The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails is a game that western fans of The Legend of Heroes have been waiting a while to get in their hands. This PlayStation Portable title was released back in 2012, but only in Japan. Due to the growing popularity of the Trails series this has become another highly-desired Japanese only release for western audiences. They say good things come to those who wait, and after a decade, The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails has been remastered and ported over modern hardware. The real question is if this game is a hidden PSP gem?
The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails revolves around protagonist Nayuta Herschel. Nayuta has returned to his hometown for the summer where he and his childhood friend Cygna run a small business helping out the villagers with miscellaneous tasks. During the course of their regular activities some ruins fall from the sky which Nayuta and Cygna explore. During this expedition they stumble across a fairy named Noi. These completely normal and mundane events expose the friends to a world that exists beyond their own where the very fate of that world is in peril thanks to some Master Gear stealing villains.
Without getting into too much specific details to spoil the story, the plot feels almost like a paint-by-numbers JRPG. That isn’t to say it’s bad because it did hold my interest through the mostly-enjoyable playthrough, but it seemed like when the game was being developed there was a trope checklist and quotas had to be met, though it’s doubtful that will bother genre fans too much. What is noteworthy is that games in the Trails series are known for their heavy political themes in their stories that have extremely long estimated completion times, whereas Nayuta is a much shorter game with a much more simplistic story. While this may sound like a negative for some fans, the lack of any real connection to the story of other Trails games means this can be enjoyed without having to worry about where it fits into the order of any of the games and isn’t a huge time commitment. It also means it’s accessible to those who have been interested in getting into the Trails universe, but were intimidated by time commitment.
As soon as the lengthy obligatory introduction section was completed and the first dungeon exploration commenced, the immediate thought was the gameplay feels like the Ys PSP games Ys: The Oath in Felghana or Ys: The Ark of Napishtim. Given these titles share a developer, this isn’t too surprising, but this instantly hooked me as a Ys fan. The battle mechanics are straightforward and simple. There are certain enemies and bosses that require more strategy, but nothing is all that complex or challenging. As the player progresses Nayuta gets new abilities and items that make him a more powerful warrior and explorer. Noi is also a useful battle companion as she can use projectile spells to attack enemies if Nayuta wishes to fall back where it’s safe.
While the combat itself is enjoyable and one of Nayuta’s strengths it is not without its shortcomings. Platforming in isometric games has a tendency to be a bit imprecise and this is definitely the case with this title. Platforming sections are on the unforgiving side if the angle for landing is 100 percent perfect. This may be due to the game’s origin on a handheld system but because the zoom in on Nayuta is pretty close it can lean to some mishaps from offscreen threats. Not only can Nayuta take damage from enemies that can’t yet be seen but this is especially vexing during platforming sections when and an unseen enemy can block Nayuta from reaching the intended landing spot as soon as it becomes visible.
The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails is split into two worlds that serve different roles in gameplay. Remnant Island is Nayuta’s home world. This is where he can interact with other villagers, buy equipment and receive lunches from Eartha that can heal him on his journey. It essentially serves as his hub in between missions. Terra is the world where all the action happens. Instead of a large open world each section of Terra has small stages that can be accessed via the world map. This is likely due to the handheld origins where it’s designed that the player can complete a level or two in a short amount of time should they be playing during their morning commute.
There is a fair amount of repetition in The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails. Each stage has different challenges associated with it and will need to be replayed if not completed in the first attempt. These can range from destroying x number of items or complete the stage without being hit more than x amount of times. There are side quests that require returning to previously-completed stages, but at least completing quests from people reveals some more of the inhabitants about the world. Later on seasons can change which gives the stages a fresh new appearance and adds enemy variety.
Despite the criticisms, The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails is a fun game to review. The fast-paced combat is similar to other action RPGs that are highly thought of and the small level size helps the pacing. Many of the boss fights are creative, not just in regards to the enemy design, but also the strategy that’s required to beat them. The simplistic story might not be anywhere near the same level of what Trails fans might have come to expect from some of the series’ turn-based affairs, but the story works just fine for this action RPG even if it does seem too reliant on JRPG tropes. The biggest flaw in gameplay is imprecise platforming controls and the camera. Neither of these are game ruining, but they do mar the experience and remind the player this is a handheld game from over a decade ago. There are also a few cases where this might not have been noticed on the small PSP screen, but on the big screen there are questionable hitboxes.
For being an eleven-year-old handheld game. The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails looks good in its remastered format. Illustrations for important events have been redone and characters now sport high-quality dialogue portraits. Sound quality has been improved from the original PSP mix and framerate runs consistently at 60 FPS. Certain elements of gameplay show their age, but the presentation has been improved to make it look great on PlayStation 4.
The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails might show its age, but can still be a good time. The simplistic story might not be what Trails fans were hoping for, but works well enough for this title. The fast-paced gameplay is the main selling point as it’s reminiscent of other good action RPGs from this publisher, but the game mechanics are not without their own issues. Mostly due to the nature of its handheld origins, the stationary camera is not the player’s friend at all times and some of the controls could have used tightening up, particularly in platforming areas. Even with its flaws, The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails holds up well and is still a very good action RPG taking its origins into consideration.