The Legend of Nayuta is a game I have been curious about for many years before I got to play it. I knew about its existence for a while and heard it was unconnected to mainline Trails but for a long time, only shoddy fan translations existed. So I was pretty excited back in 2021 when NISA announced they would be localizing Nayuta and considering it was the only Trails game I had not played yet at the time, I was the most excited for it despite my understanding of why localizing Crossbell or Reverie is a bigger deal (but that's another discussion for another time).
The wait was long but this month I finally got my hands on Nayuta and it's a great game despite there being a few things I was eh about. For starters, I just absolutely love the art style and direction. With upscaled textures and a sharp resolution, it felt like I was playing a remaster of an old Dreamcast game from 21 years ago with its HD low poly visuals. So it's even more impressive that Falcom managed to cram its visuals in a tiny PSP back in its original release in 2012.
And not only the visuals feel like I was playing a remastered Dreamcast game, but the gameplay complements that nostalgic feel. Nayuta is listed as an action RPG, similar to Falcom's other games like Ys and Zwei. But personally, it felt like one of those old action platformer games from the early 2000s. There are RPG elements like leveling up, increasing your stats, and doing side quests but the meat of Nayuta's gameplay boils down to playing the stages.
Each stage in Nayuta is when the titular character alongside a fairy named Noi must reach the "end point" to complete the stage. Along the way, there are various elements to attack either with Nayuta's sword abilities or Noi's arts (which are essentially elemental magic spells just like in mainline Trails). As the game progresses, Nayuta will also unlock craft abilities to help him progress the game's platforming challenges.
Speaking of challenges, each stage features three purple crystals to destroy, a treasure chest for new equipment or artifacts, and a mission objective, which is an additional goal to achieve such as defeating a certain amount of enemies or only taking a certain amount of hits or falling off the stage a certain amount of times. Doing these extra challenges will increase your rating for the stage with stars and the more stars you collect, the more abilities and boosts Nayuta will gain with his sword, platforming, and combo streak as well as new equipment.
Nayuta's gameplay is fairly simple in design but with the RPG elements as well as adding on new platforming abilities that even encourage replaying a stage to collect all of the stars, the gameplay never got stale once in my 40 hours within the game. However despite how different the gameplay is from mainline Trails, it certainly shares a lot of story beats with its structure and format. After all it is a Trails game and many people play Trails for the story.
Nayuta is a miniature version of what to expect in Trails and while it never reaches the highs for each mainline arc, it's rather grand considering it's a standalone game with currently no direct connections to the rest of Trails. The premise of the story is about Nayuta, a student studying astrology who goes home to Remnant Island for summer vacation and soon discovers a second world called Lost Heaven and unravels its mysteries that are tied to Nayuta's own world, including the belief that his world is a "flat earth" and it's possible to fall off from the "edge of the world".
Nayuta is formatted similarly to other Trails games with story progression, NPCs update frequently even if the amount of NPCs comes nowhere close to any other Trails game, there are quests to complete that you get from a mailbox and even quests you can only do in new game plus. And of course, talking to certain NPCs at the right time will advance the story.
The plot points, overall, while it's a fairly predictable story with no plot twists that are truly mind-blowing, it's still a very well-executed and focused narrative for the most part. Which may be a pro to some people as Trails games are often criticized for their excessive "bloat". It sets that grand multi-world adventure rather well without overstaying its welcome. That said, while Nayuta does a lot very well, there are a few things that could be improved.
For starters, I found some of the major characters lacking. One of Falcom's biggest strengths is character-focused narrative that especially shines in the Trails series. So it was rather a bit disappointing when not even the best characters (in my opinion of course) get a semblance of development, which is Creha, Signa, and Noi, pales in comparison to what Falcom has written in the past. Granted, it may be a bit unfair to compare a single game, which has far less text and character interaction than any other Trails game that is known for its interconnection (meaning you will see many of these characters in multiple games). However, it's a Trails game in name still, so serving that comparison may be difficult.
Not to mention, I especially found characters such as Lyra especially disappointing. Considering how prominent she's featured in key art of Nayuta, you would think she would have an important role in the game. But it turns out she has no agency or motivations on her own and practically exists only as an extension to Nayuta by simply being an immature love interest to him. I believe the story of Nayuta would play almost exactly the same without Lyra and that's rather disappointing to say for a Falcom game considering I never felt like this for any of the major Trails characters.
Plus, I found the ending of Nayuta to be rather sloppily executed. It just pretty much made the entire final chapter pointless in terms of stakes and sacrifices since Falcom really wanted to push for a squeaky clean perfect "happily ever after" ending. I think I would probably feel better about the ending if they combined the major plot events in the final chapter and the after-story as one huge finale. Because a second "ending" that is basically a reprise of the final ending just feels weird.
Besides a few weak characters who struggled to land the ending moments well, Nayuta is a game that has incited a lot of childhood wonder and memories in me from the PS2 and Dreamcast days, from its charming, vivid low poly graphics, the simple but yet always evolving action platforming gameplay and its concise but epic plotline. Whether or not Nayuta is connected to the rest of Trails, we can have plenty of discussions about that due to its many parallels to the series. However, it's an excellent entry as a standalone game without any requirement of playing the rest of Trails and it nails the balance between being simple and fun and complex and thought-provoking just right.