Review: The Legend of Heroes – Trails into Reverie
Where one Trails Ends, Another One Begins
Ever since I experienced what Falcom’s Trails series has to offer in my reviews of Trails from Zeroand its recently released sequel, Trails to Azure, I have been looking forward to the next game in the series, Trails into Reverie, which was honestly one of my most anticipated games of the year.
For my part, during this time, I found myself with this RPG franchise, and I’ve unexpectedly become a massive fan of the series over the last nine months thanks to the games that I got a chance to review and my mutual friends who’ve been slowly pushing me to get into the series.
This long-awaited duology story for veteran fans of the series was my first taste. It led to me wanting/obsessing to get more of the context I was missing when I first booted up the series’ second arc because specific references and characters flew over my head as someone who didn’t play Trails’ original trilogy.
It’s Lovely To See You Again!
For Trails into Reverie, that context gets even more multiplied as the game has nine entries of history to call back to, reference, and feature in a significant way through the Trails‘ massive cast of characters from all three arcs that have been introduced over the many years through the series’ MCU-like approach to storytelling and world building in the RPG genre. To prepare for Trails Into Reverie this year, I tasked myself to dive fully into the series as best as possible – returning to where it all began in 2004.
Of course, I’m talking about that very trilogy I mentioned in the series’ first arc, the Trails in the Sky trilogy, which I honestly loved with its slow-burn approach to storytelling and introducing the player to one of the most fascinating worlds in my RPG history. I completed all three games on my Steam Deck in five weeks with 300+ hours under my belt. This was all preparation for my most anticipated July release, The Legend of Heroes – Trails into Reverie, the tenth mainline entry.
Getting into the actual game, after putting 100+ hours into Trails into Reverie, I can say I loved my time with it, as it feels like a true evolution for the series with its approach to its story, gameplay, and presentation. I only say that because after putting a lot of time into the 2D pixel games in both the Sky trilogy and Crossbell duology, that means Trails into Reverie is legit my first 3D Trails game, so I was honestly pretty astounded by seeing the transition for all the characters I’ve interacted with and environments from both Zero and Azure into 3D for the very first time as Falcom did a great job remaking everything in Trails’ current engine.
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, as I have some problems with Trails into Reverie; the most notable is the game’s actual performance as I rolled the dice of fate on playing Trails into Reverie on my Nintendo Switch. At times, the game does noticeably struggle to run what’s on screen or keep up while controlling one of the protagonists.
Gameplay while battling enemies chugged a bit, too, specifically when a cinematic attack with a lot going on significantly impacted the game’s frame rate. Honestly, these problems did bring down my enjoyment a bit, as it felt like the game wasn’t optimized for Nintendo’s hybrid console that well. I have some other smaller nitpicks that have to do with Trails into Reverie‘s actual content that I’ll dive into later; nothing too wrong as I’m still high on the game, but I would at least advise anyone looking to pick up Trails into Reverie to get it on any other platform but the Nintendo Switch. It even crashed on me many times, but weirdly, it only happened in the same scenario whenever I fished for a rainbow trout, no matter what chapter I was in.
It’s the Crossbell Trilogy Now
Going into Trails into Reverie, I had no idea what to expect because the game was described as an epilogue to the Crossbell (Zero/Azure) and the Erebonia arcs (Trails of Cold Steel I-IV). Still, I didn’t know what that would look like with its multi-protagonist approach or what it was trying to accomplish. Coming out of the game after rolling Trails into Reverie‘s credits earlier this week, I see now that Trails into Reverie comes across more as a final act for Crossbell’s story and its fight for independence in this entry that turns Trails’ second arc from a duology into a satisfying trilogy. However, the characters from Cold Steel still have their own story to tell, but on a minor level, as this game is still firmly the story of Lloyd, the SSS, and every single Crossbellian who has been in this fight for so long.
The narrative comes full circle in a story beat that was set up in Azure, that being Crossbell’s fight and struggle for independence. The main heroes of this story are Lloyd and his comrades in arms in the SSS (Special Support Section); it just so happens that the game features two additional concurrent perspectives in the game’s other protagonists, which contribute in a big way to telling that story in the fallout of the conclusion to the Trails of Cold Steel games. Sadly, this is my fault, as I didn’t have enough time to play through any game in the Trails of Cold Steel Tetralogy, so any reference to those games kind of went over my head. Thankfully, these plot details were vague enough that I didn’t get that spoiled—only a bit—so whenever I decide to beat the Cold Steel titles for the first time, I’ll be able to experience them with pretty fresh eyes and an enhanced perspective.
Trails into Reverie takes place around six months following the conclusion of Trails of Cold Steel IV‘s Great War of West Zemuria. The remaining members of the IDF (Imperial Defence Force) in Crossbell refused to accept the results of the war and the peace treaty signed by all parties involved. Seeing it as an insult and unable to get over the fact that the war is over, the IDF continues to run Crossbell, an Erobonia province that the Empire condemns. Without the leadership of their arrested leader and Crossbell’s former governor-general, Rufus Albarea, to guide them, the IDF is just spinning their wheels until February 14th, S. 1207. On this day, the occupied Crossbellans could see much more clearly as show time had begun to take back the city with the return of Arc en Ciel’s main act, Ilya Platiere, Rixia Mao, and Sully Atraid, on the big screen.
The Poor Crossbell Citizens Are Caught In The Middle
This served as a distraction as Crossbell’s Police department and military, the CGF (Crossbel Guardian Force), counterattacked against the IDF, as our heroes in the SSS—Lloyd Bannings, Ellie MacDowell, Randy Orlando, and Tio Plato—were in the harbour district hijacking a Soldat. Getting it off the ground in the pilot seat is fellow Crossbell native and Erebonia Class VII student at Thors Military Academy Branch Campus, Juna Crawford, who hotwires the humanoid mech to get the SSS to arrest the IDF’s leaders. After exploring and taking out enemies on the tower’s higher floor, the SSS find the leadership and arrest them after taking out their last hope. A month has passed, and everything is back to normal in Crossbell as the day approaches to sign its independence. Still, something is afoot as the signing is interrupted by Rufus Albarea with a darkened, clothed version of the IDF, now known as the EDF, who are stronger and struggle for the SSS to take down.
Afterward, Rufus quickly takes them out, taking Crossbell for himself while referring to himself as the Supreme Leader. He tells everyone his goal is to put Zemuria under one banner; he calls it the United Nations of Crossbell. He isn’t alone as his generals reveal themselves to the SSS, and many of them are familiar faces from the early months of our heroes’ past, plus some new faces. One of them is the Dusken Dancer, who uses her magical dance powers to brainwash the city citizens to bring them to the supreme leader’s side.
All hell breaks out as our heroes and allies split up and escape the city. This was just the prologue. As we get into the game proper, starting in chapter one in the fallout of Crossbell’s re-occupation, you can switch between three protagonists, including Lloyd Bannings, Trails of Cold Steel‘s Rean Schwarzer, and the mysterious masked anti-hero known simply as ‘C, who has beef with the Supreme Leader for some reason and an appearance similar to Zero from Code Geass.
Overall, the story unfolds in later chapters and is one of the series’ best with Falcom’s fantastic use of its multi-protagonist switching system, which you can easily swap at the press of a button. As you go through the chapters, these stories are not separated but interact to help each route go forward at specific points as they all journey back to Crossbell to take steps to liberate the city again.
I think one of the most enjoyable parts of the game was C’s route. They get a tremendous amount of character development in a satisfying arc that I want to applaud, and as they come out of Trails Into Reverie as a better person, thanks in part to their relationship with newcomer, Lapis, who was such a joy to see portrayed on screen.
For fans of the past games, there is a tremendous amount of crossover with all three of the Trails arcs in a satisfying way that felt like Avengers: Endgame in terms of scale with how the finale ends up playing out; there were a lot of moments that I stood for. While Trails into Reverie originally came out in 2020 for audiences in Japan, the conversations and focus on AI in these villainous scenarios are weirdly relevant in 2023.
Trails Into Reverie Features Expanded Gameplay Systems
Trails into Reverie is the same game I remember playing this past year throughout each previous entry, but the experience is refined with some neat, expanded additions to gameplay. The first addition to the game is combat linking, where two characters in your party partner up by default; when one party member attacks an enemy during the battle, there is a chance for break damage, which is bonus damage plus an attack of opportunity for either your partner to get an immediate attack known as ‘Assist,’ a team-up attack between two partners known as ‘Rush,’ or an all-out attack with your whole four-party member team known as ‘Burst.’ The latter will cost you, though, as you have a Battle Point (BP) gauge in the top corner of your screen, which starts at a maximum of five and can be upgraded to eight. You earn points by having your partner follow up with an attack of their own, while a partner and team-up attack will cost you two and five BP, respectively. This addition really kind of forces you to strategize when to use your more powerful direct link attacks or hold them for later.
Another addition to the game’s battle system is Brave Orders, essentially serving as short-term enhancements that can give you an edge in battle, including increasing your character’s damage, decreasing the damage you’re taking, your speed, and so much more. To activate an order, you have to redeem a certain number of BP to get your bonuses, so the more an order helps you, the higher the BP to activate them, reiterating how much you need to think about how to use BP in battle. Conversely, certain bosses have their own unique orders called Anti-Orders, severely impacting your characters in battle.
One addition exclusive to Trails into Reverie is the Assault Gauge, which gives one extra command called United Fronts, but only if you have five or more members in your party. This pops up a super version of your attacks, arts, and healing by redeeming one of the two bars in your gauge, which can be increased by one bar to a maximum of five later in the game. Unlike the Burst link attack, United Fronts uses your whole party, including your reserved members jumping in a bit for a battle, so if you’re in a random fight you want to skip, you can use the command to wipe them out in seconds immediately; at least that’s how I use it, plus it helps. The gauge raises slowly in battle, but a quicker way is by destroying crates you find throughout the map of any given area.
A Graphical Glow Up
Even with all these upgrades (from my perspective), after putting a lot of time into earlier games, Trails into Reverie greatly honours its legacy in gameplay. The shift to 3D for most franchises would usually be a complete change from what came before in gameplay, but for me, Trails into Reverie feels like the same turn-based RPG I’ve been playing for months now—only it looks much prettier. Not to say there aren’t any differences, as the battle grid I know from the 2D games has been replaced with a circular movement space that shows how far your character can move in battle, but more modernly. Trails into Reverie looks genuinely great now that the deformed sprites are a thing of the past, only now leaving a realized character design. Plus, the adaptation of the series’ limit breakers, S-Crafts, looks astounding in 3D while still feeling like its 2D pixellated counterpart. Reverie’s Materia-like system hasn’t changed that much. Now you can equip two Master Quartz instead of one like you start out with in Azure; plus, there is so much variety with quartz as standard arts commands get their own standalone quartz instead of a combination of quartz. This update to Quartz gives players a lot of variety in what they want from their dream setup.
One great addition that I was excited about when I heard it was the addition of English voice acting. One complaint that I consistently criticized in my previous Trails review was the lack of voice acting, and I’m happy to report that this game’s cast brought it into the performance of their roles. Whenever I heard spoken dialogue from someone familiar, I knew it fit what I had in my head. The English localization team did a great job of putting that side of the game together, bringing that side of the experience to another level for me.
As for the music, the central theme of Trails into Reverie: No End, No World is an absolute banger that I have on loop as it portrays the sadness of Crossbell’s failed signing in the early hours as the feeling of hope continues to resonate as the song continues. For the rest of the soundtrack, Falcom did a fantastic job rearranging the OST of location-based songs from Crossbell, plus a fantastic battle theme. I don’t talk about music in my reviews as I don’t pay attention much, but Trails games always have fantastic music that’s hard to ignore, and the composer brought their best to the project.
While you can jump between three story routes while playing Trails into Reverie, you can bring all three parties together after a certain point in each story path where all three protagonists find a piece of a mirror in their pocket that transports you somewhere else outside of space and time. Here, each hero finds themselves in the “Reverie Corridor,” an optional dungeon in phase space that can be used to strengthen your party and upgrade your equipment. Things get a little frustrating in this section, as all three teams have over 40+ party members to deal with. This means that upgrading equipment and quartz takes much longer; I spent over an hour going through what I wanted, which is frustrating as I did this multiple times in my playthrough. I hope in future Trails games that, they focus on a smaller cast because 40 party members are way too much to manage.
The Reverie Corridor also offers bonus content, so if you head into the dungeon, you can earn sealing stones in boss fights that unlock new features in the game, including the gold ones, that unlock new party members from past games that didn’t come with you into the Reverie Corridor; and are exclusive to this area and can’t be carried over to the primary campaign. Other content includes unlocking short campaigns of scenarios before the primary campaign but after the prologue, plus dream scenarios and mini-games. The Reverie Corridor has a Persona 3-approach to its dungeon; as more areas unlock, the more progress you put into the main game, with some post-game content available after beating Trails into Reverie.
The Legend of Heroes – Trails into Reverie is a brilliant finale serving nearly two decades of storytelling and worldbuilding. Even with a massive cast of characters, Falcom does an impressive job balancing three distinct perspectives and all the lore from the past games that inevitably lead to one of the most satisfying conclusions I’ve experienced. While I suffered performance issues, framerate drops, and crashes – Trails into Reverie is still an enjoyable experience. I suggest going for the PC or PlayStation versions (rather than the Switch version) if you want a smoother experience.
[The publisher provided a copy of the game for review purposes.]