“Thus began our long summer break…” — these are the words that capstone The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails’ prologue and appropriately set expectations for the kind of game it is. The Legend of Nayuta is an action RPG spin-off of Falcom’s The Legend of Heroes series, which includes the spectacular Trails in the Sky trilogy. First released for the PlayStation Portable in 2012, this new release is the first time The Legend of Nayuta has been officially available outside Japan. The game has no direct connections to The Legend of Heroes and is a standalone story, so action RPG lovers are free (and encouraged) to jump in here.
Nayuta is a young scholar returning to his home, Remnant Isle, for summer vacation. Nayuta and his best friend Cygna ran a “Handyman” business before they left their island, and they decide to start it back up during their break. You know, the kind of handymen who do everything from playing with local children to defeating ravenous monsters. Their simple ambitions to help out the island folk quickly lead to exploring ancient ruins from the sky, saving the life of a human-hating fairy, and being transported to said fairy’s world, Terra.
Terra is going through the most extreme bout of climate change possible, induced by the theft of four master gears used to control its climate by the sinister pair, Zechst and Selam. Terra’s four continents are trapped in unnatural seasons that run havoc on flora and fauna. Nayuta, always down to help people, is happy to assist the fairy, Noi, to save an entirely new world. Of course, studying a place he believes to be the mythical Lost Heaven, a place his parents researched before their untimely deaths, is appealing in its own right.
There are twists and turns, but overall, the story is straightforward JRPG fare. Where The Legend of Nayuta‘s writing shines is in its characters, particularly the people of Remnant Isle. As is standard for games in the Trails series, NPCs have an impressive amount of dialogue that changes frequently to reflect current events. It is always worth chatting with the locals when you head back to Remnant Isle to stock up. Everyone, from the shopkeepers to the cook at the inn to the village children, glows with personality. Your bond with the townsfolk is taken even further by accepting side quests for them, requests which they deliver to your mailbox. Most of these side quests require setting out to Terra to find items that don’t exist on Remnant Isle.
Throughout the main scenario, Nayuta adventures to each of the four continents of Terra to restore them to their natural state. When you first travel to a continent, a linear series of stages leads you to a final boss battle to save the continent. In each stage, outside of boss stages, your goal is to reach the exit, but how you do so varies widely. Once you beat all the default stages in a continent and restore its natural season, new seasonal variants of those stages open up that can be tackled in any order. The Legend of Nayuta has an extensive post-story chapter and additional content in the New Game+ — for when you can’t get enough of Nayuta’s adventures.
Nayuta’s basic moveset includes the ability to jump, swing his sword, and dodge, but this expands as you progress. Noi follows Nayuta into stages and can cast Seasonal Arts — magical attacks gained through battling powerful monsters and completing certain quests. Using these Arts also increases their level, making them more powerful or granting more casting charges. Nayuta can learn new sword skills from his Master Orbus — whenever you clear a stage, you receive a rank of up to three stars. This ranking is determined by how many crystals and treasures you found and a stage-specific goal. These stars go in your Swordsman Training Book, and Master Orbus will teach you a new skill when you have received enough. These sword skills include things like a spin attack and a guard. Finally, you also learn Crafts from the guardians of each continent, such as the Gear Shield that allows you to walk on water and lava. Crafts deplete a Craft gauge that refills over time.
Utilizing all of Nayuta and Noi’s abilities is required to get through the stages of The Legend of Nayuta. Crafts even grant different traversal methods, like the Gear Drive that lets you roll up certain walls. These Crafts are not only required to progress but also allow you to return to previous stages and find new treasures and paths. While the goal of any given stage is to go from point A to point B, what happens in between can be complex and require traveling in all directions, flipping switches, battling monsters, and jumping perilous gaps. The puzzles necessary to progress through the stages are never terribly complex, but they keep your mind engaged between the fast-paced joy of unleashing your blade upon wolves, dragons, and robots. By the same token, while platforming is required, it is never difficult, and there are rarely lengthy sequences of platforming without moments to rest. The line between combat and platforming feels perfectly walked, and the gameplay never gets old. This is especially true in the game’s boss battles, which are bombastic fights against massive monsters that require well-timed jumps and dodges and use of all your skills to take them down.
While you explore Terra, you will come across artifacts dropped by monsters and found in chests that you can sell to the museum in Remnant Isle. The museum also offers you rewards after you hand over enough unique artifacts. You can also view everything you have brought to them in the various galleries. Ingredients you find can be cooked into lunchboxes (your source of healing in dungeons) by your sister Eartha. Food also grants you experience points — far more than battling monsters — and is essential to leveling up. Deliver special items like ores and soil to the right villagers to add new inventory to their shops, including more equipment for Nayuta and Noi. Yes, Noi has equipment slots too. Her gear focuses on increasing the damage of your magical attacks or offering accessory-style effects. All equipment shows up on their character models, a feature I always appreciate, and one made all the better by how goofy you can make them look.
The Legend of Nayuta is gorgeous. It may have originally been a PSP game, but Falcom flexes its artistic talents here. Character models are detailed and unique, environments are expansive and varied, and the occasionally used character portraits are splendid. The weakest assets are the monster models, which, at worst, can look unfinished or lacking in textures, but the designs themselves are still on point. Fans rarely come to a Falcom title for its graphics. In addition to killer gameplay, the aural side of things is a must for fans. Falcom is well known for its musical prowess, so it should be no surprise that The Legend of Nayuta is musical perfection. Every track is masterful and powerfully evocative, and there are many tracks compared to the game’s short run time — under 20 hours. While not fully voiced, every voiced line is well delivered and clear, another expected but happy triumph.
The Legend of Nayuta is an incredibly polished experience. It feels like the culmination of Falcom’s action RPG expertise at the time, having already developed games like Ys: The Oath in Felghana, Ys VI: Ark of Napishtim, and the Zwei duology. There are precious few games where I can say I have no complaints, but I have to wrack my brains to think of the meekest criticisms of The Legend of Nayuta. The combat could have more depth, but it works for the game’s short length. The story could have gone for something unique, but it feels fine for a low-key, cozy action RPG. While the highs The Legend of Nayuta reaches might not be the loftiest, it also never falls below the clouds.