One of 2023's best-rated JRPGs is nearly here, but you need to play around 658 hours of other games first

The Legend of Heroes: Trails into Reverie
(Image credit: Nihon Falcom/NIS America)

The Legend of Heroes: Trails into Reverie launches in just a few days and is already getting rave reviews, but this culmination of beloved cult JRPG series is going to require a whole lot of prior experience for you to get the most out of it.

If you're not familiar with the Trails series, it's a line of RPGs from Japanese developer Nihon Falcom that's been running since 2004. You can basically think of it as a sort of continuation of the sorts of mid-budget JRPGs we used to get in the PS1 and PS2 eras. Trails has never managed - or even tried - to compete with the likes of Final Fantasy for sheer spectacle, but the series has garnered a loyal fanbase thanks to its solid combat systems and fantastic worldbuilding and storytelling.

It seems Trails into Reverie is no exception. Due to launch on July 7 worldwide, it's already garnering strong reviews, to the tune of an 82 aggregate rating on OpenCritic. That makes it one of the best-rated JRPGs of 2023, and seemingly a terrific option for genre fans who've exhausted the likes of Final Fantasy 16 and Octopath Traveler 2.

But if you're new to the series, you probably need to do a little homework first. There have been nine Trails games released before Trails into Reverie, each of which ties into one of three separate story arcs. Reverie is technically the fifth entry in the Erebonia arc, which previously consisted of Trails of Cold Steel 1-4. According to HowLongToBeat, a relaxed playthrough of the four Cold Steel games incorporating some sidequests would take a whopping 358 hours to complete.

But wait - there's more. Trails into Reverie actually serves not just as the fifth entry in the Erebonia arc, but also as a culmination of the Crossbell arc, which itself consists of two more games: Trails from Zero and Trails to Azure. A playthrough of those two clocks in at 130 hours.

And we're still not finished yet. See, if you want the full experience of the Crossbell arc, you need to play the three games in the Liberl arc, which consists of Trails in the Sky 1-3. The characters from the Sky arc play notable roles in the Crossbell games, so if you want the full story, there's only one option: another 170 hours for the Trails in the Sky trilogy.

That gets us to a grand total of 658 hours worth of homework before you're totally ready for Trails into Reverie. That sounds like a lot - and let's be honest, it is - but the fact that this series has actually maintained nearly 20 years worth of continuity is a refreshing rarity when it comes to long-running games, which are often obsessed with continual newbie-friendly reboots. Trails into Reverie seems specifically designed to reward those who have spent hundreds upon hundreds of hours growing to love the series, and I respect Nihon Falcom's willingness to serve its most dedicated fans.

Let's just, uh... not get started on the original Legend of Heroes series that Trails is technically a spin-off from. Everybody's got limits, you know?

Check out our guide to the very best JRPGs.

Dustin Bailey
Staff Writer

Dustin Bailey joined the GamesRadar team as a Staff Writer in May 2022, and is currently based in Missouri. He's been covering games (with occasional dalliances in the worlds of anime and pro wrestling) since 2015, first as a freelancer, then as a news writer at PCGamesN for nearly five years. His love for games was sparked somewhere between Metal Gear Solid 2 and Knights of the Old Republic, and these days you can usually find him splitting his entertainment time between retro gaming, the latest big action-adventure title, or a long haul in American Truck Simulator.