Spoilers ahead – read at your own risk!
Nearly three years after its original Japanese release, the official English-language release of The Legend of Heroes: Trails into Reverie is finally here. This title is the 13th release in the Trails series, and is also the 18th entry to the wider Legend of Heroes series overall – what IGN calls the Marvel Cinematic Universe of RPGs.
If you’re a noob to the Legend of Heroes saga and you’re looking for an entry point, this ain’t it. Trails into Reverie feels like an endcap to the events built up over the last six games, and doesn’t offer a wealth of contextual information to new players in-game.
A storybook containing the plot summaries of all relevant past titles can actually be found in the home menu, which is a pretty considerate way of allowing gamers to remind themselves of the (many!) twists and turns within the intricate Trails story.
While that’s all well and good, it’s a lot of reading. If you’re primarily interested in action-packed, turn-based gameplay in the vein of traditional JRPGs, you may not care to spend a substantial chunk of gaming time getting to grips with its intricate geopolitical lore, especially since the game itself is already fairly text-heavy. Nonetheless, it’s a good resource to have to remind yourself of the events that lead up to Trails into Reverie.
Okay, so what’s the story about?
The Erebonian occupation of Crossbell is over, but the fight for independence still rages on. Five months on, the Great Twilight is over, though its effects are still strongly felt. We initially follow Lloyd Bannings and his Special Support Section, rallying tirelessly against their enemies’ attempts to wring a final victory from the aftermath of the war – there’s no rest for this band of heroes.
After an action-packed prologue, you’re given the chance to patrol Crossbell and catch up with some old friends, like the Arc en Ciel theatre troupe and your colleagues at the Special Support Section. The game has an odd habit of transitioning from voiced dialogue to speech bubbles mid-scene, which can sometimes be a little off-putting, but I’ll give them a pass considering how many characters they have to juggle around.
You go on to choose from three interconnected narrative routes, following Lloyd, Rean or the mysterious “C” respectively. While some routes may be better than others, it’s nice to have the option to progress the narrative in your own way, being able to switch between them at any time. It brings about a personalised feel to the game, and the game is even able to automatically switch you onto the appropriate route when needed to avoid spoilers.
I won’t give too much away, but Trails into Reverie also contains some important foreshadowing for the events of the Kuro no Kiseki arc, particularly in relation to the Calvard Republic setting. It’s this kind of rich worldbuilding and considerate storytelling that made the Trails games a roaring success to begin with. I will say, though, that the series seems to be better at handling the broad strokes than anything else – voiced or not, the dialogue is often pretty clunky and lacking in style.
What about the gameplay?
As fun as the turn-based combat can be, I often felt as if I needed to be taking some serious notes alongside my playthrough. There are many moving parts, so much so that the gameplay may not appeal at all to casual players. You can get by pretty well on Normal mode just by spamming your Arts and Crafts, but there are seemingly infinite strategic possibilities you can explore across multiple parties. Brave Orders, Quartz and Link Abilities should especially be utilised for maximum efficiency during combat.
My major complaint for Trails into Reverie so far is that encounters are often bogged down by the game constantly stopping to explain how its mechanics work – and there are a lot of mechanics! Considering the amount of slow-moving text to contend with on top of this, the pacing takes some pretty big hits in the early game.
The game won me back, however, with the True Reverie Corridor, a huge and randomly-generated dungeon containing expansive content that rivals the main story. The Corridor can be explored by characters from all three routes, and is immeasurably useful for grinding and levelling up, as well as having gatcha elements that can win you new characters, equipment and more.
Collectibles are mostly done away with in this game, and there are no bonding events to be found at all – while some may be disappointed to miss out on these features, in my opinion they were worth doing away with in order to get the True Reverie Corridor, which PushSquare has heralded as a complete game in and of itself.
The graphics are form-fitting and elaborate, but not the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen – but I played via my three-year-old Nintendo Switch, which at the best of times can offer me all the computing power of an iPhone 4, so it didn’t matter all that much. Even some frame rate issues here and there are par for the course, and didn’t impact the gameplay overall. Not sure how I’d feel if I were a PS5 owner, though.
I think that Trails into Reverie will delight long-time fans. Despite being the shortest title in the series so far, Reverie offers up a whole new world of possibilities for combat. Some of the set-dressing could definitely stand to be improved, however, not to mention the pacing, which does let the side down a little bit. The game is quite unavoidably bloated, and I think could have massively benefitted from shaving off a few surplus characters, but it nonetheless remains a solid addition to the Trails series. While I don’t think this title will see much success in onboarding many new players, I hope Trails into Reverie will keep its hardcore fans well fed for a long time.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails into Reverie is available now for PS5, PS4, Nintendo Switch and Steam.
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