A Trails Game with Thrilling Platforming and Action Combat – The Legend of Nayuta Boundless Trails Review
The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails is a very fun, light-hearted action JRPG with an amazing attention to detail on its characters and lore. It’s a spinoff of the Trails (or Kiseki) franchise and its story is not related to other Trails games except for very loose connections. You definitely don’t have to play other Trails games to understand this game’s plot and this game doesn’t spoil any of the other games either.
The player takes control of Nayuta Herschel (presumably no relation to Towa Herschel), who is off from school on summer vacation and is travelling back to his hometown of Remnant Island, a beautiful and peaceful island. He is on vacation with his childhood friend Cygna. Without giving spoilers beyond the first hour, they discover an entirely other world named Lost Heaven that his parents were investigating in the past and they also find a fairy named Noi. The plot is full of twist and turns along the way that I won’t spoil.
The gameplay combines elements of both the Trails and the Ys series (and Zwei). If you’re not familiar with these other Falcom IPs essentially this game has action combat and an emphasis on discovering ancient lands and ruins, just like Ys. At the same time, it has the character and storytelling style of Trails games, which means very lengthy cutscenes and a lot of slice of life scenes. This game does have a fully fleshed out story and a villain, but the main takeaway is that this game takes elements from these other franchises with its own spin too. The cast of main and supporting characters is significantly smaller than most Trails games due to lack of character bloat.
The main game’s story cutscenes are lengthy (in a good way) but I always love how these games have NPCs that have constantly updating dialogue with each plot event. The gameplay (after the prologue) consists of a routine of going to the hub city and then going to the other world to fight in dungeons.
Remnant Island is a small town and is meant to be a closely knit community. There was one part of the game where a character collapsed, and every single NPC on the game would comment on it and they’d even move to the location to where that character is to check up on them. This game’s townfolk behave like how actual people in a small town would act.
I’ll admit that the hub area is somewhat small unfortunately (probably one of the smallest cities out of any Trails or Ys game), and it would’ve been good if there were more town zones to explore and more NPCs.
Almost all NPCs have fully drawn character portraits, which were drawn by Katsumi Enami and look phenomenal. Like Trails games, this game does have a lot of optional sidequests which really flesh out the world and show a lot of character detail, so you’ll really like this game if you enjoy the slice of life content in a small coastal town.
The gameplay consists of going into dungeons. They’re usually short, lasting about 5-15 minutes each and there are dozens of them throughout the game. They start off easy, but do get harder as the game progresses with harder enemies, environmental hazards, and more labyrinthine designs.
The game is never hard though, and offers many difficulty options though harder options are locked behind new game plus. If you miss a collectible in a particular dudgeon, you can generally run through it again quickly to grab it and there are no missable collectibles.
I like how in most of the stages you can backtrack if you missed a collectible. The dungeon stages each have an entrance and exit warp, and if you see an exit warp and you haven’t found all 3 crystals for instance you can usually backtrack all the way to even the beginning of the level to check for your missed collectible. Only in a very few levels do you have areas you cannot backtrack, but usually they’re foreshadowed extremely well, such as with a line of gems arranged downwards, indicating you’re going to fall and can’t get back up (only 2 or 3 levels had this kind of situation).
I really enjoyed the use of verticality in the dungeon levels. A lot of modern Trails and Ys games have large, flat areas with a few stairs and elevators between floor, but you never see much verticality like jumping up stones or falling into pits. In Nayuta the dungeons really make excellent use of verticality.
The collectibles are never unfair, and often you’ll be able to see collectibles on the horizon and you’ll need to figure out a way to get to it. The verticality also showcases the game’s visuals well – from the seasonal areas to mysterious ruins and even areas that look downright demonic. Sometimes you’ll need to hit a timed switch and get past a previously barricaded area quickly. Or sometimes you need to find ways to get around barricades. As the protagonist unlocks more abilities you can travel more faster, similar to a Metroidvania game, and some levels would have a previously unobtainable collectible you can collect later in the game.
Generally almost all sidequests are missable and need to be completed before the ending of that particular chapter. But the game is formulaic, and generally each chapter ends when you complete the boss stage of that chapter which is clearly marked so it’s never a surprise.
As for the combat, you need to attack in real time, dodge, and use magic to defeat the enemies. As you progress through the story you unlock more tools and abilities. It’s not turn-based like Trails games, it’s action based like Ys. But like any other JRPG, you can get better equipment or grind levels if you’re still having difficulty. The level curve is not harsh in this game and after only completing each stage once I found myself correctly leveled compared to enemies. Similar to Ys games, you can get experience from eating consumable foods as well, meaning you’ll be drowning in levels if you have materials to cook recipes. Interestingly, the new game plus unlocked hardest difficulty mode has the enemies scale to your level for extra difficulty if you’re looking for a challenge.
There are certain collectibles around the stages (ores and soils for example) and giving them to NPCs will also allow you to upgrade the inventories of the shops to purchase more powerful weapons, armors and recipe ingredients. Money is collected from dungeon materials you find as well as from completing sidequests and completing missions in the dungeons. Money can be a little tricky to get at first, but when the other world opens up you can get a lot of it easily.
The dungeons also have a platforming element to them and Nayuta can double jump. I played Crash Bandicoot: It’s About Time a few years ago and felt stressed about how hard it was. The Legend of Nayuta has mostly easy platforming and the double jump is extremely convenient. The platforms were never extremely small or difficult to see; in fact, the increased resolution of this remaster made the platforming easier.
There were some levels with bonus objectives where you had to beat the level in a certain time (let’s say within 1 minute and 30 seconds) and I was able to beat the requirement by over 40 seconds in some cases. The only part of platforming I found a little janky was the hookshot, which really made by character rotate back and forth a little too chaotically for me, but the rest was fine and by the end of the game I had became used to the way the hookshot mechanic worked.
One gameplay mechanic I absolutely loved was that you could change the seasons of each of the dungeons (summer, winter, autumn, and spring). This changes the enemies, which can be easier or harder, and may introduce environmental hazards, such as ice which can cause the player to slip and fall into a pit. It’s not just a straight copy and paste either, many small details in the level design change as well and you can go through the dungeons for new collectibles. It’s a really brilliant way to let you explore old dungeons again but without straight up recycling content.
I don’t see this kind of weather changing mechanic too frequently either nowadays, I recall this being used in a similar manner in Atelier Ryza 2, where you change the weather to change the level layout. This game doesn’t overwhelm you all at once either. Generally the first two seasons are unlocked in the main story, the third season is unlocked post-game, and the final seasons for the stages are unlocked on a New Game Plus playthrough.
Dungeons have two to three large crystals, a treasure chest, a plant, and a mission objective that could be anything (don’t take damage, don’t fall into pits, etc). You get stars from completing these objectives in each dungeon, which you can trade in to learn new moves from Nayuta’s combat master. The crystals are currency and materials can be used for cooking (to create healing items) and certain unique materials can be given to the museum for more money.
The regular dungeons can sometimes be a bit bland and linear, but the main story temple dungeons are really well-made and are far more complex than the regular dungeons.
The bosses, just like in Ys games, are very well designed and are a huge highlight in this game. You have to dodge their attacks, learn their battles, and attack the boss’s weak spot at the right time. It really feels like you’re using all the tools in your repertoire. The bosses all have very unique designs as well as arenas where you fight them as well. The bosses are anything but generic, but you typically only see one big boss fight at the end every chapter with the exception of the final few chapters which are full of bosses.
On the other hand, the normal enemies are pretty generic and I do believe the game would’ve benefited greatly from more enemy variety and more kinds of attacks from basic enemies. I often found myself just mashing my sword attacks and spells to get through the regular enemies in the dungeons and the game does have many palette swaps of the few kinds of enemies it has.
The translation was really well done and the dialog flows very naturally. The English dub sounds great as well, but the dub is only voiced for major story cutscenes, generally at the beginning and endings of each chapter’s main story. The soundtrack sounds great as well, with Remnant Island sounding like what you’d hear on a coastal area with an excellent use of percussion instruments. The dungeons and boss themes are real bangers as well. Changing the seasons in a dungeon changes its soundtrack too, a very nice touch.
My only criticism with The Legend of Nayuta is that it’s a port of a PSP title and it does show its age. The developers did the best they could with the technology but the small scope of the town and the dungeons does sometimes shows. The dungeons sometimes feel very crammed, and often enemies would be waiting on the edge of another platform and they’d attack me as soon as I jumped to their platform. The game does have a problem with having dungeons being mostly interconnected lines or rooms.
Although the 2D character portraits are amazing, the 3D models are pretty basic. If you’re used to playing Trails in the Sky trilogy (which was released on the PSP) you’ll have no problem with this game’s graphics and this title really focuses more on the lore and characters rather than being cutting edge in graphics. The game is frontloaded with story, but once you get access to the other world and access to dungeons the game really picks up but it does take a while at first.
I really wish that the game could’ve had more impactful supporting characters. Due to plot reasons, it’s mostly just Nayuta and the fairy Noi exploring ruins but I was really hoping for good dialog banter between a party while I was out exploring, like what you’d see in modern Ys games. The story pacing has issues too, with some parts being too slow and some parts going crazy with plot revelations and reveals. If you can get through a slow introduction, the plot really does get going later in the game. The final set of stages have a lot of interesting unique boss fights and without spoiling the plot really goes off the rails if you’re willing to stick through it. Unlike Trails or Ys games, this game was only a spinoff title and the developers weren’t afraid to take risks.
The game took me 25 hours to complete and another 15 for post-game and new game plus. Unlike other Trails or Ys games, there is a good amount of new game plus content such as additional quests to undertake, which can add a few dozen more hours on top of an original playthrough depending on how fast you’re playing. At the same time, going through the same levels and same story for so long can get really monotonous.
Without spoiling, the main story has a regular ending, and the post-game has a true ending. A New Game Plus playthrough has additional unlockables such as new quests, new NPCs, materials, recipes, weapons and more, but from what I could tell most of the main overarching story was the same.
There is another big issue I have, and it’s with New Game Plus exclusive content. The developers locked some sidequests behind New Game Plus even though they don’t spoil anything. I can understand locking post-game bosses behind this for a challenge, but for some reason completely normal character quests where also put behind New Game Plus and you need to go through the final seasons of stages you unlock in New Game Plus to fulfil their questlines. These include plotlines behind Bootie, Ursa, Sasha and Mishy to name a few. The developers could’ve fitted these sidequests in a first playthrough perfectly fine by putting the quest objective in the normal season stages (their plotlines don’t have anything to do with the main story and don’t spoil anything). I understand that perhaps the developers wanted to add exclusive content for a new game plus but I don’t think it was handled that well and a lot of players would probably miss out on it. It reminds me of one teacher in Trails of Cold Steel 2 who has a big reveal regarding his identity, but it was locked behind New Game Plus leaving many players missing out on it and getting confused with the game’s sequel that expects you to already know it.
Although I had a few criticisms with Nayuta, it is a really fun game with a great story once it gets going. This game really plays like a Ys title and if you enjoyed Ys: Origin or Ys: The Oath in Felghana you’ll certainly love this title because it has the same great action gameplay, terrific level design and some phenomenal boss fights.
The Legend of Nayuta Boundless Trails
- Great customization of your character, such as equipment and a variety of moves and the combat is addicting. Very well-designed boss fights.
- The supporting characters and NPCs have a lot of detail and the sidequests offer plenty of additional content on lore.
- Dungeons are fun to explore and you can change the dungeons by selecting a season such as autumn, winter, spring and summer.
- The story can be slow at times, especially the beginning and can get repetitive at certain points.
- Being a remaster of a PSP title, some of the graphics can be dated. The hub area and some dungeons are small due to technical limitations.
- Some of the enemies can feel a bit generic and lacking in difficulty and lacking a variety of moves. Changing the seasons of levels is a great idea, but it became old by the time you play the fourth season of the same stage.
– Brandon Harris
Reviewed on the PC