Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Renan Fontes 21.12.2017

Review for Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King on Nintendo Switch

What is it exactly that gives The Legend of Zelda its magic? It is a franchise that's been around for three decades now and no developer has managed to emulate the feel and polish of a Zelda title perfectly during that time. Amazing action-adventure games have come and gone, but seldom have the so called "Zelda-killers," a now thankfully defunct phrase, left a lasting impression. Blossom Tales, while in no means a "Zelda-killer," does take quite a bit of inspiration from the 2D side of the franchise. Dungeons, the hud, and even the music invoke feelings of Capcom's short stint with the series. Despite some heavy-handed homage, however, Blossom Tales has its own style of charm that keeps it from being derivative.

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Blossom Tales is how its story is presented. Instead of telling a traditional fantasy plot, the narrative instead is framed through the lens of a grandfather telling a story to his two grandchildren, Lily and Chrys. It's implied he's previously told them about The Legend of Zelda so many times that they have gotten bored of it, and now he's moved onto a tale focusing on a young knight, Lily, in a quest to save her kingdom.

This Princess Bride style of narration, while entirely fine enough on its own, is enhanced by how it's integrated into the actual gameplay. During several points in the story, the children will try to override the grandfather's narration by chiming in their own ideas on how the story should progress. These moments don't change the story too much, but giving a choice in whether or not to fight a ninja or a pirate is certainly a charming idea and something two siblings would likely bicker about.

Screenshot for Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King on Nintendo Switch

At first glance, the gameplay itself isn't too different from how a typical top-down Zelda would play. Lily has a sword to attack with, items she can equip to use as weapons and solve puzzles, and assorted goodies to collect to help her on her journey, like heart pieces. In actuality, although the core design is clearly based off of Nintendo's fantasy epic, Lily isn't just a carbon copy of Link. Her sword swings can chain into a three hit combo, she can do a lunging attack after charging up a sword spin, and she has a stamina bar that prevents her from just spamming her sub-weapons. While the latter certainly feels influenced from A Link Between Worlds, the former two are very much their own take on the formula, giving Lily a degree of mobility more akin to an action RPG.

Side-quests play a big role in giving Blossom Tales its length, and giving the combat some extra weight. In most action adventures, there's usually no reason to seek out enemies to kill, as they only drop money: something that can often be gained through other means or loses its significance by mid-game. Here, enemies drop unique items that can be traded to certain NPCs for weapon upgrades, heart pieces, stamina pieces, or just gold. These simple drops, which will happen naturally and abundantly throughout Lily's journey, keep side-quests from simply being lengthy fetch quests. Of course, they still do mostly involve fetching, but it's hard to complain when drop rates are so high and it's easy enough to stockpile items before they are even necessary.

Screenshot for Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King on Nintendo Switch

One of the biggest problems with modern dungeon design is the overreliance on simplistic puzzles. This is a problem many genres suffer from. Dungeons will be lengthy, but most "puzzles" will simply involve hitting a switch or moving an item with little to no thought. Blossom Tales does both of these, but it also utilises an older style of puzzle design where it's not unrealistic to take a moment to assess the situation after getting stumped. Nothing stands out as frustratingly hard, but each dungeon makes sure to have several rooms where Lily isn't just challenged by an onslaught of enemies. A good puzzle forces a player to acknowledge and analyse the game design, and the dungeons here do just that.

Aesthetically, the art style is stuck somewhere between paying homage to the 16-bit era of gaming and exaggerating how sprites used to look. The overworld looks incredible and feels right at home on a more colourful Super Nintendo, but most character models are far too simplified. This faux retro style is not going to connect with anyone familiar with the third and fourth gens of gaming. While the NES and SNES weren't exactly powerhouses, developers did try their best to make their games look good. The sprites here don't, and that's a shame considering how good everything else looks.

Screenshot for Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King on Nintendo Switch

While Blossom Tales is an overall well designed and enjoyable action adventure, it deserves praise for just how wholesome, and almost progressive, it is. Female protagonists are hardly a new concept, but Lily is treated with the same amount of respect someone like Link would be. She isn't sexualised, characters don't make obtuse comments about her gender or put her down, and the grandson never raises a stink about having to listen to a story about a girl. These are small details, but it's refreshing to see a videogame take a more normalised approach to female character writing.

Blossom Tales isn't the most original tale, and it references The Legend of Zelda series quite a bit, but it also has its own style, its own charm. This isn't Hyrule and Lily isn't Link; she's her own hero in her own story. Could it have benefitted from a more original take on the genre? Of course, but it uses its homage as a strength and never a crutch, something so few games get right. That, in itself, is something special.

Screenshot for Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

While it may be easy to disregard Blossom Tales as a simple Zelda clone, the amount of charm and effort put into making it wholly unique, while honouring its inspiration, is both admirable and deserving of attention. Its dungeons feature genuinely thought-provoking puzzles, its combat requires a fair amount of strategy, and its story's Princess Bride-like narration lends itself to copious amounts of charismatic story beats. The faux retro graphics won't win over anyone sick of the style and the first impression perhaps relies upon referencing A Link to the Past a bit too much, but Blossom Tales is an incredibly creative and wholesome adventure that knows exactly what it is, even if it isn't entirely original. If nothing else, it's an immensely satisfying scratch for the Switch's 2D action-adventure itch.

Developer

Castle Pixel

Publisher

FDG Entertainment

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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