Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King is heavily inspired by the game, though not entirely from, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past — arguably my favorite game of all time, at least for the longest of time. To say that Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King pays homage to The Legend of Zelda series in general would be completely true, however, and the game doesn’t hide that fact, but instead makes light of it. Bits and pieces of other games in The Legend of Zelda series such as the two Oracle games make their way into Blossom Tales. Publisher FDG Entertainment brought their other Zelda clone, Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas, to Nintendo Switch earlier this year, but Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King, developed by Castle Pixel, takes a more old school approach with a top-down perspective and a vibrant style of pixel art that gives a feeling of familiarity in a fresh coat of paint. The attention to care is found all throughout Blossom Tales and is a joy to play.
The game opens with two children, Chrys and Lily, wanting their grandfather to tell them a bedtime story which serves as the game’s main plot. A heroic female knight by the name of Lily (same as one of the grandchildren) is on a quest to recover organic artifacts from specific locations in the game to be used in a healing recipe to awaken the King, who has fallen into deep sleep due to the actions of his sorcerer brother who had planned to overtake the throne. Lily is a recruit who is underestimated by sages and other fellow knights, but quickly builds a reputation for which she is praised. The plot is fairly simple and often gets to the point without much narrative from other characters, but it’s the narrative told during the back-and-forth fashion between the children and their grandfather that is present throughout the entire game which is where most of the charm is found.
Travelling the world is open enough for exploration. There is a linearity for driving the story, however. I’d say about half of the map is inaccessible due to the lack of a proper item or plot elements yet to be introduced in order to open up more locations. With this in mind, dungeon progression does follow an order. You may come across a section of the map closed off and in storybook style text boxes will appear of Grandpa telling you the story has yet to be told to that extent. In fact, on subsequent play sessions, the children are still huddled by the fireplace excitedly asking Grandpa what comes next and he tells the player their current progress before continuing. It’s a cute way of hopping back in.
During a couple specific moments in the game, the player will be presented with a unique gameplay opportunity that will play out differently depending on the answer they chose. These moments are brief and don’t impact the overall story, but they are fun feature to play with. Unfortunately, there’s so few of these moments in the game that I knew I wanted more the first time I’ve encountered them. The small player choice given here is still welcomed, however.
In classic style, Lily’s health and stamina are dictated by rows of hearts and a green meter respectively. Players can upgrade both elements during their playthrough and the game is generous in handing them out frequently. Additional heart pieces (4 to make a complete heart) are a common reward for opening a chest by exploring a small cave or helping out a character in a village. The same principle applies to stamina upgrade. Occasionally, an NPC can offer a unique accessory that permanently aids the player in moving faster through terrain or items that perform elemental magic. NPC’s generally need assistance in collecting 20 of a particular collectible. Items, such as the bow for example, don’t require ammunition to be found. Every item you are able to map to buttons, from bomb to boomerang, consume your stamina meter. Cutting down grass is an efficient way to gain small hearts to refill your health, but also collecting coins which are the game’s currency. I found myself generally addicted to cutting grass (as I was obsessive doing so growing up playing Zelda games). And the controls in Blossom Tales feel good to warrant that maniac sword-swinging behavior.
At any given time, players are allowed to map 2 items to the X & B buttons. Lily’s sword will always be mapped to the A button, however. Pressing and holding A briefly will unleash a spin attack, which can also be upgraded later in the game. It is possible to chain 3 attacks. Swinging your sword 3 times in succession will make Lily do a spin attack on the third attempt. There are no breaks in Lily’s movement when using your sword as well. Generally, this makes maneuvering feel smooth, especially when cutting down foes… and/or grass. To me, the game’s art sort of suggests Lily knows the way of Bushido and she certainly knows how to slice & dice while moving all about. The moves are pretty basic, but the items at the player’s disposal will adhere to their play style. It’s also definitely up to the enemy types to make players want to use a specific item.
There are the simple grunt enemies. Aerial enemies will follow you and swoop down. Some enemies will teleport if you get too close making the bow a more tactical option, while other enemies can only be destroyed using bombs. I never found myself being challenged greatly, but the different enemy designs partly made up for it. In fact, most of why it lacks any difficulty is due to how overpowered Lily actually is. It isn’t until later in the game where difficulty ramps up a bit, but her equipment can usually taken down enemies in 1-2 hits. There isn’t excessive spamming bombs and arrows thanks to the stamina meter, so I suppose that balances things a bit, but enemies are taken out immediately. However, the stamina meter plays out differently to how full it is compared to how much is being used for an action. Throwing a bomb may reduce your meter by 1/3, but needing to throw a bomb at all requires only the smallest sliver of stamina regenerated even after it’s been completely depleted. This removes the wait for an exact amount required to use an item, but that isn’t exactly a flaw. It’s a system set in place which allows the player to use their item without a heavy wait time while not allowing overuse when the meter is full.
Dungeon design is strong. Boss design equally so. Dungeons aren’t exactly labyrinths. They’re mostly linear in design. Most of the puzzles are rather simple and some general scenarios, whether it’s pushing blocks, are repeated with different layouts throughout all of the dungeons. There may be a central area that has a passageway needing unlocked in which you’ll need to come back to later after solving separate rooms, but it’s hard to get even remotely lost when navigating them. In that regard, its simplicity may not be what many are looking for, but for what the dungeons lack in clever puzzling make up for in variety. The length of dungeons is very sufficient. They aren’t super long, but they aren’t short, either. Actually, I’ve underestimated it. I thought I may have been fighting the boss, but it just turned out to be a mini-boss instead. Room by room, dungeons introduce new obstacle elements and enemies to defeat. One’s agility will be put to the test by having that player navigate along narrow paths, disappearing platforms, dodging projectiles or just fighting enemies unique to that dungeon.
Bosses are well-designed. They generally have a few different patterns and switch it up so it never feels completely repetitious from start to finish. They’re typically just fun to battle against. It’s actually here where Lily may lose her life as they offer the most challenge. Again, it’s not overbearingly difficult, but the enjoyment is what matters most here. What’s a neat effect is the on-screen indicators of their health. There are no enemy health meters, but each time you attack a boss the screen will flash a color. It begins by flashing yellow and starts flashing red when the boss is nearing defeat. It’s a subtle effect.
There are some sidequests. Players can be a courier delivering mail throughout their adventure ultimately with an end reward if everyone gets their mail, though you can only deliver one at a time. You will meet Elissa early on whose scrolls you will need to find. I encourage players to look out for cracks in walls. Players familiar with The Legend of Zelda games will come across mini-games they recognize, whether it’s shooting targets or racing to the chest within a certain amount of time. There’s enough here to change the pace while en route. The entire world feels carefully crafted and it’s easy to tell the developers wanted to create a nostalgic, yet enjoyable adventure. The locations all vary from swamps to snowy mountaintops. While the gameplay blueprint may be more associated with The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, I feel the visual and sound are closer to The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap.
The art style is great and the I really dig the sound aspects. The sound when navigating menus are soft and the soundtrack is pretty good. The sound output is very reminiscent of the Game Boy Advance and the music itself reminds me of The Minish Cap. Players will sometimes hear Zelda’s influence in certain songs, but overall it very much has its own identity.
All the elements of Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King come together pretty well. There is just one major oversight that aggravated me constantly and that is the map screen when paused. Story destinations are outlined by a prominent flashing square of the cell you need to travel to. You can’t miss it. However, the player’s destination as to where they are currently is completely hard to find, especially for the colorblind. It is just a small red pixel lost in the sea of colors that is the world map. I had a difficult time knowing where I was placed on the map screen due to that. Why not use a sprite of Lily’s head to indicate where I am instead of a single dot against other dots? I find that to be completely overlooked. It’s as if the red dot was a placeholder and they forgot to add in a proper icon. It’s literally like playing Where’s Waldo, but instead it’s Losing Lily.