I think that anyone who takes a look at Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King will instantly get a feeling of familiarity. It’s intentional though; this isn’t some bland rip-off that tries to distract you from the fact it’s clearly inspired by ‘The Legend of Zelda’ series in some dubious way, but instead a title that wants to lovingly replicate the enthralling adventures that are featured in the aforementioned series. There’s even a nod to the famous elf hero himself in the opening dialogue of the game, showing that the developers themselves aren’t shying away from the obvious comparisons they’re going to receive. They should be proud of the comparison though – Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King offers a charming old-school adventure that manages to capture the magic of ‘The Legend of Zelda’ whilst still maintaining its own sense of identity.
Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King’s story is narrated in the style of a fairytale being told by an old Grandfather to his two Grandchildren. After being bored of hearing tales about a ‘young elf boy’ (see!), the two children want to hear of a new adventure. Thus the story of Sir Lily, a knight who saves a Kingdom from the villainous wizard Crocus, is told, with the Grandchildren themselves having some say on how the tale unfolds…
It’s all pretty run of the mill stuff as far as the story goes, with nothing ever happening that you wouldn’t expect. The way that the story is actually told though is clever and adds a real sense of personality to the tale; sure, it’ll never blow you away, but it’s hard not to be drawn into the way that the Grandfather tells his story. It’s kind of sweet.
From a gameplay perspective Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King offers everything you’d expect, with the adventure providing an action-RPG experience that sees you crawling dangerous dungeons, slaying brutal beasts, and solving plenty of perplexing puzzles. You’ll be armed with things like a bow and arrow, bombs, a sword with a powerful spin attack, a shield, heart containers for your life – you get the picture, and I’m sure it’ll feel familiar to most gamers from the get go. Whilst Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King wears its inspirations like a badge of honour though, it also throws in a few ideas of its own that improves upon the pre-established formula.
One of these ways is through the use of side quests, with plenty of NPCs popping up along the way to ask Lily for assistance. Admittedly this assistance usually comes in the form of completing a small fetch quest, but the mere presence of these endeavours adds a grander sense of adventure to the tale and even rewards exploration of the world. You won’t just be hunting down each dungeon you need to complete, but actually taking time out to see what else the expansive world might be hiding too – there are so many secrets to be found that the exploration really pays off.
There’s also the fact that items are available in an infinite quantity, with each one simply requiring a meter to recharge in order to use. Now this may seem an unconventional approach, especially to those who’re used to hunting down replenishable items, but I found it a more enjoyable and convenient way to play the game. No-one likes not being able to uncover a secret or progress through a game because they’ve run out of bombs or arrows, so the fact you weren’t stuck smashing pots and hoping they’d have them was quite satisfying – it’s something that’s frustrated me in the past so it’s a relief not to face the issue here. Sure, it might take away from the sense of urgency of item management, but the fact you have to recharge each item to use them means that you can’t go using them without a care either.
The bulk of your time will be spent navigating through Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King’s perilous dungeons, with each one offering a surprising amount of challenge. There are five to plough through in total, but each one is full to the brim with enemies and enigmas that’ll keep your mashing attacks and scratching your head. I was actually surprised at just how long some of these dungeons were too; you won’t fly through them quickly, with a fair amount of perseverance required to make your way to the end.
Regardless of whether or not you’re an adventuring aficionado, you’re probably going to die a lot too – whilst a lot of it is owed to the length of the dungeons, they can be incredibly tricky to work through from a gameplay standpoint too. Each dungeon offers a stern test that’ll keep you equally challenged and entertained, with each one becoming more and more difficult the further you progress through the game. It’s such a satisfying feeling to complete a dungeon though, with the finale boss fight they provide offering an entertaining showdown that requires you to think outside of the box.
I know I’ve spoken a lot about how Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King is inspired by ‘The Legend of Zelda’, but it’s actually the older titles in the series that have bore most of an influence – especially with the game’s aesthetic. There’s a nostalgic 16-bit visual style that certainly shares a lot of the hallmarks of those games; you’ve only got to look at building or dungeon interiors for proof of that, with their odd yet endearing perspective offered in the game’s top down view. Despite this clear influence, I found that Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King’s overworld was one of the areas in which it also established its own identity. The game world is a real treat on the eyes, with brightly vibrant colours really bringing the environments to life. There’s an abundance of ambient effects used too which help further the feeling that you’re exploring this luscious fantasy world. This didn’t feel like a world simply inspired by Hyrule, but one that was cleverly designed to offer a gorgeously original fantasy experience.
On the other hand, the character models themselves lack the detail found in the game world. Whilst they’re not bad per se, they seem to lack the care and attention that’s been found in the environments. It’s as if the environments are from a 16-bit release and the characters from an 8-bit release. That may actually be a bit of a harsh comparison because they have a bit more detail than that, but the disparity between the two is certainly quite noticeable. It didn’t stop me loving the visual style of the game as a whole though, even if the high standards set by the surroundings had me expecting better in other areas of the game’s aesthetic.
It’d be easy to dismiss Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King as yet another ‘The Legend of Zelda’ clone, but it’s a lot more than that. Sure, the inspiration is clearly there in almost all facets of design, but Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King also throws in enough of its own ideas to help establish its own identity. The most important thing though is that the game is really enjoyable. Exploring the luscious world and tackling the tricky dungeons was a lot of fun, even if I’ve felt like I’ve done the same things time and time again before.
Whether you’re a big fan of ‘The Legend of Zelda’ series or even if you enjoy a good old-school adventure, Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King is certainly worth checking out. On the flip-side though, if you’re one of the few that just so happen to hate Nintendo’s classic action-RPG series, you’ll want to steer clear. Sure, Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King has its own fresh ideas, but it still FEELS like a Zelda game at its core – for better and for worse.
Developer: Castle Pixel
Publisher: FDG Entertainment
Release Date: 28/03/2017