Trails from Zero follows conventional Trails series doctrine. That doctrine, as longtime fans know, is to put characterization at the forefront whilst developing the Zemuria continent's lore and intrigues at a comparably slower pace. While the sheer length of these games and their series-stretching overarching plot can frustrate some, it also makes Trails an easy recommendation to anyone who enjoys cool character development.
Now, we could leave it at that and let Trails from Zero rest on its laurels. Alternatively, we can rank the game's most important characters in order of our preference, turning what is otherwise a lovely ensemble into a no-holds-barred literary contest.
Let's do that.
17 Wald Wales
Even in a game with a cast as good as Trails from Zero's, there are bound to be a few stragglers. Wald is the straggler-est of stragglers, which is absolutely a term. He's a tough guy through and through, with the exact amount of 'actually, he also has a heart of gold' you would expect from someone like him.
Put another way, what you see is what you get here. A hothead who doesn't seem to understand the difference between speaking and yelling. He's not a bad dude, but he's bad to the bone — that whole shtick. If we were to take things into account from the upcoming Trails to Azure, Trails from Zero's direct sequel, we'd be kinder to poor Wald. As it stands, he's mediocre.
16 Alex Dudley
Alex Dudley hails from 'well, he's all right' school of character study. If Wald's too hot, Dudley's too cold, and neither of them take their temperatures in an interesting fashion. Trails from Zero portrays Dudley, a hard-working detective at the Crossbell Police Department, as aloof and distrusting. But not in the way that some detective shows have managed to make charming. No, he's just kind of there.
Seeing Dudley's assessment of Lloyd change a little bit here and there isn't much to work with. It's good to see the guy take a stand at a certain climactic point, but that's about it.
15 Don Marconi
Dudley's a no-frills detective. Marconi's a frills-savvy mob boss. Neither man brings much else to the conversation table. If you've ever seen a mafia kingpin in film, on television, in literature, or indeed through video games, you've already met Don Marconi. You just don't know it yet.
He's a schemer, a wheeler-and-dealer, and he thinks the dominoes are all lined up in his favor only to learn to his rampant chagrin that they aren't. Marconi's… fine.
14 Ilya Platiere
If the Sun Princess, Ilya's theater persona, was eligible for ranking we would maybe look more kindly upon this character. Alas, the Sun Princess is a speechless dance artist with interesting fictional lore for the purposes of public performances.
Ilya is, of course, the performer behind the Sun Princess. In reality, she's an easygoing lady with a tendency to reach for things she shouldn't be touching. You can take that as you wish; we would prefer not to go into detail on that front. Her carefree nature makes Ilya stand out in a crowd, but not necessarily in a lively way. Frankly, Crossbell seems more interested in Ilya than she is, in truth, interesting.
13 Garcia Rossi
Marconi's right-hand man is only mildly more intriguing than the don. Garcia's stature plainly showcases his impressive physical strength, and it's fun (and kind of scary) seeing that manifest multiple times. As a boss character, he's great; as a character, he's merely okay.
This is a man who is proud of his power, a veteran of the private military group known as the Jaegers whose cruelty, while measured, is no doubt limitless if he's tested. All told, Trails from Zero's more obvious villains aren't its most impressive trait — though the game's ultimate antagonist, who is minor enough (until they aren't) for us to avoid including in this article — is an exception.
12 Joshua Bright
If there is one character who best encapsulates what happens when we take someone series-spanning and confine our thoughts on them to just this one game, it's got to be Joshua Bright. In the wider scheme of the Trails games, Joshua is fantastic. Blending a mysterious past and dark secrets with newfound good nature and humbleness, he is someone whose arc in Trails in the Sky is simply sublime.
Within Trails from Zero, however, Joshua is mostly just kind of there. He has a few standout scenes, including the four-way race near the end of Chapter Two, and he's always there for a friendly word of advice. That's about it.
11 Cecile Neues
Lloyd's sister-of-sorts, Cecile would have wed his brother Guy had tragedy not struck three years past. Throughout Trails from Zero, she plays a small but noteworthy role. Between cheering for Lloyd and his coworkers and demonstrating excellence in nursing, Cecile is best described as a kindhearted woman with a passionate streak. How that passion manifests varies by situation.
10 Noel Seeker
As a two-part sub-series, it's hardly surprising that there are some characters in Trails from Zero whose presence aren't fully felt until Trails to Azure. We mentioned Wald as a fine example, but Noel is a prime example.
The young Crossbell Guardian Force member, eager to prove herself and a fantastic ally for the SSS, mostly stays on the sidelines in Zero. Noel accompanies our heroes a couple of times, and it's clear she feels a touch inferior next to them, which makes for an intriguing contrast to all the characters who look down on the Special Support Section throughout the adventure.
9 Arios MacLaine
We're a broken record at this point, but Arios is yet another Trails of Azure standout whose role in Trails from Zero is comparably muted. Still, for what he represents in this first part of the duology, he's still got some degree of gravitas.
Thanks in no small part to the machinations of Crossbell News Reporter Grace, Arios is championed as the impossible 'next step', the mountain of a man whose accomplishments Lloyd and his allies feel they may never measure up to. He's seen as Crossbell's ultimate hero, having served as a bracer among bracers, a protector of the people.
8 Estelle Bright
Joshua's bracer partner and the protagonist of the first two Trails in the Sky games, Estelle certainly stands tall as one of the Trails series' most popular characters. For our money, we agree; headstrong and unyielding, downright contagious in her cheerfulness, but remarkably deep once you get to know her, Estelle is one of gaming's best heroines.
That aforementioned contagiousness still beats strongly in Trails from Zero, but Estelle's limited role can only take her so far. Still, try not to crack a smile when she's onscreen.
7 Sergei Lou
The Special Support Section's commanding officer, Sergei's somewhat dead-eyed gaze rather says it all. The cigar-smoking, laid-back, and at times flat-out absent supervisor may seem like he leaves a lot to be desired, but deep down inside, he has a lot of faith in Lloyd, Elie, Tio, and Randy to get the job done.
Getting the job done, in Sergei's eyes, means proving that there's still a way to defend Crossbell without sacrificing every ounce of pride in the process. He knows what that will take. And if he ever seems genuinely disinterested in helping his subordinates, he'll prove otherwise with a well-timed boat rescue.
6 Rixia Mao
Ilya's star pupil, Rixia's a tough one to talk about. This guide's spoiler-free nature can be arresting at times, after all. There's more to this young lass than meets the eye, is what we can say, and that's not a bad thing for her characterization.
Talented to a tee, easy to root for, and harboring the sort of secret that only improves her presentation, Rixia is especially fun to see from the sidelines several times in Trails from Zero's early hours. Once you know how important she becomes, it's nice to look back and laugh.
5 Randy Orlando
Ah, Randy. A womanizer and a duty-shirker, a bit of a scoundrel but a good fellow when you need him to be. That's Randy. Truth be told, he's not the most spectacular party member in the first half of Trails from Zero. His pickup lines wear thin, his jealousy of Lloyd, while played for jokes, is honestly a touch awkward, and he seldom has as much to say as the rest of the gang.
Randy improves, however, to a terrific extent. In the late-game, he's set up for Trails to Azure in a profoundly pleasing way. He's also less prone to go off on tangents, or skirt-chase, or anything of the sort. It's still part of who he is, but he understands there's a time and a place. His burgeoning role as Lloyd's wingman makes Randy a one-man show by the credit roll.
4 Elie MacDowell
In a good number of games, Elie would rank number one. That goes to show how committed to characters Trails has always been. Elie has a strong and sympathetic reason to fulfill her role as a fighter against Crossbell's injustices. She bears a highly important surname, and she bears it with a mixture of quiet pride and steely determination.
Elie carries a refined grace that betrays her elite origins from the beginning. But rather than lord her wealth, she prefers to earn her way, and to gain a reputation as a dyed-in-the-wool hero alongside her peers through just as much grit and uphill disadvantageous. Knowing what drives her to the brink, and why she's willing to endure so much hardship when she could live another life with silver platters, makes Elie a fascinating figure.
3 Wazy Hemisphere
This green-haired enigma plays at various roles, but it's obvious he's ill-suited to them all. To be sure, he's a valiant and courageous leader of the Testaments, Wazy's Saber Vipers' sworn downtown rivals. His penchant for the theatrical means he's great at playing the dashing young secret lover, too. (If you don't know yet, don't ask. Best to see for yourself.)
But there's always something there in Trails from Zero, something that whispers, 'he could be more'. We see that side of Wazy multiple times, especially as his enigma increases exponentially during the final hour of Chapter Three. It's exciting stuff.
Plus, if you're looking for names to inspire Gundam protagonists, Wazy Hemisphere's totally got you covered.
2 Tio Plato
Tio is terrific. In a series full of all-star dry comedian characters, she might just reign supreme. It's not that she's written to be funny, per se; to borrow an example from a wildly unrelated franchise, she's Data from Star Trek — she doesn't mean to be funny, and that is what makes it all so good.
She's also incredibly intelligent, but not in an unbelievable way. Not within the admittedly wide confines of Trails' lore, at least. A skilled hacker whose plain approach to analyzing everything and everyone the SSS goes up against, Tio is a gem among gems.
She might just have the single best line in the game, too. Hint: it involves fanfiction genres.
1 Lloyd Bannings
Is it cliche to pick the lead hero for number one? Probably, but it's not our fault Lloyd's a wonderful character. We're in his head, reading his thoughts, for much of the game, and this is the advantage he needs to illustrate the depth of his commitment to the cause. Inspired by his late brother, Lloyd could have lived a loftier life as a distinguished detective; instead, he happily settles for leadership of the Special Support Section, a unit that's all but spat-upon publicly for the sins of Crossbell's police force.
Lloyd's cheesy speeches are always lampshaded as such. He doesn't realize how heroic he is, and that's the crux of the matter; but the folks he surrounds himself with are all seasoned pros at spotting a stereotypically dramatic speech when they see one, and they won't hesitate to chuckle. But Lloyd's magnetic; for all their chuckling, people look up to him, and a steadily rising number of citizens value him as the real deal.
For overcoming one obstacle after the next with realistic anxiety but dauntless determination, Lloyd is the best Trails from Zero's got to give.
Wondering why your favorite Trails from Zero character isn't on here? KeA, perhaps, or a certain physician? We've done our best to leave this list instantly accessible to players who have only just begun their Crossbell journeys.
For simplicity's sake, take it as assured that KeA, the physician, and shady Yin would all be somewhere around sixth place. Heck, one could argue we have part of that already covered…
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