The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails
Originally released on the PSP way back in 2012, The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails is an action-RPG from stalwarts of the RPG genre, Nihon Falcom. Something of a spin-off of their Legend of Heroes and Trails series, Boundless Trails was given the HD remaster treatment for the PC and Playstation 4 back in 2021 before making the jump to the Nintendo hybrid in September this year. It’s been a long time since I dabbled in a JRPG, and with a look reminiscent of some of my PS2 favourites from yesteryear, I was excited to give it a go.
At A Glance
|THE LEGEND OF NAYUTA: BOUNDLESS TRAILS
|+ Snappy, almost arcade-action gameplay style
+ Can be enjoyed in short pick-up-and-put-down bursts
+ Highly nostalgic
|– Lacks any real depth in mechanics
– Rather tropey, even at the time of original release
– Formulaic that borders on repetitive
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The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails tells the story of the titular Nayuta, a young man with an adventurous spirit and a keen mind for the unknown. Nayuta lives in the township of Remnant Isle, a small island that is strangely prone to ancient debris falling on it from the skies or washing up along its beaches. Nayuta’s parents were killed in a shipwreck when they set sail to discover the fabled realm known as Lost Heaven, and so the orphaned Nayuta has since lived with his doting sister Eartha, and kept company by his amnesia-suffering best friend, Cygna, with whom he runs a handyman business.
Soon after Nayuta and Cygna land back on Remnant Isle following their studies at the Imperial College, a huge ruin crash lands in the shallows just off the coast. Eager to explore, the boys reach the crest of the debris to discover a fairy-like creature named Noi who is beset by a dark robed figure, wrestling for control of an item known as the Master Gear of Earth. Noi eventually succumbs to the strength of the robed man and a mysterious swordsman standing alongside him, and together they steal the Master Gear from her and disappear to wreak havoc with the powerful artefact. Noi reluctantly explains that her home realm of Terra, or Lost Heaven as it’s known to the humans, is in danger of destruction if she, Nayuta and Cygna can’t retrieve the other elemental Master Gears and put a stop to the robed man’s wicked plans.
The introduction to the world and characters of Boundless Trails is a thorough (if slightly slow) one, and helps to showcase the bright visuals, endearing characters and decent voice-acting that makes up the backbone of the game. That said, skimming back over my two previous paragraphs, I’m pretty confident that I completed one -maybe even two- RPG Trope Bingo Cards, and I get the feeling that even back in the days of the original PSP release, many of the elements would have already been well worn to the point of threadbare.
While the introduction might be a JRPG-by-numbers, the gameplay is anything but, with Nihon Falcom eschewing the traditional turn-based battles in favour of a more action laden affair. You’ll steer Nayuta through simple 3D environments, battling enemies with a mix of button-bashed basic attacks, simple special moves and magic spells provided by the faithful Noi, who drifts alongside Nayuta wherever he goes. There’s nothing at all complicated about how Boundless Trails plays, but there’s a certain amount of fun to be had barrelling through the levels, pulverising everything in your path with a rattle of button presses and very little thought.
Despite being little more than simple winding corridors with a few branching options, the environments are bright and inviting, dressed in the fore- and background to give at least the illusion of some depth. You’ll explore each level in a different one of the four seasons, and you’ll need to replay the levels in different seasons as you move through the game. This is a nice way of squeezing more content out of the level designs without requiring a huge number of additional assets, but it isn’t quite as effective as it could be, as none of the levels are memorable enough to inspire that joyful “Oh! This is the same-but-different” response that Nihon Falcom were going for.
Each level can be completed up to a three-star standard, and in order to do this you’ll have to find all three crystal shards, all of the hidden treasure chests and complete a specific objective, like complete within a time limit or defeat a certain number of enemies. This ranking system offers some replayability, as you’ll be able to cash in these star ratings with the sword master in exchange for new moves that will aid you in your quest. You’ll also earn a TON of cash and collectables by fighting through the levels over and again, allowing you to max-out your equipment early on and let you barrel through the game with very little resistance, since there’s little depth to the gameplay. That said, Boundless Trails feels something like a Sonic game in that regard – you can smash through the levels in just a few minutes each, but there’s some fun to be had in the frenzy of it all.
After clearing just the first two worlds, you begin to feel the formula running through the veins of the game and repetition quickly becomes the overarching theme. Each world is overseen by a spirit who has been locked away into a crystal prison by the mysterious robed antagonist; once freed, the spirit will spill the secrets of their realm to help Nayuta and Noi who must then battle their way to the temple housing its Master Gear. Our heroes will then narrowly miss collecting the artefact to the enemy, before having to defeat a giant robotic boss creature and move to the next realm in the hope of restoring Terra and saving the world. You’ll rinse and repeat this through the four major realms and that, as they say, is (pretty much) that.
Alongside the main storyline you’ll have a number of side quests bubbling up at the same time, mostly centring around Nayuta’s handyman business back on Remnant Isle. Residents will drop various requests in your mailbox and it’s your job to help them with whatever they need. These missions are often simple fetch-quests of some sort, but they do help flesh out a couple of characters in the world as they explain what they need and why. You’ll also be charged with filling the newly restored museum with artefacts and collecting a recipe book full of new food items for Eartha to cook for you, and Nayuta can use these to restore his health and boost his abilities in battle. (Those JRPG Bingo Cards sure are getting a lot of work today!)
I put in some 20-plus hours to get to the end of Boundless Trails, but was ready for the ending to come much sooner than that, as repetitive as the gameplay is. There’s a really strange structure to the game though, in that the story-proper ends some 50% of the way through the available gameplay – after finishing the story you can choose to continue replaying the levels in all four seasons should you wish, though I didn’t have the energy to do it all over again for very little in the way of reward.
The story did a good job of dragging me through the formulaic gameplay though, neatly tying together the two worlds and all of the characters you’ll encounter along the way. And speaking of characters, Nihon Falcom has done a great job of offering a host of interesting individuals for you to interact with in your adventure. From stoic sword master Orbus, to Nayuta’s loving sister Eartha and the prickly nature spirit, Gio, there were plenty of enjoyable personalities on offer throughout the game. The character designs might be one of the most well executed aspects of the game actually, with everyone standing out from one-another and giving the world an eclectic but lovable cast of characters who have great 3D models and 2D story-cards. Sure, even the remastered models are a little dated these days, but from a purely design aspect, I thought they were great.
The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails is a faithful port of a PSP classic. It ticks all of the boxes for a typical noughties JRPG that offers a tonne of nostalgia for fans of the genre, but with an arcade action-adventure style that brings a fun pick-up-and-play vibe for a broader audience. That said, it’s a game that shows its considerable age; with few modern improvements added, players may well grow tired of the formulaic gameplay long before the heavily padded content is complete.
In the interest of full disclosure, VGamingNews was provided with a copy of the game in order to conduct this review.
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