Release date: July 7, 2023 Platforms: PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows Series: The Legend of Heroes: Trails, The Legend of Heroes Engine: PhyreEngine Mode: Single-player video game Composer: Yukihiro Jindo Genres: Role-playing video game, Adventure game, Strategy video game
"Review Copy Provided By NIS America"
The enduring Legend of Heroes/Kiseki/Trails series from Nihon Falcom adds another installment with "Trails into Reverie". This latest game, the tenth in the Trails series, serves as an epilogue to both the Crossbell saga, represented in "Trails from Zero" and "Azure", as well as the "Trails of Cold Steel" tetralogy. It's important to note that this game isn't aimed at first-time players, as it assumes familiarity with prior titles and includes major plot spoilers.
The story is set after the "Trails of Cold Steel IV" events, and in an unprecedented move, the narrative centers around three different protagonists. Players will follow the journeys of Rean Schwarzer from the Cold Steel saga, Lloyd Bannings from Zero and Ao, and a mysterious figure known as “C”. The latter character dons a similar disguise to the Imperial Liberation Front's former leader, as seen in the first Cold Steel game.
As the game unfolds, Lloyd and the Crossbell police's Special Support Section take down a terrorist group that had seized the city post-Cold Steel IV. The narrative then jumps a month ahead to Crossbell’s declaration of independence day, an event abruptly halted by the re-emergence of the same terrorist group, now led by Rufus Albarea, supposedly imprisoned post-war. Concurrently, Rean and his comrades embark on a covert mission in Erebonia to locate Prince Olivert Reise Arnor and Scherazard Harvey, who vanished during their honeymoon. Their only lead is a statement from C of the New Imperial Liberation Front, claiming responsibility for the couple's disappearance. Additionally, "C" is the recipient of a suitcase delivered by former assassins Swin and Nadia (who were previously referenced in Cold Steel IV’s in-game novel 3 and 9). The case contains a sentient doll named Lapis, created by Jorg Rosenberg, but with no memory of her mission to C. Swin and Nadia are subsequently hired by C to accompany him and Lapis on their adventure.
The game's “Cross Story” system lets players toggle freely between the three protagonists' narratives after the prologue. The stories are chaptered and need to be completed before the game can advance, maintaining a linear experience, despite the initial impression of flexibility. Some story routes are locked until others are cleared first. Moreover, players may find themselves needing to switch routes multiple times to progress, a mechanism reminiscent of party-switching mechanics seen in previous Falcom titles. However, this linear structure is punctuated with the introduction of the "True Reverie Corridor". Unlike its predecessor in Cold Steel II, this updated version is accessible almost anytime after being unlocked early in the main story. It unites characters from all three narratives in a mystical realm featuring a randomized dungeon that expands as the game progresses, providing an optional diversion from the main storyline.
In another deviation from its Cold Steel II counterpart, the True Reverie Corridor in Trails into Reverie incorporates elements from Trails in the Sky the 3rd, allowing players to unlock side stories, mini-games, and new playable characters. This is achieved through obtaining various types of stones and shards by defeating dungeon bosses and mid-bosses. Each type of stone has a specific function: gold for unlocking characters, blue for side stories, red for mini-games, and silver for items such as quartzes, accessories, sepis shards, and consumables.
This system might be familiar to players of Japanese mobile games as it emulates a gacha-style mechanic, although exclusively using in-game currency. Despite offering the usual array of DLC for crafting materials. In the game, various upgrades like enhancing BP or assault gauge caps, enlarging the party size, or bolstering hub functionalities are procured using a special in-game currency. This currency can mainly be obtained by completing "missions", which could range from relatively simpler tasks like using specific skills a set number of times or clearing a battle with your party sporting a specific accessory, to ambitious long-term targets like unearthing all the game's treasure chests. This system should feel very familiar to mobile gamers, as it closely resembles the mission structure of mobile games.
Playable characters that join temporarily or don't join at all in the main narrative are typically unlocked in the corridor. They can also serve as support characters in the main story, granting players access to their Brave Orders during combat, and permitting them to participate in the Valiant Rage commands, which will be discussed later. Although the corridor's dungeon introduces a refreshing variety to exploration, it also introduces surprising enemy ambushes, treasure chests that can only be opened after winning a battle with random characters not from the player's party, and areas where the party starts each battle under a particular status effect.
Battles in Reverie are mostly an extension of the previous iteration, Cold Steel IV, with the major modification being the introduction of the Valiant Rage system. This system adds more functionalities to the assault gauge, such as executing one of the three Valiant Rage commands:
Valiant Attack: boosts STR, restores CP, adds 2 BP, eliminates seal and debuffs, and inflicts physical damage.
Valiant Arts: enhances ATS, replenishes EP, adds 2 BP, removes mute and debuffs, and causes magic damage.
Valiant Heal: revitalizes the party, adds 2 BP, and cures all status ailments.
These commands are exclusive to parties comprising five or more members, and their potency increases with more members (up to 10, with four main party members, four reserves, and two supporters). The addition of BP gain from these commands is a welcome feature, as it gives the player more flexibility to utilize BP in combat. By the later stages of the game, players are provided with ample quartzes and accessories to customize their characters optimally. Players who relish adjusting orbment configurations should find this aspect highly engaging.
Returning to the narrative, Reverie's storytelling, despite following an unconventional multi-protagonist format, serves as a thoroughfare for the series. The main departure from tradition is the increased focus on nostalgia, with most featured locales being from Zero and Ao, or Cold Steel 1 and 2. Crossbell is the predominant setting, hosting the majority of the game, and most characters from Zero and Ao, including NPCs, make a return. However, the plot undergoes a significant shift in the game's latter half, with the introduction of new elements and plot twists that may feel out of place to some players. Regardless, the story is mostly enjoyable, and the newly introduced characters significantly enhance the cast. While the game allows players to revisit some older locales, it's important to highlight the term "some": despite Crossbell being freely accessible, only a select few locations from Cold Steel 1 and 2 are revisited in the main story. This may be a letdown for longtime fans hoping to revisit places like Reeves or Trista.
Generally, gameplay in Reverie is a refined version of its predecessor, Cold Steel IV. However, there are a few puzzling issues related to user-friendliness, mainly arising from resuming routes via the Cross Story system. In the early stages of the game, useful quartzes and equipment may be limited, and inventories are shared between routes, potentially causing equipment allocation issues when routes are switched. Although Reverie boasts the highest number of playable characters in the series, with 40 in the main story and 51 in the Reverie Corridor, a few characters playable in Cold Steel IV are unavailable in Reverie. However, managing equipment and orbment loadouts for the large number of characters isn't burdensome due to the introduction of a new party menu. This feature enables easy character swapping, access to equipment and orbment menus, and convenient utilization of auto-equip functions.
Reverie incorporates the high-speed mode present in most of Falcom’s PS4 ports of older games, facilitating faster battles and exploration. Even with extensive use of this mode, clearing the game, including all side and postgame content, still took this reviewer nearly 100 hours.
The quality of the minigames in Reverie is inconsistent: new minigames like the mecha action game Project Tirfing and the shooting game Magical Alisa RS feel like low budget Playstation 1 or PSP era games, with unbalanced and unsatisfying gameplay. Conversely, returning minigames like the Puyo Puyo-like Pomtto and the card game Vantage Masters have been significantly improved, offering more avatars, tougher opponents, and more cards for the player if they can defeat formidable foes.
Reverie, like any game, isn't without its flaws. The majority of character animations remain stilted and frequently recycled, and the graphics haven't improved since Cold Steel III and IV, potentially appearing dated. The game lacks full voice acting, and while most critical scenes in the main story do have comprehensive voice acting, some significant postgame segments only have partial voice acting, making it noticeably inconsistent. The gacha system seems a questionable inclusion, and many players may prefer purchasing items directly from a store. Furthermore, tying playable character acquisition to the gacha system may prove frustrating for completionists: the characters added to the corridor's hub have dialogue as the game progresses, but since the characters you get are random and only a fixed number can be obtained at each point in the game, players are inevitably going to miss some dialogue.
Reverie is a tribute to the Trails series, but the vast number of characters means that many named characters get limited screen time, if any. It's an understandable challenge: Trails in the Sky the 3rd did a better job of highlighting characters, but it only had two preceding games, while Reverie has nine. Reverie had a somewhat troubled release in Japan, with five patches addressing progression-stopping bugs released in just over a month from its launch. It was also missing some content that was added more than a month later, including the majority of the postgame dungeon and its boss. COVID-19 likely played a part in these issues, so it's not entirely the developers' fault, and all the content should be available at launch when an international version is released.
Notably, Reverie concentrates more on the city-state of Crossbell and the events of Trails from Zero and Azure than it does on Trails of Cold Steel, meaning that fans of the former will probably appreciate it more. This focus also provides a good explanation for why those games were officially translated and released just before Reverie's launch.
Trails into Reverie should satiate series fans, serving as a fond farewell to Trails of Cold Steel and a proper conclusion to Zero and Azure serving as technically the unofficial 3rd game in the Crossbell arc .