Review – The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails

Boundless Trails, Bounded Fun

Overview

Developer Nihon Falcom
Publisher NIS America
Genre JRPG
Platforms Switch, PS4/5 (reviewed), PC
Release Date September 2023

I’m a big fan of Falcom and NIS America’s The Legend of Heroes series, particularly the Trails subseries. Unfortunately, this game has nothing to do with those! While The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails has a certain important word in its subtitle, it is lacking the denotation of The Legend of Heroes, and the gameplay is also quite different. Nayuta is an action RPG with a completely different setting, far away from Zemuria. But it could still be good, right? …Right?

Psych! This is NOT the character from Trails into Reverie!

Content Guide

The game is rated E10+ and is relatively inoffensive, so I will shorten the content guide here. Despite the rating for “Suggestive Themes,” it’s more like (attempts at) humorous misunderstandings about who’s got a crush on who. There’s one minor NPC whose belly button is exposed, which is mentioned in an internal monologue. I didn’t catch any foul language, but apparently the ESRB caught one use of “bastard.” Fighting is common (usually against monsters and machines), but there’s no blood or gore, and the graphics are too dated for it to really look violent. 

Boss fights are frustrating and boring.

Review

Reviews are really, really hard to write when a game isn’t good. Oops! I spoiled the ending: The Legend of Nayuta is not a good game. I hesitate to call it a bad game, but it’s certainly not a good one.

But let’s find what good we can, to start: given that this is a remaster of a PlayStation Portable game, the graphics are pretty good. They’re not quite up to par with the Trails from Zero / Trails to Azure remasters, but they’re fine. The music is also fine – serviceable, but forgettable. I cannot think of any music in my head from the game right now, while I can “replay” plenty of other Trails themes in my head. (As an aside, that’s yet another reminder that this is not a Legend of Heroes title; the subtitle is simply an association trick.)

That’s all I’ve got. The rest of the game is not good.

Nayuta is an action RPG, where you have a few center areas where most of the plot happens, and then you explore various “levels” (think Super Mario World) to eventually find bosses and progress the story. There’s nothing wrong with this style, but a lot wrong with its execution. The level layouts are repetitive and boring. The actual gameplay is mediocre at best, with nothing unique or interesting, and awkward controls that cannot be remapped. I’m not actually a good “action gamer,” but in something like Jedi Survivor, I can understand the basics enough to know what I did wrong when I die and go back to it. In Nayuta, awkward controls, awkward camera angles (with no way to move them), and a lack of clarity on equipment upgrading (which requires a lot of sidequesting) make the action far more frustrating than it should have been. But even if it was easy, it would still be boring. There’s no “hook.” There’s nothing to make this action game worth playing.

But you know what? I’ve played some horrible action games because I was engrossed in the story. (Dirge of Cerberus comes to mind.) But this RPG feels like it was written in 1989, not 2012, and certainly not 2023. Find the four elemental temples, beat the bosses, do it again, oh no there’s two worlds colliding or something, who cares. Roughly the same plot was told better, with more personality, by plenty of JRPGs in the 90s. These are some of the flattest RPG characters I’ve ever encountered in playing at least 150 different JRPGs in my life. I know I can’t blame NIS America, because their translations of the (actual) The Legend of Heroes games have been full of charm, even if there’s an occasional typo. There’s just nothing here to fluff up with good writing, because there’s nothing here. The whole game feels like an empty shell, like a tech demo or a storyboard where they were then supposed to then hire more staffers to make the plot actually have emotion and weight. If you ever played Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest, that’s what this feels like. And if you were nostalgic for that game, it’s because you were 7 years old and RPGs were new, but now it’s 2023 and everything has at least tinges of RPG.

Trust me, whatever they’re saying in Japanese is uninteresting.

Not to mention, 2023 has been one of the best years for RPGs (and their cousins) ever: Final Fantasy XVI, Octopath Traveler II, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, Sea of Stars, Starfield, and too many more to list. Even Falcom and NISA themselves put out the amazing Trails to Azure remaster this year, a far better upgrade of a far better PlayStation Portable game. So what reason could you possibly have to play The Legend of Nayuta? There’s only one, and it’s the same as mine: you were hoodwinked by the subtitle Boundless Trails, and thought that this game would connect to the Trails subseries of The Legend of Heroes. Other than the fact that Creha looks like the woman on the cover of Trails into Reverie (which I’m guessing is just recycled artwork), there’s no connection. There, I saved you the time. 

All I could think about, the whole time I was playing, was that I could have been playing Sea of Stars. Please go play that instead. Or, heck, if you want to support Falcom and NIS America, re-buy the proper Trails series on whatever platform you don’t have them on, and start from the beginning, and have the time of your life all over again. There are too many other fantastic gaming experiences to have this year to recommend The Legend of Nayuta at all. 

The Bottom Line

 

A shell of a game, and not even close to the quality of Falcom's The Legend of Heroes series.

 

4

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Derek Thompson

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