First released way back in 2011, Nayuta no Kiseki was an Action RPG spinoff of Falcom’s mainline Trails series. It was a last hurrah of sorts for their lucrative and successful time on the PSP. Trails was barely more than a footnote in the west at the time, so it was passed over for a long eleven years. Now it’s finally been localized as The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails, promising a blend of detailed storytelling and high speed action combat.
Despite holding the “Trails” moniker, The Legend of Nayuta takes place in a completely new setting separate from Zemuria. If any prospective buyers are looking to play this but don’t want to do any homework prior, worry not. This is a totally standalone entry that begins and ends definitively in a brisk 25 hours. The Legend of Nayuta’s “Trails-isms” start and stop at its detailed storytelling and dialogue, and I have all of the same praises for it that I do with prior games in the series.
In this fantastical rendition of “Earth”, the world is believed to be flat and have an end point. Our protagonist, Nayuta Herschel, doesn’t believe that. Following in the footsteps of his late parents, he’s determined to find the truth of the world and see what lies beyond that forbidden horizon. Through strange crystals that fall upon his homeland of Remnant Isle, he and his sister are able to peer into strange places that seemingly do not exist on Earth. These places are what Nayuta believes to be “Lost Heaven”, the place his parents were searching for before their untimely deaths.
It’s not long after returning from summer vacation that he finds a strange fairy girl named Noi, one of the “administrators” from Lost Heaven (known in reality as “Terra”). On the run from a mysterious villain named Zechst and his henchman Selam, she’s out to correct the environmental anomalies going on in Terra. Nayuta, being the nice guy that he is, elects to help her in doing this.
I’ve only scratched the surface of how deep the plot goes. Falcom’s signature worldbuilding skills are put on full display in this game. The setting of The Legend of Nayuta is easily one of the most well-realized and imaginative I’ve seen in a game in recent memory. The twists and turns of the main story never come out of nowhere, and piecing together the true nature of characters and their backgrounds was very rewarding.
Inhabitants Of Remnant Isle
Nayuta is a fresh break from the more conventional RPG protagonists. He isn’t a fighter by trade, nor does he have any particularly lofty ambitions of saving the world or going adventuring. What defines him instead, is his intellect and strong curiosity for the unknown. His smarts are what get him in and out of trouble in many instances. But despite those qualities, Nayuta is still just 15 years old. Combine immaturity with having lost his parents at an especially young age, and you have a very emotionally tender main character. Seeing as he is the title character, I’m glad to say that he was far and away my favorite part of the game’s story.
Nayuta owes a lot of his endearment to the rest of the cast being great foil for him. As his home of Remnant Isle is tiny, the community that lives on it is as close-knit as they come. Every NPC is their own character with their own distinct design and livelihood. Everyone knows everyone, and the people who are new to the island become acclimated to its ways of life before long. Their dialogue will also change in accordance to what goes on in the main story. A conflict in another land may be hinted at in one point in the story, only for you to later find out that war has broken out nearing the story’s climax. This oftentimes has little to do with the main narrative, but it gives a strong sense that the world is reactive and alive.
The main and supporting cast is also of positive note. Nayuta’s relationship with his partner Noi is a particularly sweet and optimistic one. A running theme throughout the game is coexistence, and how living beings can find peace together after past transgressions. Nayuta and Noi’s burgeoning friendship is a testament to this ideal. Cygna and Creha are two other characters who put this ideal to the test, but I won’t spoil the specifics.
Overall, it’s impressive how much The Legend of Nayuta’s story managed to endear and impress me in such a short amount of time. It’s only a fraction of the length that mainline Trails games normally are, yet I was left no less immersed in its highly detailed world and well-developed characters. By the end of the story, I was left wistful at the fact that this game exists as a one-off. I would have loved to see even more of this world and cast.
The Legend of Nayuta’s core gameplay could be seen as a hodgepodge of Falcom’s previous Action RPGs. It blends the likes of Ys, Gurumin, and Zwei into a single successful brew. The bulk of gameplay will happen in levels picked on a world map, where you navigate bite-sized levels through platforming and hack-and-slash gameplay.
The greatest virtue of The Legend of Nayuta’s gameplay is its variety. Its supposed mechanical simplicity is greatly offset and complemented by the high number of differing rules of engagement. Each and every level has a distinct central gimmick or theme that helps to differentiate them from one another. One can be about carefully navigating from platform to platform above quicksand, another can be about fighting and navigating through harsh winds. On the rare occasion that a gimmick is repeated, it’s always accompanied with some extra defining element that helps further distinguish it.
Pushing this further are the missions, optional challenges for each level that the player can complete to earn more rewards. Missions can range from not getting hit a certain number of times, to using a small number of healing items, to playing as a pacifist. Some missions are especially devious, like requiring that the player jump a limited number of times in stages where that’s a requirement. They feel well-considered, and are a nice coat of challenge to an already rewarding game.
Lastly, every stage comes with three purple crystals and a treasure chest that the player has to find to earn more rewards. A few of them can be found just by playing normally, but most are off the beaten path. Finding all of them requires that players be thorough in searching each stage. Some will also require some light puzzle solving and lateral thinking to reach. Overall, these were a great addition to the level design and helped to make exploring more satisfying.
Sword Of Nayuta
As Nayuta doesn’t start out as a fighter, he’ll have to learn techniques as he goes. By default he has basic slash attacks, a dodge roll, and a guard button. It’s not much, but he’s thankfully got Noi to help him out. Noi comes equipped with Arts, projectile attacks of differing strengths and properties. Some are focused on damage and delivering area-of-effect attacks, while others can lay on status ailments. Ailments can range from poison that damages the enemy over time, to paralysis that slows their movement and makes them easier to deal with.
Noi’s Arts can’t be used infinitely, however. They take time to recharge, and the only way to recharge them faster is through attacking as Nayuta. Swapping between the two and keeping up a rhythm is important in maintaining the game’s ‘Chain’ mechanic. A Chain is a combo built up by attacking enemies, successfully guarding, and destroying environmental objects (once the requisite upgrade is received). Getting hit or going too long without attacking something will make you lose that Chain. The higher your chain, the more buffs you’ll receive, such as higher attack power and EXP yields.
Racking up high Chains is also important in completing some stage missions and earning in-game achievements. Keeping up a good pace while also being smart about it is key, and it’s a lot of fun to get good at doing. Overall, the combat is simple, but a ton of fun thanks to stage and enemy design. It’s topped off by boss battles that manage to slug it out with even the best of Ys’s offerings. They’re fast-paced, challenging, and very rewarding to overcome through learning their patterns. All of them even come with multiple phases to keep you on your toes.
Four Seasons Of Terra
Using Noi’s power as an Administrator, players can change the season of nearly every stage in the game. This isn’t just for aesthetic changes. With a different season comes drastically altered levels and more powerful enemies. Each different season also comes with brand new missions, treasures, and gimmicks. What may be a mossy cave with flowing rivers in summer will turn into a maze of icy flooring come winter. That same cave will then become a desolate mushroom-filled place with bottomless pits and toxins come autumn.
What’s especially impressive about this feature is how fresh all of the levels manage to feel thanks to it. Never did I feel like a different seasonal variant of a level was too familiar. Aesthetics and color drastically alter, and even the music is completely different for each season. Although doing different seasonal levels is largely optional, I feel like you would skip over a huge chunk of the game by not doing them. Many of the most impressive and memorable levels are tucked away behind these.
Seasons are also important in fulfilling some of the game’s sidequests. You may have to alter the climate and find a spot in one level for a group of animals to thrive and grow up in. Or you may have to alter the climate to grow a fruit that’s out of season on Remnant Isle. These are small moments and not very mechanically nuanced, but they help in lending this feature just that extra bit of story and immersion.
Overall, I am very impressed by the gameplay in The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails. Action RPGs of this length tend to lose steam in regularly introducing new ideas or concepts for the player to toy with, even Falcom’s past offerings. Not so with this game, I never once got bored or felt like I was just going through the motions as I played. Each moment of gameplay usually brought some new ideas or gimmick to the table that helped keep things fresh for longer stretches of time. Even after I beat the game, it piled on some extra goodies for me to experience.
As Remnant Isle’s resident handyman, Nayuta helps his fellow Islanders through a series of sidequests filled with fun stories and lots of character. Just like the main narrative, a lot of my compliments for these sidequests are carryovers of mainline Trails’ writing. These are exceptional, well-realized little vignettes that give a glimpse into the histories and lives of the characters they focus on. This also applies to the setting as a whole, with many of the sidequests offering up some change to the whole of Remnant Isle. Early on in The Legend of Nayuta, you can adopt a stray dog and get a dog house. It’s not given much fanfare, but that dog remains with you for the rest of the game and gets some great interactions with Nayuta.
It’s these slight permanent changes to the character of Remnant Isle that lend just a bit more weight to the main story and side stories. These changes were small individually, but really added up over the course of my playthrough. When stakes grew larger, it was easy to get invested in saving the day when I was given ample time to know everyone. It helps that these side quests are varied in tone. Some are somber reminders of what’s been lost, and others are about helping a terrible chef make a good meal to lift peoples’ spirits. Though even when things are at their bleakest, The Legend of Nayuta feels very jovial even compared to the already optimistic Trails series. Believing that things will work out if you give them your best effort is a simple, but powerful message.
Since it was originally a PSP game, The Legend of Nayuta is not something that’s pushing any technical boundaries. Having said that, I still think this is an appealing looking game thanks to an already good artstyle and a great remastering effort. The main appeal of this game is definitely in its strong color choice to set the mood. Light pinks set against a crisp blue sky gives the feeling of a lighthearted adventure. Meanwhile harsh oranges and bleak colors clearly convey that something bad is just around the corner.
Better than that is all the environmental detail crammed into each area that helps to wordlessly depict character details. The huge number of books, telescopes, and sextants in Nayuta’s room clearly convey that he is studious and curious. The large mirror sitting next to his sister’s bedside tells you that she cares a lot about her appearance. The chick plushies sitting on the general store manager’s counter tells you she likes cute things before she herself makes that apparent. The list of these little details goes on and on.
All of this is successfully conveyed through a tasteful mixture of drawn assets and 3D modeling. While in Terra, this helps to give the appearance of it feeling otherworldly and alien. During important moments in the story, emotion is usually conveyed through bespoke and scene specific portraits.
Overall, while the look of the game does speak to it being old, that never once bothered me. The overall artistic intent of the game is never hurt by its age, and many times I was left simply soaking in the atmosphere and detail.
Sound Of The Sea And Stars
Since this is a Falcom game, I had high expectations for the soundtrack going in. Needless to say, those expectations were met. Compared to the more contemporary and rocking edge of what Falcom usually goes for, this is more relaxed and focused on atmosphere. There are some hard rock songs in there to be certain, but those are reserved for select moments. The melodies and instrumentation feel more so designed to bring the player closer to each area’s sense of place.
Howling, understated instruments are used for cold areas to simulate the feeling of cold wind. Guitars and heavy drums are used for hot, summertime areas. That kind of thing. It’s all good stuff and, as said earlier, each region of the world gets a different accompanying song for each season. It’s quite varied, and I never got the sense that the musicians were just defaulting.
The real star of the show is the music used for cutscenes. As Terra and its inhabitants are mystical and mysterious, its music is often somber and slow to express that. Music used for more personal and quiet story moments also warrant that same praise. The initial world map theme and the leitmotif associated with the character Creha are among some of my favorites.
The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails is one of those rare, utterly exceptional games that leaves me at a loss for words upon completion. It’s a crime that this game took as long as it did to come westward, but better late than never. Better still is that it stands tall like a well-aged wine. Nayuta’s tale deftly weaves all of developer Falcom’s best talents into a single emotional and fun-filled synthesis.
Crunchy, satisfying combat and platforming is strengthened further by an incredibly fun progression system that gives you more even after the credits roll. The story is imagination-filled, emotional, and left me so content that I shed some tears at its ending. I could list some nitpicks I had with the game, but they mean nothing in the face of how otherwise accomplished this package is. If you’re looking for the single, shining example of what Falcom excels at, this is the game you look to.
THE LEGEND OF NAYUTA: BOUNDLESS TRAILS IS A MUST BUY
Thanks to Reef Entertainment for providing a Nintendo Switch review code for The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails.
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A hobbyist who took up the pen to write about their favorite pastime: games. While a lover of many genres, Isaiah Parker specializes in Platformers, RPGs, and competitive multiplayer titles. The easiest way into his heart is to have great core gameplay mechanics. Self-proclaimed world’s biggest Sonic fan. Follow him @ZinogreVolt