NOTE: This article was updated on 1/3/18 to reflect our thoughts on the Nintendo Switch Version
While Breath of the Wild is an amazing game that everyone seems to be playing and talking about these days, some people will most likely be reminiscing about the roots of the series, thinking back fondly about the games that made them fall in love with Zelda in the first place. Are you, dear reader, one of those people who would like to relive A Link to the Past? Or maybe you are one of the many people who was hoping that Link would be portrayed as a girl in the new release? Either way, Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King is a title that can check both those boxes off of the list. Blossom Tales is a love letter to SNES-era top-down action/adventure games, A Link to the Past especially. Players take on the role of a brave young girl named Lily as she fulfills her dream by becoming a Knight of the Rose. It’s not all sunshine and roses, however. On the same day of the knighting ceremony, King Orchid’s brother Crocus (the court wizard) enacts his evil plan to put the king into an enchanted sleep and take over the kingdom with his legion of orcs. Lily then sets off on a journey to collect the three rare ingredients needed to cure the king and stop his evil brother Crocus.
Taking plenty of cues from A Link to the Past, the world of Blossom Tales will feel comfortable and quite familiar to anyone who has spent time adventuring in Hyrule. The Kingdom of Blossom is full of bright, colorful, and varied environments. Lily’s adventures take her from the depths of a dank castle dungeon to the snow-covered, blustery heights of Pinecone Village and eventually the Wasteland: homeland of the dreaded orcs. And there are plenty of nooks and crannies to be explored and secrets to be uncovered on the way. Blossom Tales also features an upbeat soundtrack to accompany you on your adventures. Seriously, the soundtrack is just as charming as the visuals. On occasion, I would find my head bobbing along with the tunes. The similarities don’t end with the world you’ll be exploring; it also carries over to many of the gameplay mechanics!
Lily’s health is represented by hearts. You can find extra hearts by beating dungeon bosses and by finding four heart pieces to make a whole. Sounds familiar? During the course of your adventure, you will find many helpful tools and consumable items to help you on your journey. Bombs and the bow and arrow are two of the most useful tools you’ll find. Later on in the game, you will also come across some powerful medallions that allow Lily to use certain magic spells. Everything is powered by her green energy bar. It regenerates automatically so you don’t need to worry about replenishing it. I like this because it allows you to use your tools more often instead of worrying about your stock of bombs/arrows. The bar can be increased as well by finding energy shards hidden around the kingdom. Certain tools can be upgraded to improve their efficiency. The bow and arrow, for example. Once you find the ingredients you need, a blacksmith will upgrade it so you can fire three arrows at the same time. This makes the bow and arrow incredibly useful for taking out multiple enemies at once, making it a smart idea to search out all possible upgrades to your arsenal. You’ll need to be well prepared when taking on Blossom Tales dungeons.
Dungeons! Of course, you can’t have an adventure without exploring some dungeons! There is a total of five dungeons to trailblaze your way through. They’re chock full of the usual staples; enemies to slay, clever puzzles to solve, obstacles to navigate, keys to find, and multiple bosses to defeat. The dungeons are quite enjoyable, I never got the feeling that they were dragging on for too long. It also helps that the autosave feature is excellent: the game saves when you enter a room so you can start off right where you left off, even in the middle of a dungeon. The puzzles aren’t too difficult to figure out. The only ones that gave me any trouble were the memory puzzles that make you repeat a pattern played by a group of magical rocks by hitting them in the same order they played in, but I’ve never been good at them anyways so that’s no big surprise. Once the final boss of the dungeon is defeated, Lily is teleported out so you don’t have to worry about trekking back. And speaking of teleporting, the kingdom of Blossom is littered with teleportation pedestals to help facilitate fast travel to all the main areas in the game; some can even be found in the middle of a dungeon.
One unique thing that separates it from all the other top-down adventure game is in the way the narrative unfolds. The first scene opens up with a pair of children (Lily and Chrys) begging their grandfather to tell them a new story. He agrees, telling the story of Lily, the brave new Knight of the Rose. This is not just a standard plot device, though: It also serves as a gameplay mechanic. Throughout the story, Chrys and Lily interrupt their grandfather with their own suggestions to change things up a bit. For example; the player runs into a band of thieves causing trouble. When the head honcho appears, Lily and Chrys start arguing over whether the leader is a ninja or a pirate queen. Now the player has to choose one or the other, changing the encounter on the fly. It doesn’t change too much gameplay-wise, but the dynamic twist helps to add an extra layer of charm to an already quaint game. I particularly enjoy the segments whenever you load up your save file. The grandfather quickly recounts what is happening in the adventure to Lily and Chrys. Not only is it handy in case you haven’t played in a while, but it reminds me of the Shining Force games on Sega, where something similar happens every time you load up your file, or whenever you save and quit.
Even though Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King looks and feels like a classic Zelda game, it is unique and fun enough to stand on its own as an excellent adventure and an all-around good time. It takes around 10 hours to beat, so it isn’t too time-consuming. I haven’t finished exploring and uncovering all the secrets yet, so I’m sure I can squeeze a few more hours of gameplay out of it. It supports the use of a controller, so that’s a nice bonus too. Sometimes you need precise movements and I find that hard to do while using the keyboard. Blossom Tales is available now, so check it out if you’re in the market for a lighthearted action adventure.
NINTENDO SWITCH NOTES (By Edwin Velez):
Blossom Tales: A Switch to the Pas….Er…. I mean: Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King is a beautiful and fun ode to the Legend of Zelda series. Having played Kamiko, Ittle Dew 2, and Oceanhorn all on Switch prior to getting to experience Blossom Tales, I can tell you without a hint of doubt, there are plenty of good Zelda-esque games on the Switch that are not Breath of the Wild. I can also tell you without doubt that Blossom Tales is my favorite of that bunch, and while the others are great in their own ways, Blossom Tales has the edge. It has a peculiar familiarity, playing a lot like Link to the Past, while maintaining a uniqueness in its characters and story telling, all while embracing the era of gaming from which it was inspired. Rich reviewed it on PC early last year and LOVED it, and everything he said is spot on, and all translates perfectly to the Switch.
Castel Pixel nailed the visuals and audio. The songs are perfectly original bit-styled tracks that feel handpicked from the 80’s, and the graphics are one in the same, but maintain a clean and bright modern look. The story telling narrative is so unique and handy for when you come back to play, reminding you of what the current goal and state of affairs is. It’s got humor, great dungeons, lots of gadgets, loads of nostalgia, and much much more. If I had any complaints, it’s that it could use a bit more modern touches. Small changes like adding an item to the Y button would make it less of a nuisance to change your equipment constantly. Regardless, it’s one of the best games on Switch right now, and while I get to say that a lot because of the quality games I have played on Switch, Blossom Tales is truly something special. Simple, elegant, and oh so nostalgic. It feels fresh and familiar all at once, and plays so damn well in handheld mode.
I am hoping we get Game Boy Advanced Virtual Console titles ASAP, because I am ready to romp about in Minish Cap/ A Link to the Past on Switch once more after being awoken by Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King. DO NOT SLEEP ON THIS GAME. Cut down bushes, break pots, do what you have to do for a bit of coin and B U Y I T.
*Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 9/10
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