The stage tells its story. It’s early May, in the Nicofarre building in downtown Roppongi, a district of Tokyo. The house is packed as the fairly cute Kanako Kotera steps onto the stage to thunderous applause. She immediately begins singing the opening song to Nayuta no Kiseki, Falcom’s then-unreleased entry in the Kiseki series. A series of monitors along the back walls explode with colorful comments courtesy of their connection to Nico Nico Douga, Japan’s answer to Youtube. It’s being given the star treatment by a company that knows how to get its fans pumped for the next big title… and there’s good reason why.
Nayuta no Kiseki is the first title in the Kiseki line to drop its connection to the sweeping Legend of Heroes series. For the first time, Kiseki is “going it alone,” so to speak, and in the process has emerged as its own game. Distancing from its original namesake, it’s no longer a turn-based roleplayer in a fairly realistic world with political intrigue, but falls somewhere between Ys and Zwei, taking place in a dome-shaped world known as Lost Heaven. The titular hero Nayuta has both the swordsmanship of Adol and the acrobatic abilities of Ragna. Nayuta isn’t restricted to either jumping or dodging; he can have his cake and eat it too.
Nayuta needs all of it if he wishes to survive the perilous platforming stages scattered around the world. Taking a massive departure from its Kiseki brethren, Nayuta instead tasks you with exploring continents divided up into a handful of bite-sized stages, making it perfect for gaming on the go… especially since you can save at any time. On top of Nayuta’s ever-expanding arsenal of attacks, he’s followed around by a diminutive fairy named Noi who serves as his magic-user. New spells, known as arts, are learned Final Fantasy Blue Mage-style, by defeating special enemies that use the spell you’re trying to learn. Instead of something boring like MP, each spell has a certain number of uses that are constantly recharging until reaching their limit… which can be increased through level-ups earned by casting that spell often. Unfortunately, you earn experience for the spell whether or not the spell actually hits anything, so leveling magic is as brainless as just spamming spells whenever it’s available.
As you’re traveling through each continent, you’ll fight spectacular bosses that, despite their lack of challenge, are the real highlight of the game. Each of the zodiac-inspired bosses has a different strategy, and in a Zelda manner, require you use the tools you’ve earned previously in order to defeat them.
The very first boss is a giant statue that rises from the ground and smashes the wobbly pedestal you’re standing on, requiring you to run up it so that you’ll be close enough to whack it in the head. After a bit of damage, a second statue pops up from the opposite side (revealing its relation to the zodiac Gemini, the twins) and you’ll constantly be hopping back and forth as they borrow the headpiece that serves as its only weakpoint… while also dodging multiple strikes on the wobbly platform and even dealing with the platform being spun all the way around, Starfox barrel-roll style, while leaping through a net of lasers. The second boss is a fish (based on Pisces, perhaps?) that, midway through the fight, knocks your platform down a waterfall. The camera shifts perspective, and then you’re fighting this fish while dodging both his enormous jaws and blasts of lightning, all while the platform you’re standing on rushes down the waves.
Unfortunately, despite being cool as hell, the battles feel a bit easy, even on the harder difficulties. Enemies don’t really deal much damage in comparison to a lot of Falcom’s other games (when set to harder difficulty settings), and healing items — in the form of food that offers both healing and experience points, another Zwei crossover — are potent, and fairly plentiful.
The first few bosses of the game will bestow a Master Gear once you’ve beaten it. These shiny artifacts, once installed at your home base, allow you to open up new variations on stages based on the four seasons. Unlike games like The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons or Pokémon Black + White, which had seasons but didn’t change THAT much, the seasons in Nayuta offer drastic changes. The lava-covered volcanic fields of La Wolg may seem daunting at first, but shifting to a different season allows you to explore new areas untouched by molten rock. Likewise, the pristine forest of Oltapia that you visit early in the game explodes with color, new monsters, and dangerous new obstacles once you’ve changed the season from spring to winter. Sadly, you don’t have access to all seasons at once; each gear opens up one new season in the area it was found in, and although a few more can be found later in the game, it often feels like the season-changing mechanic wasn’t really used to its full potential, especially considering how heavily it was touted in its trailers and how awesome each old stage is when revisited with a new season.
But none of that stops Nayuta no Kiseki from being a fantastic game that hearkens back to some of Falcom’s older works. Even the music is reminiscent of Falcom’s older style from the early to mid-90s. It may be a different type of Kiseki, but it sets the stage for a new series all on its own.