I think my next three game reviews are going to be borderline rant or of not-so-great games, so let me sneak in a positive one here to prevent a 4-hit combo of mediocrity. I beat Nayuta no Kiseki earlier this month, but didn’t feel like interrupting my Rewrite HF posts so I held off reviewing ’til now.
If you’ve been following Japan gaming news then you’d probably see that the latest Legend of Heroes games, dubbed the Kiseki series, have gotten quite popular. Amazing world-building, likeable characters, and a meticulously explained complex story has won over many hearts for Falcom’s RPG series. In fact, the Kiseki games got so popular that Falcom decided it was a good marketing strategy to release a spin-off with a different world setting and gameplay style under its name to make it sell better. It worked (3-digits in the first week), so who can blame them? Said game is Nayuta no Kiseki, and while it is under the Kiseki name, it feels more like a mash-up of Ys and Zwei (the latter of which I have not played yet, but heard about the system) with more plot and dialogue.
Nayuta no Kiseki stars our main character Nayuta, a fifteen-year-old boy going home to Nokosarejima for his summer vacation with his friend and big brother figure Signa. Nokosarejima is an island on which many shooting stars and ruins fall, and of particular note are Star Fragments, stones that display images of a different world inside them (dubbed the Lost Heaven). Nayuta’s parents died in search of Lost Heaven, so our curious boy has made it his goal to search for the world. One day, large ruins fall from the sky, landing near Nokosarejima. Nayuta and Signa go explore, to find a small fairy named Noi on the topmost floor, and two suspicious men who take a gear-shaped object from her. Little did they know that she is actually from the world known as Lost Heaven, and the gateway there is right in Nayuta’s backyard.
The game does have an interesting world setting, and even Nokosarejima has an otherworldly feel. The story, writing, and language is much less complex than the Legend of Heroes games, and the focus is more on magic than politics. The plot in Nayuta is much simpler, almost like an Ys game with more dialogue and a speaking protagonist. It was interesting, but also rather predictable (especially if you’re accustomed to the Kiseki games and your process of formulating theories turn to the crazier side of things). The characters themselves have the Falcom charm and more development than most of the casts in Ys games, and Nayuta is an adorable and likeable protagonist. He is neither hot-headed nor whiny, but rather a studious and curious boy who has an interest in astronomy and the mysteries of the world. He doesn’t get dispirited for long, and is able to maintain rational thought in most situations too. The general characters and tropes of this game may seem to be for a younger target audience than the Legend of Heroes games, but they have their own charm and development.
The battle controls feel like the lovechild of Ys Seven and Oath in Felghana. In Nayuta, you’ve got both the evade and jump buttons, as well as a magic button like Oath. However, instead of being limited to three lame skills (okay, I’ll apologize to the earth magic, that was the single most useful thing I got in the game), you get access to a wide variety of different magic that level up the more you use them. Magic, or as the game calls it in Kiseki fashion, Arts, have many different uses and each one is worth a try. From inflicting status effects (which are actually immensely useful on anything but bosses) to surrounding Nayuta with orbs that deal damage upon contact, there are a great many strategies from using Arts alone. You play as only Nayuta and Noi (for Arts) like Felghana, but you get two different types of weapons to choose from. The one-handed sword deals less damage but moves quickly, making it ideal for button mashers. The two-handed weapons have better range and power, but are much slower so if you mindlessly mash, the delay you suffer can leave you vulnerable to attacks.
The game takes place in the aforementioned Lost Heaven, which consists of four lands with manipulatable seasons. Instead of traversing through dungeons and world maps, each land is divided into four stages and a boss stage. This makes the game perfect for a handheld, as it is very pick-up and play. Each stage has a stage objective as well as three crystals, and you will be ranked from 1-3 stars upon clearing the stage (one star each for getting to the end, meeting the objective, and breaking all 3 crystals). Oath in Felghana’s platforming elements are back thanks to the jump button, but I think this game is slightly less rage-inducing. Slightly. I’m terrible at platformers, okay? As for why I compared Nayuta to Zwei, it’s because you gain a lot of your experience from eating the food that you cook. Outside of battle, you can take quests from townspeople much like the requests in the Kiseki games. However, these sidequests are quite simple, and the puzzle-like ones are nowhere near as cyptic as a certain phantom thief’s riddles.
Since the game is marketed as an “Action RPG that won’t make those who don’t usually play them ragequit,” I found it overall easier than Ys Seven on the same difficulty (Hard). The bosses are easier than your typical Ys boss for the most part (with the exception of a few), and you initially only get the four difficulty options of Beginner, Easy, Normal and Hard. Like the Tales of games, you can change difficulty on the go, and the option to lower boss difficulty if you died against it too much is back. If you die, instead of laughing at you and bringing you to the load game screen, you can either retry the stage or get sent back to the world map in your current condition (you keep whatever levels ups or items obtained in the stage before you died).
But don’t be turned off, Nightmare mode masochists! The first playthrough may be designed as a bridge for turn-based RPG players to action RPGs (thus being the perfect bridge for Kiseki fans to the Ys games), but the post-game is for those why cry for more pain. After clearing the game, the Infinity difficulty is unlocked. Not only are all enemies powered up, but they also level scale with you to a certain limit (and you can even remove that limit later, allowing everything to level with you to level 99). The enemies in the second-playthrough-only stages are strong too, murdering Nayuta with his best available equipment in two hits on Infinity (and three hits on Hard, before grinding levels). Do you love that feeling of having previously level 1 enemies deal triple-digit damage to level 50 you? Do your second playthrough on Infinity!
The games uses what seems to be the Ys Seven engine, but the aesthetics are gorgeous this time around. The environment designs are colorful and pleasing to the eye, whether it is beautiful scenery or marvellous ancient technology. This is a very visually pleasing game, especially considering the PSP’s limitations. The music is your usual Falcom goodness, although what stood out to me the most was a certain stage theme that sounded almost identical to Masquerade of Lies from Sora no Kiseki The Third.
Final thoughts? Nayuta no Kiseki was definitely fun to play. It’s made to be much less frustrating than the earlier Ys games, but also offers some pretty masochistic options for those of you crying for Nightmare mode. The story may be simpler than main Kiseki games and the system may not offer that much in terms of exploration, but the atmosphere is very pleasant. It’s not my top Falcom game, but I’d recommend it as an introduction to Falcom for new gamers, sort of. It’s like if several Falcom games has an orgy and managed to give birth to a child with elements of all the participants. The length for the first playthrough is around 20-40 hours, depending on how fast you read dialogue, how much of a perfectionist you are with quests and getting 3 stars in each stage, and how good you are with platforming elements (I am a disaster with those but was determined to get 3 stars, hence my playtime being closer to the 40 hour end).