The Legend of Heroes: Trails Into Reverie
A cathartic conclusion that will satisfy fans of Trails’ dungeon crawling experience. DualShockers was provided with a copy of the game for review purposes.
- A wealth of combat options and party members.
- The Reverie Corridor never ceases to surprise.
- Localization choices elevate the original script and writing.
- Many cathartic and emotional moments for longtime fans.
- Many narrative elements feel rehashed and contrived.
- A big chunk of the main story is a chore.
Trails Into Reverie, as the title aptly suggests, leverages the famous JRPG series’ existing heritage to craft a daydream, a “what-if” scenario, rather than propelling the overarching plot or expanding the world. Imagine Crossbell facing another annexation. Picture a scenario where Rean irreversibly succumbs to his inner beastly transformation. Trails Into Reverie dares to explore these possibilities and re-examine (or recreate) some of the series’ pivotal moments from a triple-protagonist perspective.
Being a long-time fan, I have a good grasp on what Trails Into Reverie wants to do; the Japanese version has been already available on PS4, PC, and Nintendo Switch for three years now (along with a complete fan translation patch). What I wasn’t aware of was whether I would actually vibe with Reverie when I got the chance to finally play it.
It’s been a mixed experience, with an engaging gameplay loop in Reverie’s side dungeons and the great localization on the one hand, but on the other a main story that I struggled a lot to vibe (especially compared to something like Cold Steel 4).
First of all, Reverie’s narrative chessboard relies heavily on already established pieces. The Erbonian Empire, the birthplace of the first protagonist, Rean Schwarzer, is attempting to invade the Crossbell State, where the second protagonist, Lloyd Bannings, will mount a counteroffensive to liberate it. Sound familiar? Well, it should, as it literally mirrors the exact plot of the previous six games in the series.
The introduction of the third protagonist, codenamed ‘C’, adds a layer of mystery and intermittent cross-interactions between chapters. I also appreciate how his story serves as a redemption arc for a personal-favorite character of mine, but characters switching sides and finding redemption shortly afterward is nothing groundbreaking in the world of Trails. Ultimately, even C’s story arc does little to liberate Reverie from the shackles of its pervasive familiarity and repetitive nature.
The main issue lies in how Reverie forcefully backtracks on key character developments in order to justify its existence. Lloyd finds himself once again questioning whether his country’s political independence is the way to go, despite having already faced these doubts in his own duology. Meanwhile, some of Rean’s students like Juna and Jusis, despite the personal growth shown in Cold Steel 3 and 4, still rely on him for guidance while repeating the same concerns they have always harbored.
I appreciate the nostalgic callbacks and cathartic moments Reverie brings, but it’s just not interesting any more to sit through Musse’s repeated sexual innuendos toward Rean, or listen to everyone repeating the same words about trust, friendship, and camaraderie that we’ve heard countless times before. Even revisiting Lloyd’s SSS police office and Rean’s abode in Ymir Village loses its appeal after seeing these places countless times, with nothing creative or enticing to enliven them compared to previous iterations.
Fortunately, Trails Into Reverie is not oblivious to its own shortcomings, and it does a masterful work at masking them with the Reverie Corridor. Fans of the series might be aware of this corridor’s nature as a post-game dungeon, but here it can be considered another game grafted into the main experience (in fact, I’d go so far as to say that the Reverie Corridor is the true centerpiece of the trip, eclipsing the main storyline itself).
The Reverie Corridor (or True Reverie Corridor) is akin to a dreamy labyrinthine realm the characters can enter via a mirror at any poin in the story. It is filled with randomized areas, hidden items and legendary abilities for grinding purposes, but I see it more as an ever-present companion with how it evolves over time to reveal new chambers and features that really bring the RP to the G.
Inside the Corridor, you can manipulate the areas’ structure, adjust enemy levels, enlist the help of new allies, play thrilling card battles and participate in engaging lore and trivia contests. Simply put, if you’re a devout fan of Nihon Falcom’s blend of dungeon crawling and fun side content, Trails Into Reverie is an essential and infinitely replayable gem.
The Reverie Corridor also addresses my concerns with the main story dungeons by maintaining the elements of challenge and surprise throughout the dream. Each dungeon within the Reverie Corridor has unique characteristics that affect your use of abilities and strategies, secret rooms with beautiful backdrops reminiscent of Nihon Falcom’s Ys series, at least one unique overpowered boss in each room, as well as challenge areas that force you to use certain party members and strategies from over 50 unique playable characters.
Thankfully, Reverie continues Cold Steel 4’s tradition of letting you use the strategies you’ve honed over time throughout the series: Arts, S-Crafts, Brave Orders, Juna’s transforming Tonfa; every mechanic from Cold Steel is here plus new strategic mechanics like United Fronts (which is just a collective version of your regular S-Crafts). If Elie’s Aura Rain was your favorite healing option in Trails to Azure, you still have it here, and if you enjoyed Scherazard’s 100% critical Heaven’s Kiss ability in Sky like I did, it’s here too, though Scherazard herself is unplayable here thanks to her new overprotective husband.
With all these choices, as well as six difficulty settings, you can imagine the level of challenge Trails Into Reverie offers for thirsty dungeon-delvers like myself. Pretty much every boss can one-shot you and confuse your party members, and even the mobs can possess your characters at times and turn them against you. It’s as if the creators decided to make every fight modeled after that one Nyx fight from the original Persona 3. Navigating the lava-soaked floors and the dark corridors, and exploring the hidden rooms never ceased to invigorate the experience and provide a change of scenery, at least more than the main story ever did.
And it’s not as if there are no narrative benefits to embarking on this challenging journey, as defeating each boss earns you a crystal that can be used to unlock several side story episodes. There’s also about 10 hours’ worth of unlockable side-story content you can get through on top of the original 40-hour story experience. Moreover, the Reverie Corridor includes a ton of post-game challenges and extra stories to ease you into the upcoming Kuro no Kiseki and the new Calvard region, so even if the main story is your primary focus, you’ll find it well worth your time (and far more enjoyable and challenging) to unlock everything in the Reverie Corridor as well.
I also want to highlight how the localization reads like a dream compared to the Japanese. Notably, significant efforts are dedicated to crafting Nadia’s character–one of Reverie’s new characters–and transforming her through the English interpretation into a truly vivacious companion. The follow-ups in dialogue among party members in Active Voice (the random party banter during strolls) seem to be rewritten as well in many instances to foster stronger retorts, alleviate the tedium, and to move away from the repetitive Japanese writing pattern of one person making a playful remark and the other responding with “Kikoeru” or “I CAN HEAR YOU.”
Everything else is the same as any other Trails game. The music, the political machinations, the anime girls fawning over Rean, and Lloyd being the chad he always is. The story here feels mostly skippable except for the C tidbits, but thanks to the localization and the wealth of features in Reverie Corridor, the game’s own identity still shines through. It’s worth it, just about. It’s best classified as a spin-off celebration title, nothing more, nothing less.
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