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The Legend Of Heroes: Trails Into Reverie Review

All trails lead here

After hundreds of hours of saving the world of Erebonia in The Legend of Heroes series, fans have finally reached the saga’s halfway point with Trails into Reverie. A culmination of the epic Japanese RPG series from Falcom, Trails into Reverie brings together characters and plot threads from amongst the series’ nine preceding core titles in an attempt to tie off the sprawling series narrative while laying the groundwork for the next act in this world. 

Trails into Reverie begins in Crossbell, the setting of the great Trails from Zero and Trails to Azure. The city-state sandwiched between two empires is now under occupation by a militia demanding that the nation provoke a war between its neighbouring countries. For those that haven’t played the preceding hundreds of hours between the last four Trails of Cold Steel games or the Crossbell duology, there will be no frame of reference for what occurs from that opener onwards. 

Unfortunately, this silly writer underestimated their series proficiency before embarking on this quest. Having almost finished this saga’s first title, Trails in the Sky, as well as reviewing the Crossbell Saga in Zero and Azure, I was grossly underprepared for what lay in wait. While it doesn’t say anything on the box to ward off players that might mistakenly consider this to be a number-free entry point, this is very much a title that expects players to be intimately familiar with the dozens of important characters and hundreds of hours of political and tech-fantasy storylines that have occurred over the three-or-so in-game years this series has thus spanned.

Snails, the bane of any level 100 hero

I foolishly thought I could simply catch up with my old mate Lloyd Bannings in Crossbell and have a good time. Alas, Lloyd has been busy fraternising in the Trails of Cold Steel games since his time in Crossbell, leaving me completely out of the loop of a year’s worth of events for Lloyd and the SSS. I could read dozens of pages of text in the game’s menu to bring me up to speed on the world-state, but for a game driven by dozens of core characters, would you bother doing this homework as a partially initiated or new player in this rich world? 

Though baffled at the plot baggage and series foreknowledge that awaited me after the high-stakes opening, the following twenty-plus hours I spent with Trails into Reverie contained a wealth of engaging character writing and a deep combat system with over a dozen years of iterations bolted on. Both of these are relatively reliable positives that this series maintains. On a surprisingly sour note, though, is the frequent loading and rather dated presentation. 

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The opening few chapters of Trails of Reverie allowed me the opportunity to revisit this familiar second home of Crossbell City from a new perspective. The transition to 3D from the older top-down style of Zero and Azure comes off well with a smooth 60 frames, but like Falcom’s other big series Ys, these games aren’t graphical powerhouses. They wear their budget on their sleeve and get by on the charm of the art direction. This is my nice way of saying that although I am immediately endeared to this world through familiarity, any random onlooker may be struck by this release’s lack of graphical detail. As easy as it is to overlook in favour of consistently good writing and combat, Trails of Reverie is a PS5 port of a Japanese-only 2020 PS4 release that looks like a mid-budget PS3 game with a fresh coat of paint. 

The abbreviation-heavy menus are getting somewhat discombobulating

And in case the text-heavy menus and presentation of maps with iconography too small to discern don’t turn off the visuals snobs, the frequent loading will. Crossbell’s transition from 2D to 3D is arguably too faithful, with the town square and surroundings maintaining the scale of the PSP games that introduced it. This means many tiny parcels of explorable territory are given to the player at any one time, and leaving one zone for another, or entering any kind of interior, results in a non-instantaneous load screen. The pace and immersion are constantly being broken up by these brief interruptions.

Personally, I am not only cool with, but somewhat attracted to the noticeably dated visuals of this late series entry, I am much less forgiving of the overt and awkward sexualisation of its cast. Heck, only one year has passed in this world since I last hung out with these characters, but suddenly they’ve all transformed from cute little anime folks to busty and barely clad fan-servicers for whom breathing sends tremors through their jubblies. But the balm to soothe this male gaze exists on the other side of the coin with the cast of Trails of Cold Steel, Class VII. This class of co-ed students are contrastingly able to bathe and share intimate, vulnerable moments with each other. This title falls prey to portraying the worst, lewd tendencies of anime tropes at times, while also admirably redeeming it with some of the most heartfelt and gentle moments I’ve seen in a video game this year.  

Class VII’s parallel story can be switched to immediately while adventuring, emphasising the crossing plot threads of the three playable parties led by Lloyd Bannings and the mysterious masked “C”. This switching of story and perspective is a feature called Crossroads. It is a great way of giving the player some discretion over the pacing of their game while also providing some unusual plot points for the streamlining of inventory and progression between the disparate character parties. 

Monster melons. Putting the phem in euphemism.

Trails of Reverie continues to refine and iterate on this series’ tactical orbal-driven turn-based combat. Players socket orbs of various elements, with particular configurations unlocking unique abilities. Everything else is familiar turn-based JRPG fare but with menus-upon-menus of bolted-on additions. BP, links, stances, s-crafts, charges, brave orders, and some systems which I don’t have any frame of reference for. Mastery across the breadth of these systems isn’t required and curiosity is always rewarded as toying with these levers never penalises the player, and instead results in boosts for party members or spectacular team-mate combo attacks. What looks initially overwhelming does not get in the way of an approachable and intuitive core combat system that has withstood hundreds of hours across this series to date.

Final Thoughts 

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I have grit my teeth through a pretty damn great game, surviving a minefield of spoilers that my ignorant arse should have prepared for. If you have been onboarded into this series through the recent, fantastic Crossbell saga localisation and no other Trails games – this entry ain’t for you. For those dedicated few to have consumed all previous nine core Trails games though, this is a rich and challenging capstone to one of Japan’s best modern RPG epics. A gargantuan beast barely tamed by all the iterative additions and tweaks to its robust combat system over the past two decades. It’s also a shame that its visuals and menus are largely stuck deep in those preceding decades.

Reviewed on PS5 // Review code supplied by publisher

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The Legend Of Heroes: Trails Into Reverie Review
The Legend Of Too Many Heroes
Positively overflowing with meaty, tactical combat and terrific character writing, Trails of Reverie is held back by its dated presentation and sky-high barrier to entry.
The Good
Challenging, dense lasagne of a combat system
More interesting characters than a single game can rightly contain
Crossroads soothes the series' often wobbly pacing
The Bad
Dated graphics and presentation
Expects dedicated series familiarity
Character writing hits a few awkward notes
7
Solid
  • Nihon Falcom
  • NIS
  • PS5 / PS4 / Switch / PC
  • July 14, 2023

The Legend Of Heroes: Trails Into Reverie Review
The Legend Of Too Many Heroes
Positively overflowing with meaty, tactical combat and terrific character writing, Trails of Reverie is held back by its dated presentation and sky-high barrier to entry.
The Good
Challenging, dense lasagne of a combat system
More interesting characters than a single game can rightly contain
Crossroads soothes the series’ often wobbly pacing
The Bad
Dated graphics and presentation
Expects dedicated series familiarity
Character writing hits a few awkward notes
7
Solid
Written By Nathan Hennessy

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