The long-awaited sequel to Legend of Heroes VI, 'Zero no Kiseki'' moves the setting to the bright lights of the wealthy but corrupt city of Crossbell. Four rookie cops are enlisted to improve the reputation of the police. Of course, it doesn't stop there...One of the game's unique points is its intense focus on the city of Crossbell as a setting. Unlike Trails In The Sky, which has you bouncing around a number of roughly-equal-sized locations and learning some stuff about each to make up a country as a whole, Crossbell is gigantic and makes up a substantial portion of the entire game. While you will eventually leave the city limits to travel to other parts of the wider Crossbell State, these all really serve as "suburbs" of the city itself and the focus is on Crossbell City itself, in all its grand, towering, corrupt, decadent glory. When combined with series staples like orbments, it creates a fairly unique "Urban Fantasy in The Fifties" atmosphere. The only really comparable games would be the Shin Megami Tensei games, and even then there's a lot of differences in tone and content.This game got a sequel called Ao no Kiseki featuring the same characters and continuing the plot (in the same manner that Trails in the Sky SC continued Trails FC). Feel free to add related tropes. Ao no Kiseki is in turn followed by the unrelated Nayuta No Kiseki, but the next story in Zemuria Sen No Kiseki, which takes place at the Erebonian empire, is to be released on September 2013.
This game contains examples of:
Anachronism Stew: Applies a fair bit once again. While most of Crossbell is styled heavily on the 1930s-to-50s, there are still things like Lloyd's very modern-looking jacket, most of the Bracers insist on using melee weapons (so do Lloyd and Randy, for that matter, despite being police officers with access to government-issue firearms), and the beginnings of an internet being worked on in Crossbell (a technology that wouldn't really get serious use until the latter parts of The Sixties in reality). Crossbell itself is also a bit of an anachronism in the wider setting, given how much higher the technology base is comparatively (but then, non-Crossbellans point out in-universe how disorienting they find modern Crossbell at times, so this is likely intentional on Falcom's part).
Art Shift: Although the sprites and world design remain the same, the characters got a very different art style this time. Just compare Joshua in this game with Trails In The Sky Joshua, or Estelle. A little justifiable in that they're older now, but still.
Also, (late-game spoiler) Renne got somewhat more redesigned than one would think. She looks a bit older, sure, but her hair, which was a kind of pale lavender in SC and was a little brighter in Third, is now a violent shade of electric pink. Even more hilariously, she has her dad's hair.
Abbas, Mireille, Sully and Michel are upgraded with portraits in Ao no Kiseki. The latter three are also integrated into main plot (in Zero, they're just parts of sidequests). Abbas, on the other hand...
Arios actually does it on purpose in some cases; he usually waits and sees if Lloyd and co. can solve the problem at hand by themselves. He only steps in if they bite off more than they can chew. This is likely due to the fact that Arios and Guy (Lloyd's brother) were close friends and worked as a team before Guy's death so Arios is looking out for Lloyd in Guy's place.
Ao no Kiseki is full of these. Everyone did it to some extent.
Bittersweet Ending: At the end of Ao no Kiseki, Lloyd and co. manage to save KeA and stop the treasure of zero from going on further rampage. However, Crossbell City is taken over by The Empire and Ouroboros gets away with everything and even manages to add Shirley and Mariabell into their ranks. Plus, Prime Minister Gilias Osborne of the said empire, who is allied with Ouroboros, wins over the nobles of The Empire and gains nearly complete control of Erebonia, which can only mean trouble. Although it's implied in the final ending CG that Crossbell city will get liberated within few years, the ending is hardly uplifting.
Continuity Lockout: Ao no Kiseki. Sweet Aidios. It requires basic knowledge of what happened in Zero and SC. Then, some characters' goals, behavior and interactions wouldn't make sense if one didn't play The 3rd.
Dieter, Noel, Arios, Sonya and the rest of C.G.F. wear white suits after Dieter revealed his 'plan'. Fortunately, everyone minus Dieter changed their mind.
Evil Versus Evil: In the backstory, at least. Ouroboros and the Cult of D∴G absolutely hate each other and take practically any opportunity to do harm to one another, much to the relief of anyone else in the know.
Bigger spoiler: Of course, in the end, it's all an act; the Cult was a lie from the very start, and Ouroboros knew this. They just kept the pressure on to encourage the "growth" of a being like KeA.
Fanservice: Not really so prevalent in the games themselves, but the promotional material for the Crossbell games tends to pile the sexy on fair bit harder than older Falcom titles (bar perhaps Brandish). Reactions to this tend to be a bit mixed, particularly from older LoH/Falcom fans who were attracted to the series and company for being a bit more sedate than other, contemporary game companies.
The mixed reaction was really not helped by the President of Falcom giving a big interview about how Falcom explicitly doesn't focus on that sort of thing, when some of the promotional material seems to run counter to that.
He Knows Too Much: The reason for Guy's death. Guy realized the plan to use the treasure of zero for Crossbell City's independence and confronted Arios about it. Ian, who knew Guy will not join them, murdered Guy while Guy was busy trying to persuade Arios to stop the plan.
Hero of Another Story: Even moreso than in Trails In The Sky; Investigator Dudley, Arios MacLaine, Wazy Hemisphere and the Seeker sisters all definitely feel like this, even if Noel Seeker joins the party for a bit. Natch for Estelle & Joshua, too. In fact, those two quite literally have another story going on in the background for a significant portion of the game, in the form of their search for Renne, which eventually intersects violently with the main plot.
Interestingly, most of these characters will be joining the party, at least for a while, in Ao no Kiseki, with Noel and Wazy confirmed as permanent party members. The only ones seemingly not returning in any form are the Brights.
Surprise, the Brights (and Renne) DO appear in Ao. In fact, they played major role in Crossbell Invasion.
Lechter and Kirika, Kevin and Ries, Olivier, the four Bracers of Crossbell, and Mireille are this in Ao.
Jurisdiction Friction: The 1st Department of the Crossbell Police like to step in on all the interesting cases, to the annoyance of both the 2nd Department and the Special Support Section.
Late Arrival Spoiler: Ao no Kiseki's promotional materials have oodles of these for Zero, especially concerning Rixia and her actual skills and place in the world. Magazine promotional articles have also openly spoil many plot elements from Trails In The Sky SC.
Double Subverted by Lechter. The promotional materials for Zero and Ao didn't shy about revealing his occupation and alignment; yet they keep their mouth shut when it comes to his relationship with Kloe (which is half of the reason of his existence in the first place).
Mythology Gag: Halfway in the game Lloyd and a character he choose disguises themselves and Lloyd uses his dead family member (in his case brother) Guy's name just like what Estelle and Joshua did in Trails In The Sky.
The way Olivier appears in front of the party in Ao is basically this. To elaborate: he appeared out of nowhere and proceed to sing "Amber of Love" when two of Wald's lackeys were arguing. He did the same when two factions of new Ruan's Mayor supporters were arguing in SC.
Randy Orlando: The Son of The War God, The Red Reaper
Sigmund Orlando: The Ogre Rosso
Shirley Orlando: The Bloody Shirley
Wazy Hemisphere: The Blue Testament
The Remnant: Joachim Gunther is a surviving member of the D∴G cult, which got wiped out by the Bracers, the Crossbell police, and Ouroboros few years prior to the start of the game. Ouroboros' involvement is, in fact, how Renne fell into their grasp.
the Jack, Queen, and King cards used in poker and Black Jack minigames has characters from various Falcom games.
A state surrounded by an empire and a republic? The Hero comes from outside of the capital? Said empire occupying the state and our heroes must free their hometown from their grasp? And super-powered humans who play a crucial role in the story? Hello Valkyria Chronicles!
Lloyd's final S-Craft (Meteor Breaker) and Dudley's first S-Craft (Justice Hammer) are references to Gawaine from The Legend of Heroes Gagharv Trilogy: A Tear of Vermillion.
Again from A Tear of Vermillion, you can fight a soldier named Douglas as part of sidequests.
Ao no Kiseki's title screen song is titled "Aoki Shizuku" (lit. "Blue Tears"). The Japanese title of A Tear of Vermillion? "Akai Shizuku".
Sibling Yin-Yang: It is almost unbelievable that Renne and Colin are siblings. Then again, Colin hasn't suffered from half a decade of emotional and mental abuse and physical alteration.
The Mysterious Waif of the game is consistently spelled "KeA" by Falcom. Yeah... with a second, random capital letter. Her name is pronounced with an elongated "e", for the record; the closest "proper" spelling might be "Keah". Many fans just go with "Kea" for simplicity's sake.
Then there's "Cecil Neues", the female nurse. Most fans spell it "Cecille".
Our female lead here is usually spelled "Elie" by Falcom sources. Problem is, that's the male version of that name; many Western sources correct it to "Ellie", the female version. (It's worth noting that a certain famous-in-Japan alchemist heroine, who may have inspired the name, runs into the exact same problem.)
The single absolute worst of the lot, however, is "Wazy" Hemisphere. That's based mostly on a the katakana given for his name. The way Falcom prints his name? Łazy. That is, the Polish/Slavic "dark L". Yeah.
And, of course, exactly how to render the title in English is a point of contention as well. "Trail of the Zero" would be the obvious choice (especially with SnK having an established title now) but there's a couple of options, given what the "zero" in the title refers to. "Trails in the Void" has been suggested as a possible title once or twice by XSEED staff; "The Zero Trajectory" is also favored by some fans (although it kind of messes up the "franchise" naming).
Don't forget that Lechter receives ANOTHER spelling change in Ao. First it's "Lechter Arundel" in The 3rd, "Lecter Arandor" in official website, and finally "Lector Alandor" in the in-game picture viewer. FALCOOOOOOOOOM!!!!!
Took a Level in Badass: And how. The Special Support Section start out as nobodies with no respect from anybody. By the end of Zero no Kiseki they've outsmarted a threat that no one else could stop.
Estelle and Joshua most certainly count too. They are now famous, highly-regarded Bracers, and Estelle is nearly at Cassius' skill level now, given that she can use his S-Craft Houou Reppa. As for Joshua, he's at last made peace with the idea that his ferocious potential doesn't have to be used for murder and terror and can be used for good - meaning he's one of the most skilled Bracers living. He won't kill you, but that's the only break you'll get.
Urban Fantasy: Very much so; Crossbell is a big city, and much of it and its residents are styled on 1950s, especially the suits (sweet Aidios, the suits) and the cars (SWEET AIDIOS, THE CARS). This is a bit of a departure from the previous games, which were rather more Steam Punk-19th-century-ish than this. (Estelle and Joshua do express some surprise at the technology they find on display in Crossbell, though.) This also gives the game quite a different feel from the previous Trails games, since so much of it is focused on one city; while you do visit some of what basically make up the "suburbs" of Crossbell, the focus is on events in the city limits.
Well-Intentioned Extremist: Ian, Arios, and Dieter. The first two have lost their loved ones due to the political state of Crossbell City. They are trying to liberate Crossbell City from influence of neighboring countries, regardless of consequences.