Friday, December 29, 2017

Review: Blossom Tales - The Sleeping King [ Nintendo Switch eShop ]


It’s hard to believe that so far into the lifespan of the Switch there’s still been no announcement of the final plan for virtual console. Especially with so many people who’ve seemed to have walked away from gaming, or at least Nintendo consoles, for a while only to return there’s obviously an interest out there for revisiting classic first-party titles. One of my favorites, and among Nintendo’s most notable titles, is the SNES classic The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. While it’s a game that has previously had imitators the fact that it’s still not available on Switch has opened the door to these indie titles a little extra wide. Up until now I would have said that Ittle Dew 2+ was the best LttP clone in the eShop, but with Blossom Tales now available if you’re hankering for that classic top-down Zelda feel it’s a call that will likely come down to tastes.


Constructed as a game that is playing out as narrated by a grandfather telling a bedtime story to his 2 granddaughters the game has an immediate charm. Especially when he occasionally corrects himself for telling the “wrong story” or when you return to play and he picks up again I really appreciate how this conceit works and the game is better for it. It takes little time for the hero of his story, Lilly, to be knighted and for the action to start. The king is put into a magical sleep and the only way to revive him is to retrieve 3 ingredients… and of course getting them is no simple matter. What follows is several hours of mostly nostalgia (and fun) as Tales doesn’t do much to set itself apart from classic Zelda titles, instead it more seems to outright channel them. This isn’t meant as an insult though, there is a level of craft that makes many elements feel uncannily like a classic “lost” Zelda game.

While there only being 3 elements to retrieve can lead to a concern that the game would be too short there’s simply quite a lot to do and find along the way to help add meat to the game. There are a variety of tools, amulets, and enhancements hidden practically everywhere you go so you’ll absolutely want to be thorough so you don’t miss out on something. While you could probably beat the game without finding many of these items along the way somewhat strange things like the Bee Amulet can be very handy in the right spot so they’re worth talking to people and finding. In order to get everything you’ll need to do a fair amount of backtracking but the good news is that there are teleportation stones peppered around the map that reduce the pain of this greatly. Overall I appreciate the effort that shines through in keeping the focus on the action and puzzle-solving rather than having to meander around trying to remember how to get from Point A to Point B.


All that said, getting into weaknesses the biggest standout is actually pretty minor but in some key places it can be super annoying. I’m not positive how to describe it other than there’s a slight delay for Lilly for stop moving. Essentially when you move right and then let go she’ll take roughly an extra half step. While this can be compensated for, in particular, in some of the later sections of the game there are precision sequences where you need to keep moving and this can result in some unnecessary mistakes. I suppose if that’s my biggest complaint that’s not too bad though. Another issue, though not major, is that the game’s inventory system can be a bit clunky by modern standards. If you get irked by things that are perhaps a bit too derivative you may also find it isn’t for you, again this is a title unashamed to ape most aspects of a classic top-down Zelda game, but the thing is for the most part they really nail it so I didn’t end up minding.

As a whole Blossom Tales really shines on the Nintendo Switch and easily inspires nostalgia for Nintendo’s classic franchise. Carefully doing just enough to be different but not deviating too far from the games that inspired it somehow manages to carefully walk the tightrope effectively. Ultimately I see both it and Ittle Dew 2+ being two equal sides of the same reverent coin, offering their own takes on Link to the Past. I’d consider both to be worth your time, in the case of Blossom Tales it is just far more direct a copy of the formula rather than merely being inspired by it, but the quality of the execution makes it stand on its own regardless.


Score: 8.5

Pros:
  • A female protagonist and a clever storytelling mechanic wrapped around the game
  • In many ways feels and plays like a “lost Zelda” game with satisfying challenges, exploration, and puzzles
  • Compared to the more puzzle-focused Ittle Dew 2+ it is more action-focused overall


Cons:
  • For some it could feel a little too derivative
  • Lilly’s slight delay in stopping can be annoying in precision sections
  • The inventory system is a bit clunky


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