One of my fondest gaming memories is of being almost 11 years old back in January of 1991. I had gotten an NES for my birthday the previous March. My parents would normally go bowling on Sunday nights and I would go with them. However, I’d just gotten a new game and wanted to play it so they let me stay at home that night by myself while they went bowling. That game was The Legend of Zelda. I played that game forever that night and got lost exploring the land of Hyrule, stumbling upon dungeons and realizing I was maybe in an area I shouldn’t be. It was one of the first times I remember feeling like I could explore the world of a video game and I loved it.
Since that time I’ve played every Zelda game that’s come out (with the exception of the CD-i games). Some of my favorite ones are the Oracle series that was developed by Capcom. The team at developer Castle Pixel was obviously inspired by those old school Zelda games as well and it shows in their new game for the Nintendo Switch, Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King. They even sneak in a funny Zelda reference at the very beginning of the story that’s being told.
Blossom Tales is an adventure game, heavily inspired by the Legend of Zelda series, so much so that if you slapped Link in the game you might just think you’re playing an SNES or GBA version of the series. That’s not a bad thing, either. This game is fantastic. It tells the story of a girl named Lily who is training to be a Knight of the Rose. At the beginning of the story an evil wizard puts the king of their realm into a deep sleep and attempts to take over the kingdom. It’s up to Lily to stop him by traveling the world to collect three ingredients to create a potion that will revive him.
While the story itself isn’t anything ground breaking it does a nice job of pulling you along and giving you a reason to be in the places you are. The best part about it is the presentation of the story itself. It’s being told by a grandfather telling the story to his two grandchildren. Think Princess Bride. It’s just missing Peter Falk (which would immediately give the game the highest possible rating). Grandpa Columbo is the best Columbo. He’s telling the story to these children and at different points you’ll see them interject into the story. Perhaps it’s them fighting over which type of enemy Lily is fighting. When these moments happen you actually get to choose which child was correct and that enemy character will appear in the game. Should you die you’ll see them yelling at their grandfather that it can’t possibly be right. That’s not how the story ends. He’ll make up some excuse as to why he said what he did and you’ll go back to the last checkpoint. It’s really clever and just a fun way to keep you invested in the story.
In terms of gameplay this feels plucked straight off the screen of the Game Boy Advance. The characters move like GBA sprites. You’ll go into one of the game’s four dungeons. Part way through the dungeon you’ll get an item that will be necessary to solve the puzzles that remain in that dungeon and most likely to kill the boss of said dungeon. You’ll encounter many different puzzles, some required to progress others that simply hid some nice collectible like a heart piece or collectible scrolls. These puzzles initially are good, but they tend to appear numerous times and after the fourth of fifth time you’ve done the same type of puzzle they can begin to feel a little tedious. The developer try to change things up by showing you the same type of puzzle, but tweaking one thing about it to make it feel different. If there’s one drawback to the game it’s the overuse of these similar puzzle types. A little more variety in the puzzle design would have been nice. There are not so many puzzles that you just feel annoyed by them, but they do feel far too familiar by the end of the game.
Many elements of the Zelda series are present in these dungeons as well. Gem stands that when hit will unlock a series of pillars that allow you to progress. Gems that are out of reach and require you to use a bow or a boomerang to reach them make an appearance. Blocks that fall away after you walk across them, cracks in the walls that reveal secret rooms and so much more. If you ‘ve played A Link to the Past you’ll know exactly what to look for to find all the little hidden secrets littered throughout the world.
Visually the game is simply beautiful. The sprites harken back to the days of the GBA, but take full advantage of being on an HD display. Everything is so bright and vibrant. Color is splashed everywhere, but it never feels heavy handed. Everything blends so well into the areas you’re exploring. Footprints appear in the snow, water splashes around when you walk in it. It looks like a GBA game, but only if the GBA was able to display in full HD.
Everything about this game is a love letter to the Zelda fan. Some enemies feel pulled almost directly from the Zelda series. For example, monsters that pop out of the water look suspiciously like Zora. Others, like sentient mushrooms feel new. Items are found and work in similar ways to the items that they are inspired by. The story is silly fun, the puzzles are slightly over-used, but everything about this game is crafted in a way that feels right. It feels like Zelda. It looks like Zelda, but it’s not Zelda. It’s something else altogether. It’s like sitting on the couch, wrapped up in your favorite blanket with a cup of hot cocoa, watching a movie you’ve seen before. It’s familiar. It’s comfortable. It doesn’t do anything new, but it doesn’t have to.
Review copy of the game provided by FDG Entertainment
Played through the full story
Total Play Time: 8 hours