The Hero image from The Legend of Heroes Trails into Reverie

Review: The Legend of Heroes: Trails Into Reverie (Nintendo Switch)

This series will never die.

11 mins read

My review of The Legend of Heroes: Trails Into Reverie is going to be quite different, because it’s largely pointless to actually review it. If you’ve never experienced a Legend of Heroes title before, then do not bother starting with this one. It’s only going to confuse the daylights out of you. If you’ve been playing along with the series, then it doesn’t really matter whether you think this is the very finest or worst in the series. You’re still going to play it. So, there’s exactly zero value to actually review Trails Intro Reverie. So instead, I’ll use this bit of digital space to explain why I find the overall series to be so admirable, and why, if you can find the time, it would actually be worth digging into.

Related reading: If you are looking to get a start with the Legend of Heroes series, then the best place is Trails of Cold Steel 1. Our review.

The reason people should not make Trails Into Reverie their first Heroes experience is that the game assumes that you’re familiar with the vast bulk of what came before it. Not just the six games that it is directly linked to, but also in a more abstract way every other game in the long series. The first five hours (I kid you not) involve just about every major character reuniting with every other character through long-winded conversations dripping with lore and in-jokes. You didn’t experience the Great Twilight yourself? Well, don’t even touch this game, because you’re only going to get a vague sense of what that was from these conversations, and the characters will talk about it endlessly.

Perhaps the most effective way to describe Trails Into Reverie is that you shouldn’t view it as a “new game,” or even “sequel”. Rather, remember how Final Fantasy VII came on three discs, and VIII and IX played out over four discs? Well, imagine Reverie is the ninth disc of a 10(+) disc series. Are you going to pop that disc in to play first? Of course not. Some of the other Legend of Heroes games are more accommodating to newcomers when played out of the “order” they were designed in, but this one most definitely is not.

A screenshot from Trails into Reverie, featuring a character attacking.

Why would developers do this? Well, it’s really quite simple: Imagine that this ten-disc “game” packed an average of 40-50 hours onto each disc And then imagine this being a rare case that a “game” actually justifies being that long. The Legend of Heroes series is monumentally epic. IGN called the series the “Avengers: Endgame” of video games. This is of course a silly comparison from a site incapable of framing anything outside of the frame of the most obnoxiously shallow examples of popular culture. A far better comparison (though one that requires the reader to have a bit of basic comprehension) is to say that The Legend of Heroes series is closely modelled after Romance of the Three Kingdoms, the sweeping epic about a particularly tumultuous time in ancient Chinese history.

It’s not just the length of these texts that makes the comparison apt. Romance of the Three Kingdoms is a drama that focuses on the heroics of many warlords, political figures, and military heroes. It is also focused on an era where “right and wrong” are more matters of perspective than reality. The Legend of Heroes, meanwhile, showcases a world in constant conflict, and the various perspectives of a very large number of characters involved in that world at every level of society. Reverie, here, kicks things off with a rebellion to seize control back of an independent state from an occupying force, and it only escalates from there.

This extended depth and massive ensemble of characters also allows the developer and writers to explore perspectives about geo-political conflict, class and racial tensions, and it takes the time to dig into the root causes of these conflicts too. That doesn’t often happen in video games. Too often the screen time afforded to the narrative is focused on depicting a world in conflict. Not taking the time to walk us through the circumstances.

A screenshot from Trails into Reverie, showcasing a character's special attack

Also akin to Romance of the Three Kingdoms, The Legend of Heroes really comes across as a case of deity-like beings battling to further their position. In Reverie, you get to enjoy running around with level 100 characters right from the outset (and yes, you should have an understanding of the combat system before jumping in, because the game equips these heroes with the abilities of level 100 Hercules-like beings). In Romance, the impression you’ll get is that these mighty leaders and generals are responsible for single-handedly defeating entire armies (a quality perfectly captured by Koei Tecmo’s Dynasty Warriors series). So too, in Trails, do you feel like it is your small band of heroes that are responsible for everything of consequence happening. Even when you get to control new characters (one assumes they’ll be the new generation of heroes future games will start to reference) there is still the sense that you’re the reason territories change hands, and so you’ll be paying close attention to the motivations and behaviours of each character, because it is laden with meaning and importance.

Related reading: Another good starting point is Trails From Zero. Our review.

Reverie, specifically, has one other quality that helps to make it the most epic piece of fan service we’ve seen in the JRPG genre: You’re actually going to play through multiple character arcs, with the characters broken up into roughly three groups that you can swap between to further the plot. There will be points where you can’t progress in one story arc until you’ve reached a point in another. This means you’ll need to move between the three arcs, and seeing how the stories are woven together is really quite magnificent. Reverie has very few weak moments for a game with a script this large, and it for the most part presents a mature and thoughtful reflection on its many and varied themes.

It has a spot of the “other” fan service to go alongside the general way it positions its story to reward long-term fans of the series. Yes, the girls have incredibly short skirts, and there’s swimwear for many of them. Yes, there are those kinds of amusing moments from time to time. It’s all presented as a break from the otherwise heavy themes, and the game never tips over into the pervy. However, I am forever fascinated that a series that is really quite sober has these elements. Then again, Alisa exists so I’m also not complaining.

A screenshot from Trails into Reverie 4, showcasing swimwear.

I know I haven’t spent much of the review discussing gameplay or other such merits that would help you decide whether The Legend of Heroes: Trails Into Reverie is worth your consumer dollars. To be blunt, I’ll reiterate from my opening paragraph: If you’re new to this series, then no. This is not the one to start with. If you’re a veteran you’re going to play it regardless of what I say, and you already know full well what it offers and what it plays like. However, what I do want to make clear is that I find The Legend of Heroes series as a whole to be a truly remarkable and creatively brave project. Spanning such an epic over so many years and individual releases might risk alienating any but the tiniest core audience. However, the risk has been totally worth it. Not many people might end up playing all the Legend of Heroes titles, but for those that are dedicated, this is an unparalleled epic experience, with each new entry adding more to the overall body of work. Reverie, here, is the culmination of so much that has come before and consequently it is enormously rewarding to play through.

Matt S. is the Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of DDNet. He's been writing about games for over 20 years, including a book, but is perhaps best-known for being the high priest of the Church of Hatsune Miku.

  • I thought I would use this comments section to note that I have started my Trails journey. I previously played Trails in the Sky over 10 years ago on PSP, so I’ve started over with the PC version. I don’t know if I’m going to beast-mode all of them one after another, but I have made a start! 🙂

    • I would dearly love to hear the thoughts of someone who plows through the entire series at a steady rate. That could make for a fascinating perspective. Good luck!

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