When someone talks about a piece of media being basically impenetrable to newcomers, usually it involves a movie or book that is part of a long running series. That generally doesn’t happen when it comes to video games but if there was ever a game that would serve as the benchmark for continuous storytelling, it is The Legend of Heroes. For the most part, previous entries in the franchise may have been a way to step into the series in some regard but now with The Legend of Heroes: Trails into Reverie all of that comes to a head in one final hurrah for a storyline that has spanned over the course of six large RPGs. Centering itself solely as an RPG for fans that have seen what the Cold Steel and Crossbell series has had to offer, does this culmination serve as a worthwhile send off to this immense cast of characters?
As mentioned before, The Legend of Heroes: Trails into Reverie combines two separate story arcs into one, trying to tie the two recently released in the West Crossbell Arc games with the four Trails of Cold Steel titles that make up the Erebonia Arc of the franchise. Trails into Reverie does try and offer a summary of events that happened throughout each of the six prior games as well as additional side content and even a small novel of sorts to read through to try and bring players up to speed but this should only be used as a refresher for longtime fans, as it will likely do very little for anyone who hasn’t stepped into The Legend of Heroes franchise in the past decade.
Picking up five months after the events at the end of Trails of Cold Steel IV the city of Crossbell is just about to celebrate it’s newfound independence only for the recently defeated Rufus to appear leading a newly found Ebon Defense Force to overpower the SSS led by Lloyd Bannings and forcing the populace of Crossbell back under their thumb.As Lloyd and the rest of the SSS find themselves on the back foot, Rean and the rest of Class VII find themselves on vacation but quickly are tasked with tracking down a missing prince. As these two familiar factions begin their missions, a third group led by the unknown “C,” whose identity is quickly revealed, begins to move to investigate the truth behind Rufus and this powerful new force that has appeared from nowhere.
If this sounds a little bit confusing, that’s because it is. Trails into Reverie spends quite a lot of its first dozen hours introducing unknown forces, enemies that were previously thought to be defeated, and introducing players to its massive cast of characters all while leaving the characters themselves confused about events that are happening, leaving players themselves in the dark and wondering when the questions will eventually be answered. Even when some revelations do occur, they often are a bit on the disappointing side as many plot developments often feel like treading water rather than actually developing the story to a proper conclusion. Of course, without going into detail, things eventually do come to a head and some intriguing elements that feature elements of both Cold Steel IV as well as Azure’s ending come into play and should satisfy most fans of the franchise while also leaving us a few hints towards future events.
One neat, but underutilized, part of how Trails into Reverie’s story unfolds is the “Trails to Walk” mechanic that allows players to eventually swap between Lloyd, Rean, and C on the fly, allowing players to see how the story is currently unfolding from all three sides. Unfortunately this system really doesn’t offer a true choice since players will ultimately find themselves forced to swap between groups automatically in order to progress one group’s story far enough to match up with others. This means that if the Crossbell group happens to be your favorite, players will eventually need to swap to Class VII and C to help catch their storylines up and there are even times this swap happens automatically. As such, players will likely simply play through one route until they are forced to swap and then playing as that group until they are forced again. This attempt to separate a game’s nearly fifty playable characters is an admirable one, and a decent attempt to try and give every group of characters a chance to shine in some way, though C’s group made up almost entirely of new characters is often overshadowed to the point of irrelevancy despite having some key plot elements and perhaps some of the most unique characters in the entire game while it is also evident that Class VII and Rean are given more screen time and development than anyone else once again.
Outside of the main storyline there is, of course, tons of side content to enjoy to the point that players will be able to find out the fate of nearly every character they can think of from both series, to the point that even minor one-shot characters are given some form of development should players seek it out. The biggest element of extra story content though comes in the form of the Reverie Corridor that not only serves as a way to bring every single playable character together into one party but also provides additional story segments that explains some elements that are otherwise not touched upon in the main storyline. Sadly, the Reverie Corridor is a bit on the bland side as we will explain later, so tying important story elements into it is a bit on the unfortunate side, especially since many could easily have been worked into the already massive narrative of the core game.
For the most part, the exploration and combat mechanics in The Legend of Heroes: Trails into Reverie feel the same as what players experienced in Trails of Cold Steel IV, with combat being turn based with various bonuses appearing at certain turns and allies being able to provide team attacks, counter attacks, and more, though there are a few extra differences this time around when it comes to managing your party as well as an extra tool in the player’s arsenal in the form of United Front attacks. These are special orders that allow players to trigger large, highly damaging attacks with the help of their extra party members not in combat at the time. Since players can only make use of four fighters at a time, they will almost always have at least one unit in reserve, and often quite a lot more given the game’s roster size. United Front attacks utilize the Assault Gauge and can help turn the tide of a battle that may be going poorly or easily sweep through a standard foe with ease.
It is worth noting that, since nearly every single character that players will use in the game is already quite battle hardened, Trails into Reverie isn’t afraid to give players plenty of powerful tools and abilities right off the bat. Combine the powerful starting stats and ease of obtaining items with the massive roster of characters that players can manage, the actual fighting will often feel like a breeze on Normal difficulty. Rather than worrying about positioning or timing, anyone familiar with the series will easily be able to clear the game without much planning, with even the aforementioned True Reverie Corridor offering only a few notable challenges.
Now, the True Reverie Corridor serves as something of a randomized dungeon that will offer a chance to not only experiment with team set-ups but also create a team of your dreams since every character can be used during these dungeon dives. Unfortunately, the randomization of this dungeon is generic to say the least though players will find the rewards for clearing dungeon dives quite useful in the form of powering up their party, obtaining unique character-specific equipment from there, and even boosting various allied attacks and other abilities. That being said, the novelty does eventually wear a bit thin, especially once players see most of the extra content found within and manage to take down the ultimate challenge inside.
Visuals & Audio
Playing through The Legend of Heroes: Trails into Reverie on the PlayStation 5 can feel like quite a treat, not because the game itself is a graphical powerhouse by any means, but because it brings all of the characters to close-to modern standards. This includes all of the cast from the Crossbell series brought up to high-quality models as well as enhanced models for Class VII and of course the cities themselves. These character designs are impressive looking and character artwork is also highly detailed with combat looking as fantastic as ever, with the most powerful Crafts and Bursts looking impressive, though once again enemy variety could use some improvement while the generic design of the Reverie Corridor is also a disappointment.
The English voice cast for the game is quite impressive, both in size and scope as NIS America has made sure to try and provide as much voice over as possible throughout the game, though plenty of side content and lesser events remain unvoiced, though this is likely true for the Japanese dub. Those who prefer listening to the Japanese voice over will find it readily available if they so choose. The soundtrack is fairly impressive and offers a wide-range of tracks including some amazing boss battle themes and simpler but enjoyable calmer tracks that play during standard events and the many humorous/relaxing scenes that are spread throughout the game.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails into Reverie serves as a solid conclusion to a long running series of games that is bursting at the seams with characters and enjoyable moments that longtime fans of the games will enjoy. It is completely impenetrable to those who have yet to play any game in the series but that doesn’t stop this lengthy RPG from doing what it does best, even if it takes quite a bit of time to get there with an overarching story and unique mechanic that don’t quite live up to expectations.
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