Think of Falcom, you think of Ys. It's hard not to, the series is well known for its amazing soundtracks and fast paced action. It's far from the only series Falcom have made, although it is the most accessible to Western fans. By far their most recent success is the Sora no Kiseki trilogy (which most literally translates to "Wagon Tracks of the Skies", and is titled "Trails in the Sky" by XSEED Games in their releases), the latest RPGs in their "Eiyuu Densetsu (Legend of Heroes)" line of more traditional, story heavy, RPGs. On the surface, it looks like Ys, and actually uses the same engine as Ark of Napishtim, Oath in Felghana and Origin - that is, super deformed 2D Sprites on 3D, with an overhead perspective. However, they're more traditional JRPGs, similar to Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest.
The original game, Sora no Kiseki FC (First Chapter) was released on the PC in Japan late 2004, with SC (Second Chapter) released late 2006 and the final chapter ("The Third") out in 2007. FC and SC were originally intended to be one game, in fact, but it proved to be so massive that Falcom would either have to pare the game down in order to make it reasonably fit into one release... or split the game into two mammoth releases to do the whole thing justice. They chose the latter.
The PSP ports were handled directly by Falcom, with FC released in '06, SC in '07 and The Third in '08. The series proved so popular on PSP a special "Material Collection" also saw the light of day, containing a few albums, exclusive wallpapers and movie clips taken from the series. A "mini" material collection with extras from The Third was given as an extra inside the final PSP box set release. All three games essentially run on the same engine and use the same interface.
Each of the game's three chapters tells their own story. There are sixteen playable characters over the course of all three games, plus dozens of other secondary characters.
Our protagonist for FC and SC. Estelle is a hotheaded sixteen year old tomboy who's not afraid to blurt out the first thing that pops into her head. People who to get past all the shouting and fighting find out she's actually a very loving and positive person. She strives to live up to the example her father, Cassius, set as a Bracer.
Joshua has amnesia, a mysterious past, a dark secret and a plot-relevant tattoo. In spite of all this, he's a calm, considerate person who goes through the whole trilogy without a single emo-like breakdown. He was brought into the Bright family home battered and bruised, and ended up an adopted son.
Olivier is, by his own claim, a wandering bard from Erebonia. He acts like a bit of a klutz, getting drunk and flirting with the ladies, but when he needs to be he surprises everyone with the keenness of his mind.
Kloe is a student at the Jenis Royal Academy in Ruan. She has a thing for helping orphans and the like, and joins Estelle's party partly due to her attraction to Estelle's altruistic ways (and, well, partly for her overt attraction to Joshua). Always accompanied by Sieg, her faithful white falcon. Called Klose in the Japanese version.
As a child, she worked in a travelling circus, but eventually found herself under the wing of Cassius Bright, Estelle and Joshua's father. Likes to get drunk with Olivier, but he can't handle it as well as she can.
Martial artist extraordinaire, and one of the highest ranking Bracers in the land. He's a big cheerful guy famed for his strength and dedication. Originally from Calvard, he came to Liberl to compete in the big yearly tournament in Grancel. Called Zin in the Japanese version.
Renne is a young girl Estelle and company meet in SC. At first she seems like little more than a kind, if slightly odd-tempered, girl who has golden eyes similar to Joshua's. As one might suspect, though, there is far, far more to her than meets the eye...
Distinguished and loyal officer of Liberl who learnt the ways of the sword under Cassius Bright.
She may look cute and love ice cream, but this chirpy Bracer takes her responsibilities very seriously.
Ries is only in the final game, but she has strong ties to Kevin. She appears quite reserved, but she's always quick to reach for her segmented sword at the earliest opportunity.
Legends of Heroes: Trails in the Sky / Eiyuu Densetsu VI: Sora no Kiseki FC (英雄伝説VI 空の軌跡FC) - Windows (2004), PSP (2006), PlayStation 3 (2012)
Known as "First Chapter" or simply "FC", this game begins when Estelle and Joshua embark on life as Bracers, travelling around Liberl together and carrying out quests provided by the local guilds. Over the course of the game, they uncover a plot that could threaten the entire nation and resolve to stop it... only to have the situation explode in their faces in a way that no one saw coming. The very end contains particularly painful revelations for Joshua, who leaves the group - and the Brights, including the name - behind in order to settle old scores.
Eiyuu Densetsu VI: Sora no Kiseki SC (英雄伝説VI 空の軌跡SC) - Windows (2006), PSP (2007), PlayStation 3 (2013)
The Second Chapter begins the very next morning after the previous adventure. Estelle realizes that Joshua is likely running straight into a trap, or at least a situation he cannot possibly handle by himself; however, her attempts to find him end in failure, and she resolves, with the aid of her companions, to train herself to the point where she can put an end to the plot revealed at the end of FC and ensure that Joshua does not get himself killed. Meanwhile, the conspirators behind the events of both chapters advance their plans... and they and Estelle's group finally collide in a climatic showdown among the trails in the sky of Liberl.
The final game focuses on Kevin and his troubled past. He and Ries become trapped in an illusory world created by a being calling itself the Lord of Phantasma. They find their friends are also drawn to this place, and after many skeletons are pulled out of Kevin's closet they confront the Lord of Phantasma and discover the Lord's proper identity. Once they have put the Lord to rest, everyone escapes that strange land, going their separate ways.
This game takes a big departure in its storytelling style both from the previous chapters and other RPGS - the game's focus is on the cast to the exclusion of almost everything else, by creating a plot that forces them into an illusory world with almost no one else to interact with. It sounds rather limiting, but it works quite well as they encounter fragmented parts of familiar places and people within them. The darker tone and this new style does feel a bit strange after the first two but as you go through it all clicks into place and serves as a fitting end to the trilogy. And, of course, it ends up serving as a perfect excuse for the most psychedelic visuals in the entire series.