The trail starts here.

On July 5th, NIS America will be releasing the latest entry in Nihon Falcom’s long-running The Legend of Heroes series: Trails Through Daybreak. This has been a deep and complicated JRPG world to explore, made more difficult on the Switch by the haphazard releases—games have been ported out of order, and some have not been ported at all. If that complexity has turned you away from the series, then here’s some good news; The Legend of Heroes: Trails Through Daybreak may provide enough of a fresh start to ease your access.

Originally released in 2021 in Japan, Trails Through Daybreak is the first chapter of the second half of the Trails series. Yes, that means there are allusions to a bigger story arc, but the game takes place in a new setting with new characters, so players will not feel overwhelmed at the start.

Need proof? NIS America released a demo this week that allows players to experience the game’s prologue. I’ve now completed that introduction, and I have some bullet point impressions to impart. Eleven of them, as that’s my way.

  • As if to hammer home that this is a fresh start, the prologue does not dump us into the middle of a large battle like in previous Trails games. Instead, we simply meet our two protagonists—Van Arkride and Agnes Claudel—and accompany them on a quick mission that sets the story in motion.
  • If you did play earlier games and thought you might miss Rean Schwarzer or Lloyd Bannings, you can put those fears to rest. Van is instantly likable and it becomes abundantly clear by the prologue’s conclusion that he’s more than capable of carrying the mantle for a few entries.
  • Town exploration is an important part of these games, but the demo keeps that to a minimum. For the most part, you’re prevented from wandering off the path laid out by the prologue. Don’t worry, though—there are some newspapers to buy.
  • The reason for this focus may be that there’s a lot to learn about the battle system, which has changed dramatically from earlier entries. For example…
  • Traditionally entirely turn-based, Trails Through Daybreak introduces a real-time battle component. You can attack enemies on the field with A and dodge their attacks with B. When you’ve filled up the right gauge, you can enter the turn-based mode via ZR, then quickly hit Y for additional advantages. I’ll have plenty more on this system in my full review once I’m able to get a better grasp on its intricacies, but I will say now that executing the lesser battles in real-time really keeps things moving along.
  • Boss battles, it’s worth noting, are still entirely turn based.
  • Apparently, you can adjust the difficulty of these two combat systems separately.
  • The turn-based UI is going to throw longtime fans of the series, both in how it’s displayed and how it’s used. Trails Through Daybreak really shifts away from what we’ve come to know. Same with the Orbment system, now known as Xipha and customized in a completely different way.
  • The link system that allows two party members to buff each other’s attacks has been highly optimized. Now, you just need to be near any other teammate to put that into effect, making positioning more important than ever.
  • The need to scan enemies to learn their weaknesses is either gone from the game or just not utilized in the demo.
  • This is a very short demo; players can likely complete it in one sitting. But it’s also quite fun, and it does a great job of setting up our initial characters and the mysterious adventure on which they’ll soon embark.

Your demo progress will carry over to the full game in July, so there’s no reason to not give it a spin. You may want to wait until the end of this month, though, so you’re less likely to forget your combat training before setting out on Van and Agnes’ adventure.

JRPG fans can download the demo from the Nintendo eShop. More information on the game, including details on the still-barely-in-stock Switch Limited Edition, can be found at