Author Topic: The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails (Switch) Review  (Read 291 times)

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Offline riskman64

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The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails (Switch) Review
« on: September 15, 2023, 05:58:02 AM »

Taking the Trails series down an action-RPG path.

Originally a Japan-only PSP game, The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails is a Nihon Falcom developed action-RPG that feels like an Ys game set in the Trails/Legend of Heroes universe. Those who enjoyed the deep turn-based RPG mechanics and sprawling world of Trails of Cold Steel 3 and 4 will find a much different experience in Boundless Trails, with level-based gameplay, platforming, and a significantly smaller scope. That said, there’s still that signature Falcom charm in the characters and interactions, in addition to challenging but fun gameplay and a graphical style that really shines on Switch.

At the outset, we meet protagonist Nayuta, a plucky researcher in-training who is back on Remnant Island for his summer break away from school. With his friend Cygna, he stops in on his sister Eartha before a massive tower crash lands beside the island, on which we meet two of the central villains and witness their stealing of a special gear from a fairy-like creature named Noi. Nayuta and Noi end up working together to recover this gear and others in Noi’s homeworld of Terra, and so the game ends up taking place on both Remnant Island–where most of the sidequests and characters reside–and Terra where the action-style gameplay occurs.

Speaking of action, Nayuta runs, jumps, double jumps, and slashes his way through 3D stages that offer both horizontal and vertical gameplay. Noi accompanies him and can cast magic spells, and as you make your way through the story you’ll earn additional spells of different elements, some as treasures in stages and others as rewards for defeating minibosses. Her spells work on a charge system, with charges replenishing over time, and you’ll need a mix of magic and sword attacks given that certain enemies are immune to one or the other; this includes bosses as well. There’s also a fair amount of platforming, especially in later or more vertical stages, so you’ll want to have an aptitude for that type of gameplay as well since pitfalls will drain your health meter in a hurry.

Across six or so chapters, you'll jump back and forth between worlds, completing tasks in one and then getting a bit of a respite in the other. At Nayuta's home, Eartha can prepare lunchboxes of food that you can take with you and use to restore your health and gain experience points. You'll want to head out with all your lunchbox slots filled, too, as enemies can pack a punch and health pick-ups are rare. Defeating enemies and destroying crates, barrels, and debris will yield ingredients for Eartha to cook with and bugs and other specimens for the museum to store (which rewards you with money and items). There's a really satisfying loop of playing a few stages, going back home to grab some lunch, upgrading your gear at the shops in town, and then teleporting yourself back into the action.

Terra is divided into five areas: a small story-centric hub and four different continents. The continents each have their own biome and consist of four or five stages to complete, but after progressing through each one, you gain the ability to switch their season, and this allows you to replay the stages in their new seasonal splendor. The suggested level increases with the season shift, and different enemies and treasures appear, so there’s good reason to return for another go. That said, Boundless Trails seems to place less emphasis on gaining experience points through the individual stages and enemies and instead balances it with the experience derived from consuming the food you prepare. The two systems complement each other quite well, leading to a light and breezy feeling that carries through the 15 to 20-hour experience.

Boss encounters at the end of each continent are tough and require specific strategies that you may not have employed as much in the individual levels. These bouts involve multiple stages and form changes, giving a nice sense of spectacle to the culmination of each major area of the game. It’s sound strategy to ensure your lunchbox slots are filled up with meals that will fully restore your health meter or raise your strength, for example, so you have an opportunity to recover from a few different attacks and deal more damage as you work out the best way to take down your opponent.

Even though the world of Boundless Trails isn’t particularly large, it undergoes enough small changes that it feels very much alive. In each chapter, townsfolk move to different locations and have different things to say; almost everyone will be involved in a sidequest or two during your playthrough. Remnant Island mostly stays the same from a visual standpoint, but as continents and seasons change, Terra starts to feel fuller and more fleshed out. You can earn up to three stars from each stage through finding every mira crystal (the local currency), completing a special objective–such as killing 40 enemies–and making it to the end goal, so there’s some replay value built in here. The stars can add up to milestones that award new sword techniques for Nayuta, taught by one of his mentors, Orbus. This is all in addition to dedicated in-game achievements. Falcom ends up squeezing a fair bit of juice out of what initially appears to be a more constrained island setting.

In terms of presentation and performance, the menus are really easy to navigate, and the whole game just looks and plays incredibly well on Switch. I was particularly impressed with the visual fidelity in Handheld mode. Even though the PSP roots do shine through in terms of how the characters, enemies, and objects look, there’s an effective use of color to distinguish between the seasonal changes that Terra undergoes. In terms of music, the soundtrack is a strong one, with a peaceful and serene theme for Remnant Island and some bumping, upbeat tracks for a number of the stages themselves.

Finishing Boundless Trails, I’m still reminded so much of Ys VIII and its island setting but also a little of Ys Origins as well; both of those titles feel, look, and play similar to The Legend of Nayuta, and so fans of them will likely enjoy this Trails game as well. Even in High Speed Mode, which I make a habit of turning on quite often, performance never faltered. I will, however, criticize the localization to a small extent, as the dialogue features some awkward vocabulary choices from time to time.

With a fairly enjoyable main narrative that plays second fiddle to engaging gameplay and effective presentation, The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails may be slight in terms of length when compared to other Trails games, but it’s a spinoff that matches them in quality and enjoyment. There’s something compelling about its relative simplicity and all of the small things you can do from moment to moment that all complement each other and help your character progress, both in terms of story and capability. With Ys and the Trails games typically being separated into action and turn-based combat, respectively, I’d love to see either series experiment with the other form given how well it comes off in Boundless Trails. Young Nayuta’s adventure is well worth experiencing for yourself; just don’t forget to pack a lunch.