Title Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King
Genre Action / Adventure
Price $19.99 (AUD)
Developer Castle Pixel, LLC.
Publisher FDG Entertainment
Time to complete main story Approximately 6 hours
Time to 100% Approximately 12 hours
Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King is a top-down action/adventure game that is a console exclusive for the Nintendo Switch.
This game is very self-aware of its desire to mimic the classic Legend of Zelda games. There is a lot of self-referential humour from the get-go and you’ll continue to notice more similarities throughout the game. Therefore as the game is so insistent on comparing itself to the Legend of Zelda franchise, there will inevitably be a lot of comparisons in this review.
World / Dungeon Design
Blossom Tales’s world is expansive and packed full of secrets. Traversing the world is laid out in squares, just like classic Legend of Zelda games. The squares are big and expansive thanks to the modern 16:9 aspect ratio, providing you with more to explore.
The map shows you the square where you’ll need to go for your next objective. There is also a Log section in the pause menu that also shows your current quest objective. This takes away from the exploration and discovery, however it does prevent getting lost and frustrated. Portal stones allow you to transport Lily to any other portal stone across the map. It’s convenient not to have to backtrack, but it does make the world feel less grand.
The map is actually pretty difficult to read, with no key or markers for locations or landmarks. You can make out the general layout by seeing the world in relation to the castle, but it just comes across as bland. To make matters worse, the marker for your current position is a tiny red dot that can be very difficult to see (especially if you’re red-green colorblind – like I am). It also would have been useful to have a point marker system, quite like the one in The Legend of Zelda: A link Between Worlds.
The dungeons in Blossom Tales are challenging and require you to use your wits, however there can come across as repetitive and lacking variety. The dungeons’ puzzles generally require Lily to step on each square laid out on a grid only once, pushing boulders around or running to the end of a room as the tiles fall from beneath her. Throughout the entire game, there are only four main dungeons plus a tutorial dungeon at the beginning. I personally felt as though it needed a few more to prolong the experience.
Lily finds the dungeons’ key items by defeating the respective mini-boss. This takes out the challenge of finding them, but they are quite challenging and expertly designed. The second half of each dungeon are then full of puzzles that require you to use the recently obtained item.
The final bosses offer more of a challenge. They require some skill with the controller and for you to familiarise yourself with their attack patterns. These bosses also require more than just the usual three strikes, which is a nice change of pace.
As soon as you’re able to freely move around as Lily, you’ll instantly have a wave of nostalgia wash over you. The sword slashing, the movement, assigning items to A, B & X; it all just brings you back to the first time you inserted that Link to the Past cartridge into your Super Nintendo (or the first time you pressed download from the Virtual Console… I feel old). However, Blossom Tales may be a little too faithful at times by implementing outdated gameplay practises. We are spoilt as modern gamers; advances in hardware and software have made us accustom to streamlining through our inventory. Therefore, assigning items to each button becomes tiring when you have to go the start menu each time you want to change your items.
Lily control similarly to past 2D Zelda titles, but she also feels more floaty than usual. It may take some time, but you’ll soon realise that her controls are more suited for the game’s nuances. However, it does make some puzzles a little infuriating.
A lot of attacks like the Spin Attack (called a Roundhouse in this game) now seem iconic to the genre, but Blossom Tales adds more to this combat system. Lily can make a three-strike combo (swinging left, right and then a Roundhouse attack). You can also do a jump strike, however it can feel clunky and unintuitive. The move requires you to execute a Roundhouse attack, and then press A again midspin. Whilst this doesn’t sound difficult, it can sometimes result in you using it unintentionally. I can’t tell you how many times I fell down a pit or into a new square (or maybe I’m just bad at video games). Despite its minor drawbacks, combat encourages the use of items as they cause a lot more damage and some enemies actually require these items to defeat them. At times, Blossom Tales can feel like a Zelda/Dynasty Warriors game when you consider the amount of enemies that this game can throw at you. This provides a decent challenge, but it does feel a little stale in dungeons when there are a lack of puzzles and design ingenuity. It feels like they are just thrown in just to fill out the game. However, fighting hordes of enemies can often feel rewarding and enjoyable, especially when there is an automatic throw option for the bombs… something that I never knew I wanted until now.
I had some fun…
Collecting bottles to get potions appears to be a thing of the past. In Blossom Tales, you can just collect bottles full of potions from chests in dungeons and throughout the overworld. This can be both a positive and a negative as you can have as many potions as you’d like, however that can make the game too easy for veterans of the genre. There is also no coin limit, saving you from having to obtain bigger wallets to carry more. However, this does affect the game’s economic balance; I found it quite difficult to find coins to pay for upgrades at the beginning, but by the end I had over 1500 coins with nothing to spend them on.
There was one moment where the game had glitched and Lily was stuck. I couldn’t move, attack or use any items, but enemies were still moving around me. I had to restart the game, however thanks the autosave feature that triggers every time you enter a new square, I didn’t lose much progress.
Blossom Tales has a very basic plot; the king has been cursed into an eternal slumber by his evil wizard brother. Lily, a new recruit, goes out to find the ingredients to a concoction to awaken the king and then defeat the wizard… that’s it. Print it; wrap it; ship it. But what makes the story engaging is the way in which it is presented.
The entire adventure is told from Grandpa’s perspective as he tells a nighttime story to his grandchildren. Throughout the game, usual plot dialogue is instead presented through this perspective, further incentivising our devotion to the characters (both in and out of the story). This presentation is also an ingenious tutorial method as Grandpa explains the use of items through engaging dialogue. He also speaks up even when you do something unrelated to the main plot, proving that the developers wanted players to explore and veer off from the main path.
Blossom Tales’s story challenges the trope that one hero is destined to fix everything. The kingdom has an army that is sent to break the curse and NPCs are surprised when a single recruit accomplishes so much.
NPCs provide hints and tips about side quests and world building, which is quite standard for action/adventure games. However, many NPCs say different lines each time you talk to them and the dialogue can change after certain key plot points. I found this to be quite impressive for an indie title, until I found out that many NPCs often say the same lines as each other. This was quite disappointing despite the dialogue being funny and well-written.
There are also moments when the dialogue takes on a much more mature tone. It mainly happened during dialogue before a boss battle, but it created a discomforting vibe. This initially came as quite a shock as it painted a different light on the genre.
Interestingly enough, Lily has brief moments of dialogue as well. They are often quips towards dungeon bosses or quick responses to key NPCs. These moments can take away from Shigeru Miyamoto’s theory of the player projecting oneself onto the character. However, some players have been clambering for Link to speak for years, so take of that what you will.
There are occasional moments where you can choose the outcome of certain scenarios. This is all done through grandpa’s storytelling, which also allows you to question his narrative perspective. These dialogue choices create further engagement in the overall narrative; however, they do not affect the overarching plot.
As you search throughout the overworld and dungeons, you’ll find Elissa’s Scrolls. These scrolls are left here by a past adventurer and can add context and lore to situations and locations. I found this to be another point in favour of Blossom Tales’s clever storytelling.
Just like in any Legend of Zelda game, there are plenty of side quests, but they aren’t mandatory. In Blossom Tales, side-quests are used to gain rewards, such as: gold, heart pieces and magic expansions. However, don’t expect anything groundbreaking as these side-quests simply require you to fetch and deliver.
The ending (without giving too much away) unfortunately fell short of expectations. It wrapped everything up without inspiring any meaningful thought.
Music / Sound Design
Music plays such a pivotal role in Legend of Zelda games and Blossom Tales tries its best to replicate that. The pieces are all wonderfully recreated in classic 16-Bit style that screams of nostalgia.
The music is catchy and provided a great sense of adventure. There were many moments where I found myself humming along to the overworld music. However, none of these pieces are particularly memorable once you finish the game. At the time of writing this, I cannot remember how any of the music goes, which is a testament against its overall staying power; whereas any Legend of Zelda fan can instantly begin humming the overworld theme at a moment’s notice.
That’s not to say that the music didn’t serve its purpose. The dungeon music creates an air of careful dungeoneering that is faintly reminiscent to that of Link’s Awakening’s dungeons. The boss music is also very catchy and perfectly catches that sense of epicness.
It’s not a secret that Blossom Tales is influenced by The Legend of Zelda series, however sometimes the music sounds way too similar. One town’s music actually had the same three notes from Zelda’s Lullaby and I had to roll my eyes.
Blossom Tales implemented the classic jingle when you solve a puzzle or uncover a secret. It isn’t as memorable as Legend of Zelda’s, but it still replicates the same sense of accomplishment.
Graphics / Art Direction
The art direction for Blossom Tales clearly aims to replicate that of Link to the Past’s. The game has a classic 16-bit art style that once again reignites that sense of nostalgia.
The sprite-work is quite detailed and there are a lot of unique enemies with great designs. Lily’s sprite seems a bit lacking in detail, however she does have some cute idle animations which adds to her character; one of which is similar to Sonic’s classic impatient foot-tapping.
Blossom Tales’s overworld is bursting with creativity and colour, supporting that rich sense of adventure. Each section is distinctly unique and you’re always left excited for what is yet to come.
Clearly Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King is attempting to recapture that feeling of nostalgia that so many experienced from our childhoods. Whilst it succeeds in doing so at times, it also falls short in terms of staying power.
It replicates that feeling of a grand adventure, and the art direction is very charming and whimsical. Without a doubt, Blossom Tales’s storytelling method is a wonderfully unique method that redeems a lot of its shortcomings.
For the genre that it falls under, it’s a shame that the adventure is as short as it is. I would’ve liked a few more dungeons that prolonged the experience without being padded out with hordes of enemies.
It is a great game in its own right, but it is also a less than average Legend of Zelda game. I would recommend it to any Zelda fan that wants to relive the glory days, but a replay of Link to the Past is a much more reliably pleasant experience.
Final Score: 77%
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