Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King describes itself as a mixture of The Legend of Zelda and The Princess Bride. And this is perhaps the most accurate blurb ever written. Blossom Tales carefully, cleverly manages to balance between a homage and a unique game that could easily stand on its own merits.
The vibe is cemented with the opening cut scene: Two children, Lily and Chrys, demand a fairy tale from their grandfather. He offers to tell them the story of the Kingdom of Blossom. What follows could easily have been a ho-hum Zelda pastiche. Instead, FDG Entertainment and Castle Pixel realized that no story ever relayed to a child goes without interruption or without diverting from the source material.
An Original Telling Of A Story Within A Story
What makes this narrative shine throughout its roughly 15-hour journey is that the grandchildren often interject into the story, suddenly adding enemies or changing story events to suit their whims. This refreshingly crafted series of twists adds a realness and warmth to the story, something that is so often missing in this genre. It was such a treat to play a game which toyed with seriousness, childish flights of fantasy, and humor so well, so often. The main playable character is easily forgotten, but I enjoyed my time playing along with this digital family and getting to know them through their involvement in the plot and action.
It's graphically that Blossom Tales is at its least imaginative. The reverence for A Link to the Past, touched with a hint of Pokémon, grounds Blossom Tales firmly within the currently booming retro market. However, this game does offer a little bit more polish and creativity than it's contemporaries. There are a lot of copy-and-paste character sprites, as is the style, and it can be difficult to tell certain houses from others. Thankfully, each section of the reasonably sized map has a distinct character, whether it's a mini-game or scenery. While it doesn't quite have the pop of A Link Between Worlds, it definitely stands out in a crowded niche genre.
The Sound Of Violence
In terms of audio, Blossom Tales uses the modern obsession with chiptune to maximum effect. The background music bleeps and bloops with abandon, perfectly matching the on-screen action without diverting your attention. The clash comes in the dissonance between what you are seeing and hearing. It looks so similar to A Link to the Past, yet the sound is forgettable. When you open chests and solve puzzles, you expect to hear familiar sounds; instead, you get something not quite right. There is nothing wrong with the sound, on the contrary even. Had the visual style been something different, the sound design would be near perfect.
In terms of gameplay, Blossom Tales makes a successful push to do something unique. The dungeons are beautifully crafted — in particular, the four-themed dungeons show impressive design chops. While the dungeons initially seem a little simplistic, they portray an inventiveness not seen in many smaller games.
As you might expect from a #Zelda-like game, you're regularly rewarded with new tools and weaponry to mount the growing challenges. And it seems the developers evidently relished the chance to test these out. On their own, perhaps these tools wouldn’t offer enough of a test for players. But combined, they offer feats of skill and mental agility. I'll freely admit that even the first dungeon had me doodling patterns, carefully examining the surrounding walls. It is surprising how often Blossom Tales manages to stump newcomers and Zelda veterans like myself. The developers deserve high praise for matching, and even surpassing, a large amount of the Zelda series' dungeons.
Fabulous But Flawed
This innovative game doesn't come without complaint. There are some infuriatingly difficult spikes littered throughout the Blossom Tales experience. These come without any forewarning that the proverbial is about to hit the fan and the event can be truly overwhelming. What's worse is that they stand in opposition to the rest of the game.
The puzzles and dungeoneering seem so minutely crafted in comparison to these moments. Indeed, these sections almost feel like the developers wanted to amp up the difficulty so just threw a selection of enemy types into an arena. Fortunately, the checkpoints are fairly forgiving. Equally, these spikes happen so infrequently that it doesn't dent the entire experience, but definitely leaves a bitter taste when they come around.
Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King goes beyond being an homage to Zelda or a piece of fan-created lip service. It innovates enough with the narrative style and the dungeon design to stand on its own in the modern gaming market. Ultimately, Blossom Tales might struggle to step out of the shadow of Link and co., especially with Breath of the Wild tearing up the charts at the moment. If that is true, it would be a real shame as I can confidently recommend Blossom Tales to anybody after an old-school action #RPG. Zelda fan or not, Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King offers plenty to keep you happily hacking, slashing, puzzling, and adventuring through its imaginative storyline.
Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King is available now through Steam. What are your thoughts on Zelda-likes? Are you a fan or not? Let us know in the comments!