Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King takes us back to 1991 and the SNES classic loved by so many – Zelda a Link to the Past. Right off the bat we are in a living room about to be told that story by Grandpa when one of the grandkids moans that they have heard that one too many times. Instead we are told the story of a King that has been cursed into a deep sleep by his evil brother Crocus. The kings retinue tells the unlikely heroine, Lily a newly promoted Knight that the only thing that will wake the King is a concoction made from three rare ingredients found in remote locations around the world. The more experienced Knights are sent in search of these ingredients and are quickly dealt with by Crocus’ evil minions – enter Lily, the last hope in this classic RPG tale that doesn’t take itself too seriously making light of its position as a homage to Zelda and even referencing more modern games like Shovel Knight in a whimsical way whilst keeping true to the troupes of its inspiration.
The game has a retro soundtrack thats in keeping with the style of games from the time but thankfully we have a larger soundtrack thanks to Visager who produced 42 tracks for the game from the simple Fairy Cave song to the titular Blossom Tale. These tracks are full of upbeat and dark portions and play out nicely to the game. Sound effects are simple yet satisfying, slashing a foe is as it should be and blowing them up is satisfying as are the sound effects for things like finding secrets – everything here takes me back to my childhood without being a direct rip off.
Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King is a top down adventure set in a fantasy world. The world and characters you meet are varied and everything is lush and vibrant, the colours pop out at you in both handheld and on the move. That said the graphics are quite rough around the edges and everything has a blocky feel to it which is less refined than many of the pixel art games we see today, its unsurprising considering there are a large variety of mobs and environments and the Castle Pixel team is very small, when you take that into consideration the visuals are a great job albeit they won’t be winning any awards.
When I first loaded up the game I smiled at the intro and then couldn’t help but think to myself that I was in for a carbon copy of Zelda: A link to the past. Whilst thats one of my favourite games of all time its a game I have already played a lot and there are many newer versions which often feel soulless, needless to say I went in a bit hesitant. Its component pieces will offer no surprises – you have a sword with a spinning charge attack, a shield and as you progress you come across familiar accessories such as a bow and arrow, bombs a shovel and even a trusty boomerang. There are a few creative additions such as bees which hunt down the nearest enemies. You head out to gather the first of 3 ingredients and begin chatting to the locals, picking up fetch or deliver quests as well as tidbits of information that hint at the location of treasures and other goodies. Taking on mobs is a case of swinging your sword with A and choosing two accessories which can be mapped to X and B – this system works nicely and feels intuitive however I did feel that the shield should be mapped to another button, perhaps L which would save some of the time I spent in the menus unnecessarily.
As I began adventuring somehow I found myself having more fun as opposed to my expectation of less fun, I put this down to just everything being good. The dialogue is a star with some really funny lines and the world is laid out in a way that makes sense. Whilst the game does indeed border on a straight copy it adds a few nice features that keep it fun and take away some of the less fun parts of this type of game, the first is ammunition for bows and bombs being replaced by an energy meter, using your accessories consumes some of this and recharges over time. This stamina bar can be expanded by collecting shards and this system works well here. The second is the ability to teleport between portals that you have discovered which cuts down on some of the unnecessary travel associated with this type of adventure game, whilst neither is a huge deal they do add to the game. The dungeons are fun and are complete with puzzles, the game steers towards sequences that need to be memorised and repeated as well as routes which need to be walked across in the right order, these start out easy but quickly get harder and whilst frustrating feel about right. There are a couple of other puzzles that require certain accessories which I won’t spoil but again these are good. Boss battles are well done and require you to use your bombs and arrows often in succession or other combinations to defeat, they look good and have the right amount of health to be fun, a particular highlight for me was the fire dungeon which needed you to use your bow in order to light up torches and open up secret areas, this dungeon had two bosses and a number of killer mobs that took me back to a simpler time in gaming that I thoroughly enjoyed. One of my favourite features is the games narration, Grandpa and his grandkids stick with us throughout the game and we even get to make some decisions that affect the world – for example are we fighting a pirate or a ninja? This is a nice touch and has the desired effect of making thew player feel more involved in the world, loading up the game we are given a quick synopsis of where we are and what we are trying to achieve – simple but effective. Blossom Tales took its time to sink into me and win me over but win me over it did – yes its a copy but its one made with love, attention to detail and a few clever additions thrown in to enhance what is a winning formula.
the game performs well and I experienced no slow down, on the move the game plays just as well as docked and it could be argued that the simple graphics look better.
At £13.49 in the UK and $14.99 in the US Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King will offer you 10-15 hours of single player fun, nostalgic value. It goes without saying that your enjoyment of this game is directly linked to how much you enjoy retro games and specifically RGP’s like Zelda. There is variance and there are 4 dungeons to explore along with a large number of side quests and collectibles here and for me that value competes with games at twice the price.