Let’s just get it out of the way, Blossom Tales wears its heart of its sleeve. There’s literally no other comparison to be made as it’s basically a copy of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. From the artwork to the gameplay it’s A Link to the Past through and through. And, as one of my favourite games of all-time, I was both hugely excited to play Blossom Tales and also a little wary, how can it possibly live up to a classic? If you’re not going to make it as good or better, why bother? Does it live up to it? Well, let’s find out.
Let’s begin with the story which is surprisingly of high focus. First off, it’s all just a fairy tale. Your main character Lily is just that, a character in a story being told by a grandfather to his two small grandchildren. Rather than telling the same old story of an elf boy dressed in green again, they demand something different. At which point the old man dreams up a story making Lily, the protagonist, a brand new knight for the kingdom. Rather coincidentally at almost that very moment, the king’s jealous brother plans to take control, cursing the king and planning an invasion. Plucky little Lily wants to do her bit to thwart these plans, of course.
The story is told rather curiously. You have the story maker and the two children talking over and saying what is happening in the story, then you have dialogue from characters in the story talking too. It’s actually really quite charming, especially early on when the story is starting to develop. You can lose track of this charm a little between cutscenes when you’re left to your own devices wandering around the world and between story points, but if you’re concentrating on the main objective then you’re never too far away.
What I really liked was the idea of changing the story on the fly. Very early on your grandfather honours Lily with the title of Dame, at which point the two children interject and demand the her become a knight instead, at which point your grandfather corrects this. It’s all played out visually too. I loved it. I just wish there could have been a lot more of it as it could have made what is a nice, safe story, into something a bit more quirky and unique. It does happen occasionally through the story, especially when choosing what kind of enemy you want to face, but it would have been nice if it was more intrinsic to the story development.
If I was being a little on the picky side for the story, I would have preferred a more interesting protagonist. Lily, while a nice idea, is just kind of boring. She needed to be more badass, or just more visually appealing. A she is, she’s just a chunky purple dress walking around. There’s nothing interesting about her.
The gameplay is basically a top-down Zelda, literally A Link to the Past. Many would say it’s a copy, I would call it an homage. Mainly because it’s such a good love letter to what it aspires to be. Right from Lily’s knighthood, you have a sword and shield. The sword has a dedicated button while the shield can be interchanged with other items at point. The shield usage is really what makes the gameplay a bit more modern as you can guard when ever you want rather than relying on luck for things to hit it.
Your sword has a nice arc to it that makes it easy to slash enemies and, of course, in good old Zelda fashion, a spin attack can be done if you hold down the attack button. An interesting addition to the formula is the chance for a powerful jump attack if you attack while mid-spin. It’s nice to have the option of something a little different but I found that attack to be a little on the haphazard side, meaning I didn’t use it all that much.
Of course as you battle your way through various areas and dungeons you’ll pick up items and equipment that will prove useful in your quest. You can equip up to two at a time and the first item you get is the bomb. It can damage enemies as well as destroy walls with cracks in them and boulders. There aren’t too many items to pick up, but you’ll be getting the essentials, bow, boomerang and plenty of magic attacks. Many of them are optional too. What I do approve of, is that the amount of times you can use them is only dictated by a stamina meter. You don’t have to pick up individual bombs or arrows to use, you’ll always have them available if you let your stamina meter fill back up over a short period of time.
You begin with just three hearts of health and limited stamina but of course these will be upgraded in time. You can either collect full hearts by completing a dungeon or find quarter pieces hidden around the world which can collectively make a full extra heart. The same can be said of the stamina meter, although they do seem to be slightly more rare. Get four stamina crystals and your stamina bar will increase just a little. I advise exploring and saving picked up cash as just ploughing through the story will let you pick up very few. You do need to go out of your way for them.
There aren’t a huge amount of dungeons in Blossom Tales, which is of course unfortunate, but on the other hand each dungeon that is in the game is pretty large, full to brim with monsters, treasure and plenty of puzzles. I didn’t find the puzzles to be too difficult since they mostly consisted of block pushing, switch hitting and path finding. It did get a little too predictable by the end to be honest. Each dungeon had a very distinct theme to it too, whether it be the ice dungeon, fire dungeon or woodland, they’re all stylised accordingly and look fabulous.
The world map is pretty large, easily comparable to its inspiration, maybe even bigger. What I really like is the effort that’s gone into making it seem like a Zelda game would. There are tonnes of little secrets to find, side quests to do. It’s a large world that’s filled out and you can spend a decent amount of time finding all the hidden scrolls, extra heart pieces, stamina pieces and lots of other things. It’s a packed game that’s well thought out.
Coupling the lengthy dungeons and large open world, you have yourself a nice amount of content for the price. Spending time equally between exploring the world and battling away in dungeons you’ll have a game that’s not quite the length of a full scale Zelda adventure, but it’s pretty close. After plenty of exploring my game time came in at eight and a half hours and I’m sure if I wanted to continue my completed file to mop up the rest of the collectables, I could add another couple of hours to it.
Blossom Tales can present a little bit of a challenge. I suspect some may struggle with some of the more hectic battles, but personally even though I did find myself in a few tight situations I never lost all of my hearts. I never fell in battle. Even if you do find it difficult though, the game throws plenty of healing aids at you and something I assume are revival medallions, though I never had the chance to find out.
Everything controls really nicely in Blossom Tales. Lily is really quite manoeuvrable and your attacks are easy enough to do. If I was going to complain, I would say that the bow isn’t as instantaneous as I would have liked, you can’t just press the button and fire, you actually need to hold the button down for half a second in order for Lily to pull back the string and aim. I see what they’ve gone for, but I would have preferred it if it was a quick button press with no delay.
Graphically it looks absolutely wonderful. I’m not sure how I would classify the the graphics since they actually seem a little less the 16-bit style, more of a cross between 8 and 16. Sprites are not the most complicated, everything has a simple chunky look to it which is rather nice. My favourite are the environments inside buildings which have really nice style and art work to them. The walls have the classic A Link to the Past look to them, the exaggerated looming really sticks out.
When you have a retro inspired Zelda game, the music must be up to scratch and thankfully it’s fairly decent. Nowhere near the classics of the time, but it does a decent job of imitating the feeling of a 16-bit adventure. I think the biggest downfall to the soundtrack is that the songs seem to be on the simple side and can be a tad repetitive. It’s not really a negative though since it’s fine enough. I did notice that some of the tracks were dangerously close to famous tunes from the Zelda series. The Golem’s Haven is suspiciously close to Zelda’s Lullaby.
Overall, sure Blossom Tales doesn’t reach the heights of its inspiration but it’s an excellent, well made adventure. It reminds of FDG’s other recent release, Oceanhorn, another Zelda inspired romp. This is an even better attempt in my opinion and it’s a game that’s welcome in just about everyone’s Nintendo Switch library. Some great visuals and some great gameplay aren’t too diminished by the small amount of dungeons. It has a charming little story that’s told in a cute way. It’s a fun, fantastic game that I can easily recommend for Nintendo Switch owners. In my opinion, this is essential, especially if you somewhat like Zelda games.
Game provided by FDG Entertainment.