, the same as used in the Japanese term for the ‘ogre power.’ That said, it looks like the “ogre power” is coming from Osborne’s side.

This relationship between Rean and Osborne has been carrying on since the previous installment, hasn’t it?
Kondo: It’s interesting to re-examine the ways he addresses Rean. He has called him “Rean” and he has called him the “Ashen Chevalier.” Though in the last scene, he uses “Rean”. I wonder why. When Osborne passed by in the train in Sen no Kiseki, there was foreshadowing in the moment that Rean grasped his heart and scene became slow-motion.

Furthermore, this game revealed the backgrounds of the Ironbloods. Will their stance change after this?
Kondo: Both Claire and Lechter have had several circumstances in their life, right? After their weaknesses were shown, they still block your way as the Ironbloods, suggesting their bond is incredibly firm. Despite the things that happened in Sen III, they stick to the path they’ve chosen. You should be able to imagine what will happen next, based on that.

Is Rufus still planning to surpass Osborne?
Kondo: His original plan was to have Osborne assassinated using jaegers, right? In that sense, he agree to being the “primary member”. Still, right now it seems it’s Claire who’s most likely to betray them. Considering all things she told Rean, it seems she should be on his side, but the Ironbloods don’t sway so easily, including the newcomer.

By the way, what’s Hugo’s relationship with the Ironbloods?
Kondo: Ah…Fallen to the dark side, hasn’t he? Isn’t it necessary to have a bit more combat proficiency and humane defiency to become an Ironblood? Not all of the alumni of the Thors Military Academy will necessarily end up siding with Rean. Please note how other alumni appear henceforth.

Speaking of which, have we now seen all members of the Ironbloods or are there still more?
Kondo: Basically, these are all of them. Each in a different deparment: the Railway Military Police, the Intelligence Division, et cetera. The ones to interact directly with Osborne are the Ironbloods. The reason for Cedric’s change is just as everyone imagined, which can be seen from the exchange between Cedric and Rufus.

Is there also a possibility that Olivert’s birthplace shows up?

It’s noted that the Arnor Family was acknowledged by the Holy Beast, aren’t they?
Kondo: Right, as the mediators. I think the Arnors are one of the families who brought the survivors of the Great Calamity together. In Liberl, the treasure was bestowed upon the “Royal Family”, but in Erebonia’s case it was somewhat different. The Arnors might be from Alster.

The Lenheim family is also from Alster?
Kondo: Albeit seperated from the Arnors, yes, they’re also from Alster. By the way, the student Sandy is also from Alster.

What about Emperor Eugent III’s fate and Olivert’s safety?
Kondo: In regards to the Courageous, that was no mirage. It was actually shot down. His safety is unknown, and the same applies for Eugent. And Angelica’s depends on George.

Considering Bleublanc was absent this time, couldn’t he have saved his “rival of beauty”?
Kondo: I’m happy to hear you’re reading so much in it. (laughs) That said, seeing as Blueblanc was away from the plans this time, I wonder if he was at that place…

Were the nobles who had the Lenheim family attacked aiming for the seat of Empress?
Kondo: Since she was a commoner, a noble family disagreed and decided to intervene. Cruel incidents, unthinkable ones, happen in Erebonia with nonchalance and without warning. That, too, is related to the “curse”. Just like the Hamel incident. And this time it’s set loose on a grand scale, ready to invade Calvard, but that’s something we’ll touch upon soon.

Why does Emperor Dreichels say his “children and grandchildren will not be haunted” in one of the Black Records?
Kondo: That’s because Dreichels himself had something that couldn’t be passed on to his son, so that’s something to be relieved about, right?

Princess Alfin had relatively little screen time in Sen III. What about next time?
Kondo: Elise became harder to tease and Cedric became unmanageable. Whatever side she picked, she would’ve been led around by the nose. As for what she will do next, I don’t think just waiting around while her family is in its current situation is in her character. As Erebonia readies its next invasion, it looks like negotiations with external forces will also increase. There’s a chance that she will make her move then. At the same time, Osborne is keeping an eye her now, so I don’t think she can move all that freely.

Check: The taste of the Lenheim family as left behind by Olivert's mother
Branch School Quest, “The Legendary Recipe” in chapter 4: Sandy, born and raised in Alster, wants to make the legendary dish of Ariel Lenheim. By the way, Alster is a village on the outskirts, northwest of Heimdallr, where the Drama CD of the previous game has taken place. [You can read a translated version of the Drama CD on the official Trails of Cold Steel II website.]
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Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Translation note: the term being used here is ? (kotowari), which can be read as ‘reason,’ ‘truth,’ or ‘way of things’ – much like a law of nature.
2. Full Name: Georg Weissmann. Also known as the “Faceless,” he was the third Anguis and was introduced in the Trails in the Sky series.
3. Translator’s Note: Kondo is using ‘oni’ here for Kasia, the same as used in the Japanese term for the ‘ogre power.’

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