It feels like a full-circle moment because it’s been a year since I started reviewing the more recent Trails releases for Console Creatures, with The Legend Of Nayuta: Boundless Trails being my fourth entry. In that time, I have become a real fan, and since my introduction in 2023, I’ve completed almost nine of the Trails games. This has led to the franchise slowly entering my top five JRPG series.
Developer Nihon Falcom’s long-term approach to world-building and storytelling told across its multiple arcs since the first game, Trails in the Sky, has paid off in a big way for those patient enough to experience that journey.
With that said, all of that great backstory I mentioned is nowhere to be seen in our next game, The Legend Of Nayuta: Boundless Trails – a standalone anthology story under the Trails name. This next entry into the series is an older title from Nihon Falcom’s past, initially released in 2012 on the PSP exclusively in Japan. It has been stuck in the region ever since. Like the Final Fantasy games, The Legend Of Nayuta: Boundless Trails is an anthology title set in a completely separate world from the ongoing Zemurian continent.
A Remastered Trails Story Not Bound By Years of Lore
That’s not to say this is the same game from 2012 as this version of The Legend Of Nayuta: Boundless Trails is a remaster for modern platforms, based on the 2021 Kai Japanese release for the PS4 and adds similar enhancements to the Crossbell duology like improved visuals/sound, reworked dialogue, character art, a high-speed mode and an increased frame rate to 60 fps; but with an English voice cast. All these improvements lead to a much prettier game with a more natural script to better understand these characters on screen. My only complaint on the enhancement front was a lack of an autosave option; my power went out once, and I lost a bit of progress.
After almost 40 hours, The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails has earned the Trails moniker. There are many familiar elements fans will recognize, like the last name of Towa from Trails of Cold Steel popping, NPCs rotating dialogue as the story progresses, paying for items with Mira, and the character of Creha physically looking similar to Trails‘ main antagonist. To help, the game tries to differentiate itself from its predecessors by shifting away from a turn-based battle system and leaning into an action RPG platformer, making this feel more like a Ysgame.
The bonus to this action RPG adventure is Nihon Falcom’s approach to its well-paced world-building isn’t taking a break. Thanks to the early game setup, The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails pays off those moments in significant, unexpected, and shocking reveals by the end. While the lack of inclusion in the main 10+ game series may seem like a crutch for longtime Trails fans, it’s actually to the game’s benefit as The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails feels like something newcomers can dive right into as a standalone entry while getting a small appetizer to the buffet that is the mainline Trails games.
Then The Boy Met A Fairy
Going into the story, The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails, plays from the perspective of the titular 15-year-old hero, Nayuta Herschel, a Saint-Elysée Academy student curious about the world around him. While on summer vacation from school alongside his best friend, Cygna Alhazen, they return home to Remnant Isle. The duo decide to restart their handyman jack-of-all-trades business to keep themselves busy and help around town in these side quests. While finishing their first day back, something unexpected happens; a falling ruin randomly crashes on the island’s beach, and Nayuta quickly rushes to the structure.
Our hero finds Noi, an unconscious pink-haired fairy from Lost Heaven, an undiscovered mythological world where Nayuta’s parents died trying to find answers. While trying to wake her up, Nayuta is interrupted by the game’s pair of antagonists, a man known as Zechst and a masked young man known as Serum. While ignored, the team of evildoers quickly takes Noi’s master gear, which can help destroy the world, as Nayuta knows. Hearing Noi’s struggles, Nayuta and Cygma offer their help. The now human-fairy trio unlocks a portal on Remnant Isle to go to Terra, the official name of Lost Heaven.
Boundless Trails Emulates Earlier Games In The Series
Throughout the game, Nayuta and Noi will explore Terra’s continents, attempting to stop Zechst from using each of the master gears to gather the star energy he needs and shut down the elemental temple. As Nayuta tries to stop Zechst’s plans, he learns the origins of the planet’s lost history of the earth, humanity’s mistakes, the immortal god-like beings known as Mythos, and so much more. By the end of the campaign, the narrative felt compelling enough. Still, I don’t think it hits on the level of most of the mainline entries with the political intrigue that Trails is known for taking a backseat in the series’ only anthology title.
Boundless Trails‘ story came off as more generic as it felt like it was honestly trying to emulate the classic feeling of a one-and-done RPG more similar to the stakes of earlier Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and Tales games, which isn’t bad. Still, the writing feels pretty basic and cliché at times. Some of these characters themselves feel like they were explored enough, but it didn’t feel like the main character had enough time to shine. Nayuta felt like the same happy-go-lucky, optimistic character from beginning to end. It could have been better if the game got to explore his feelings and develop more of his character, especially for the tragic things that happened before and during the story.
Tons of Side Content And Replayability
On top of the story, The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails does an excellent job of trying to differentiate itself from the main series in gameplay. Instead of turned-based battles, this spinoff goes all in on platforming and action; Nayuta puts his hack/slash sword skills to the test in the game, more similar to Ys. Players can wield either one-handed (focusing on speed) or two-handed weapons (focusing on power) like swords, axes, and more. Players can rack up combos with the correct combination, activating their weapon crafts and dodging rolls to avoid getting damaged.
Going into the first continent, players will explore the land by going through multiple stages on a map that’s comparable the best way possible to Super Mario World. Players are tasked to get to the end of each level at each level. Along the way, the game incentivizes you to complete some optional things to do to get the total three-star rating. To get the full stars, players must smash three crystals, open a chest to collect an item and complete a unique task. These tasks can be easy, like defeating enemies, destroying objects, and picking up stones or more challenging tasks, like completing under a specific time and not jumping more than four times.
Noi Has The Power To Help
Sometimes, one run will require you to focus on the task and return to pick up the other stars later, giving Boundless Trails much more replayability than expected. These tasks can be easy, like defeating enemies, destroying objects, and picking up stones or more challenging tasks, like completing under a level in a specific time and jumping three times or less. Sometimes, one run will require you to focus on the job and return for the other stars later. Getting all the leads incentivizes players to fill out Nayuta’s sword training handbook. Every six you get will let you learn a new sword skill to help out in battle from Cygna’s adopted father, Master Orbus.
Unlike in the other Trails games, your character cannot use Arts, the game’s version of magic, but this is where Noi comes in, as she can use it in battle with Nayuta. She lost all her arts spells before the start of the game, and as you play through the game, players can relearn those arts by defeating tough mini-bosses and completing side quests. After beating one of the continents and the Big Boss, Noi can learn new Gear Crafts, which are Metroidvania-like abilities that can help you traverse new areas in levels. Speaking of boss battles, they are easily one of my favourite parts of The Legend of Nayuta – Boundless Trails, as they felt more grand and often challenged me.
Visuals Are A Bit Dated, Even With Enhancements
While Boundless Trails‘ has improved visuals, it still looks rough, even with the added cel-shaded detail. It still looks like a PSP game, so it seems a little dated, with the pixels noticeable on a larger screen. Although, if you’re on a Switch or Steam, it may be less noticeable. One remarkable aspect of Boundless Trails is the levels themselves. While there are not a lot of stories on the surface, that number is multiplied as you can change the season and play the same level with new paths and more formidable enemies; that’s where the replayability gets ratcheted up. The gaming setting on Remnant Isle also weirdly reminded me of Destiny Island in the first Kingdom Hearts.
The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails also has a little Animal Crossing: New Horizons, as you can pick up collectables along the way and donate them to the museum. This is the crucial way to make as you donate insects, fish, fossils, and materials; after presenting a specific number, the museum receptionist will give bonus items to help you along your way. You can earn additional museum collectables by buying a dog house and adopting a local stray. After completing a level, they’ll give extra items they seemingly dig up while you’re gone.
The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails is an enjoyable entry with a well-paced narrative and fantastic world-building that pays off in a big way. Boundless Trails’ gameplay brings a new level of fun to the series, known for its traditional elements. Narratively, you’ll find mistakes that fail to reach the heights of the other Trails games that often feature political intrigue. Even without those elements, though, I feel this entry earns the Trails name and is an experience newcomers should check out to at least get a taste of what the series offers.
[The publisher provided a copy of the game for review purposes.]
The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails is an enjoyable entry with well-paced narrative, fantastic world-building that pays off in a big way, and gameplay that brings a new level of fun to the formula by going all in on Ys-like action rather then the turn-based that the series is known for.