Nihon Falcom’s Trails series is an impressively ambitious one. Not counting enhanced ports, we’re currently 12 games deep into this goliath of a franchise, and we probably have a good chunk more left to go. But with long-running interconnected series like this, newcomers gradually become less and less likely to try them out. I don’t really ever blame anyone who decides that a dozen-game-long overarching narrative is too much to keep up with; it’s an unimaginable time sink. Honestly, if I wasn’t lucky enough to start Trails back when the first title was initially localized, I’m not sure if I would have had it in me to catch up.
But there are forgotten and overlooked trails that are more approachable, seen in The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails. This disconnected spinoff features a new protagonist, cast, and setting for a standalone adventure. Of course, it’s always possible that when Trails Endgame releases, we’ll see the Nayuta protagonist appear with Adol Christin as they team up with the Trails cast to defeat Toshihiro Kondo himself. Still, at least for now, the entry is disconnected. As an additional vital note, we were given a code of this title’s Japanese PC build, worked on by NIS America and Durante’s team, PH3 GmbH, boasting stellar optimization and performance.
The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails stars the titular protagonist, Nayuta, a curious youth intrigued by the stars and the potential of the world’s scope that he and others can’t quite perceive. Contrary to the consensus that their planet is flat, Nayuta believes otherwise and is borderline obsessed with learning more. And as if to fuel his boundless curiosity, ruins and stars occasionally fall onto the land, granting what some believe to be fragments of other worlds.
After returning home from a trip with his best friend in tow, Nayuta and company witness this very same phenomenon occur on their island. At the top of this newly found ruin, two dangerous figures leave as quickly as they appear, leaving Noi, a fairy-like girl, behind. Then, following a string of events, she ends up asking Nayuta for his help in finding something crucial taken from her.
The premise is certainly captivating enough, with noticeably lower stakes than what Trails usually deals with. Granted, tension will likely rise in later parts of the story, yet the general atmosphere of Nayuta comes off as lighter and more casual than what fans may expect. This welcome change of pace not only helps differentiate this entry by making its approach readily distinct, but it has the capability to reach out to new fans. In addition, the gameplay design reinforces this altered appeal since instead of being a turn-based text-heavy adventure, Nayuta is a platforming action JRPG.
Feeling like a spiritual follow-up from Falcom’s less popular Zwei duology with notes from Ys, players will progress through linear stages housing unique enemies and lite puzzles. From what I’ve played, the stages are quite compact, which makes sense, given that it was initially on the PSP. So, I’m sure it’ll feel most at home on the Switch. Regardless, even after just a few hours of playing, I easily found myself becoming addicted. While nothing about the combat or stage design was incredibly involved or thought-provoking, there’s a comforting, nostalgic joy with the simplicity here that I haven’t felt from a Falcom game since their earlier works.
Still, there are further layers to explore as, aside from quests and such, the stages have seasonal variations that change up their layout, offering new paths and, assumedly, new collectibles. With that being the case, replay value will be a crucial component that I’m pretty excited to play around with. Moreover, in that aforementioned Zwei element, cooking and food play prominent roles in character healing and enhancement. For being a smaller-scale adventure, Falcom’s usual dense gameplay content is present.
The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails has all the makings of a simultaneously quaint and grand adventure, offering something new to Falcom fans and newcomers. In all honesty, I want to see Falcom develop more games that aren’t just the typical Ys and Trails fare, even akin to Tokyo Xanadu. While Nayuta is a revival instead of a wholly new project, us Western fans will finally be able to enjoy it, so here’s hoping it proves successful enough for the developer to pursue greater variance.
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