Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King is clearly a riff on The Legend of Zelda formula. But is that a bad thing? Some may write the game off as a clone at first glance due to its striking similarities with A Link to the Past. However, in a world where Super Mario Bros. and Metroid have had their formulas iterated on thousands of times over by game creators the world over, the Zelda formula seems like largely-uncharted territory by comparison. On top of that, if the derivative game is good based on its own merits, is there really a problem? Blossom Tales wears its influences on its sleeve, but it also tries its best to provide a worthwhile experience while adding its own spin to the mix.
Leveraging modern pixel art and a chiptunes-inspired soundtrack, the game clearly evokes the feeling of Link’s 16-bit adventure. Using a bit more horsepower than the Super Nintendo ever had, the game has an extra level of presentation punch that’s really appreciated. At times, there are lots of things happening on screen at once that really give you a sense of danger. In more serene moments, the game is just pretty to look at.
Its music may not be as iconic, but it goes off into some cool directions of its own. For example, the first dungeon eschews the orchestral fare for a pulsing track that’s a lot more EDM in nature. I enjoy the ways in which the soundtrack subtly gives the game its own fingerprint.
Unlike The Legend of Zelda games, where the story unfolds in real-time, Blossom Tales is narrated by a grandfather telling a story to his grandchildren. Having this structure in place gives the game a few functional benefits. Besides being filled with cute in-jokes that reference the game its aping, the grandfather’s telling of the story often acts as a guide that teaches the player how to use new abilities and where to go next. Furthermore, there are moments in the game where you can influence the story. In one moment, the grandchildren debate whether the boss you’re about to fight is a pirate or a ninja. You get to choose, which is a nice touch that gives the game more variety while making perfect sense within the context of the story. I actually wish the game did this more to add even more variance.
Another noteworthy difference comes from the game’s length. With only four dungeons that can be beaten in about an hour each, you can mainline the game in under 10 hours. However, there are a number of secrets to find and side-quests to complete, giving you a bit more to chew on. Furthermore, since the game only costs about a quarter of what a console Zelda game would cost nowadays, you’re getting a pretty good bang for your buck.
In a lot of ways, Blossom Tales does a great job of mimicking the thrills of Nintendo’s epic franchise. They get the general pace of play right, and the combat is elevated by the sheer volume of enemies and projectiles on-screen during the game’s more intensive combat sequences. That said, you will find aspects of the game where it falls short of its source material. Most notably in the game’s dungeon design. Be that as it may, the game relies a bit too heavily on the same types of puzzles riffed on over-and-over. On top of that, the dungeon designs feel a little more stilted, as each room seems to have a clear purpose in that room A is for combat, room B is a memory puzzle, room C is a floor tile puzzle, and so on.
Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King doesn’t quite reach the heights of A Link to the Past, but that’s okay. For its budget price, you’re still getting a solid riff on the formula that has a lot of heart and is entertaining from end-to-end. If the sight of this game gives you a nostalgic tingle that you want explore further, this one is easy to recommend.