This title was reviewed on PC but is also available on Nintendo Switch.
Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King follows a young girl named Lily as she becomes a knight in the midst of the Kingdom of Blossom’s darkest hour. Developed by Castle Pixel and published by FDG Entertainment, Blossom Tales is a loving homage to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. The story is introduced and told in the classic Princess Bride fashion – with a Grandfather imparting the tale to his two grandchildren, Chrys and (you guessed it) Lily. After being knighted, Lily witnesses an attack on the King, who is put under a spell of never-ending sleep by an evil warlock planning on stealing the throne. Determined to help the other knights in their quest, Lily sets out to find the ingredients required to help awaken the King and save the Kingdom of Blossom.
The pixelated visual style of Blossom Tales is charming and immediately made me think of the N64 and Sega games of old. The colours are bright and the world brilliantly designed, though I do wish there had been more to it. As it stands Blossom Tales is a fairly small world with only four main dungeons, though there is a fairly decent amount of the kingdom to explore in between. The sprites for both enemies and allies are well designed despite (or perhaps because of) their simplicity and the world around Lily is varied and beautiful. This is a very visual kind of game, and it is very easy to take your cues from the world around you; whether that is a tile about to fall away (which will flash red) or a dark hole inviting you to jump in and find the treasure below. These visuals could almost be considered too clear, the game essentially making your choices for you, but as there are other aspects of Blossom Tales that require thought rather than reaction, I didn’t find it too much of a problem.
Lily is able to be equipped with three items at any given point, and you discover and are given more items as you progress through the story and explore the Kingdom of Blossom. There’s a decent variety to these items – bombs, a shield, a boomerang and even a spade, among others – but unfortunately not a lot of incentive to utilize this variety. The first weapon Lily receives is a sword, worthy of the knight order she has joined – the Knights of the Rose. In regards to her sword, there is a clear Legend of Zelda influence in the way Lily attacks; she is able to swing the sword normally and slash around in a circle – anyone who has played A Link to the Past will find themselves immediately comfortable with these attacks. However Lily’s repertoire of sword attacks also includes a lunge, and she is able to combo her attacks together to fight off her enemies. Some of these enemies are also clearly inspired by the Legend of Zelda series, some even seeming to be ported right from the earlier games – in particular, look out for the Octorok clones in the rivers. The variation of puzzles and enemies that are found throughout the game present a challenge that feels achievable, but not boring, and overall gameplay is very enjoyable.
Blossom Tales is perhaps first and foremost a game built upon nostalgia; whether that’s nostalgia for bedtime stories told by our grandparents, or the games we played as children, or even just for that classic adventure of a knight saving their kingdom – Blossom Tales is able to hit all these marks and hit them solidly. The game oozes charm and is, at its most basic, just really fun. Combat with a variety of weapons is enjoyable, and thoroughly exploring the kingdom is an entertaining way to stretch out the otherwise fairly short game. However, the Legend of Zelda influence is not only evident, it’s continuous, and while Blossom Tales is a fun, well thought out game, it’s unclear how much of that can be accredited to the development team, and how much to earlier work from Nintendo. Whether this game is one of the truest homages to one of the greats, or simply an uncredited rip-off is up to the player to decide. Personally I’m a fan of transformative works, of parodies, and of works that reference previous titles in the genre. Apart from the Zelda influence, there are also a few nods and jokes based on other videogames, so for me Blossom Tales sits squarely as an intertextual game that is referential in its very design. This doesn’t make it a bad game, simply aware of the context in which it has been created, and in fact I have absolutely loved playing through this adventure and can recommend it without hesitation. However, I can’t deny that I’d love to see the developers take this world and extend it in a sequel; make the game longer and the world bigger, have it necessary to utilize the variety of weapons available to you, and perhaps make Blossom Tales just that little bit more their own.