The Legend Of Zelda-inspired adventure that is Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King follows the adventures of Lily, a noble Knight Of The Rose tasked with saving the Kingdom of Blossom from eternal darkness. You'll need to traverse five challenging dungeons while solving puzzles, using special weapons, items and abilities and slaying every monster in sight. The unique twist here is that the story is actually being narrated by her grandfather, while Lily and her sibling listen intently by the fire. And, just like every grandchild out there, the two kids can't stop breaking the immersion by interrupting their elder.
A story within a story may not sound like the most imaginative concept, but what it does is provide the game with a certain level of flexibility. This method of narration makes the game’s storytelling and gameplay more dynamic – with choices as to how the adventure plays out occasionally left up to the player. Do you want to fight a mob of archers or take on a group of bandits? That's for you to decide. This requirement to make decisions acts as an inventive way of keeping aspects of the game fresh and the player invested. It’s also used as a way of linking every element within the game together.
With this approach to storytelling in mind, what remains is a game heavily inspired by a well-known series. Yet it rarely comes across as a cheap knock-off. It’s the lovingly-crafted universe that gives this title its own sense of identity. It draws on key components of the Zelda series – including the dungeons, special items, weapons, heart containers, elements of adventure, boss battles and puzzles – and uses this template to create a similar yet fresh experience. Other familiar aspects are interaction with townspeople, breaking pots and buying items from vendors around the game world.
Inventory management is nothing out of the ordinary – swapping between the necessary items with a few simple button presses. There’s also a world map doubling as a dungeon map when necessary and noting points of interest, and then there’s the log book keeping you informed about Lily’s adventure. Save points are presented in the form of portal stones (which can also be used to teleport) and ensure the overall challenge provided by the game remains balanced. There are a number of recognisable weapons such as a sword (enabling Lily to perform Link’s trademark spin attack) and shield, and then special items to unlock (including bombs and a bow). The boss battles typically encourage you to utilise specific weapons. The usual methods to take down these enemies range from throwing bombs to repeatedly slashing a target.
As well constructed as the entire package is it does lack a certain level of refinement that makes the Zelda series so fantastic. Intentional as the imitation may be, there’s not quite the same level of charm or intrigue. This can be pinned on the storyline – which simply isn’t as engaging as it potentially could be. Ultimately, the story behind a story along with the abrupt and stilted nature of the narration from time to time detracts from the immersion – even if it does promote dynamic game design.
Setting Blossom Tales further apart from the title it idolises is the design of puzzles and the layout of the dungeons. While it does an impressive job recreating and merging various ideas seen in older games of this type and reworking them, it doesn’t have quite the same level of polish as you may have previously experienced. Some areas drag on, and a number of puzzles become predictable over time. There are definitely a lot of switches to activate and doors to unlock as well and environments aren’t always laid out as efficiently as they could be. Enemies can occasionally seem overwhelming, too. Apart from these minor problems, in terms of the gameplay, it’s one of the better Zelda alternatives on the market.
The artwork in Blossom Tales is what you might imagine a remake of particular retro games to look like. There’s the familiar top-down perspective with bright and colourful pixel backdrops filling every inch of the screen. Each environment in the game has stunning light effects and is filled with intricate detail. The downside in this department is the character art. Lily’s design is rather bland yet everything else from rats to monsters look fine. Apart from this, the animation is lively and this is all further enhanced by a compelling soundtrack channeling themes of heroism and adventure. It admittedly does become a tad repetitive from time to time, but you can't fault its ability to capture a certain level of nostalgia.
Judging a game on its own merits is very important. However, when a title happens to borrow just about every aspect of its design from an iconic game series, it’s hard not to acknowledge. Claims could be made that a game like this is nothing more than a shameless clone, but thankfully in the case of Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King, the developer has intentionally crafted it with a sense of love and admiration of classic Zelda games. While it’s not as flawlessly executed as the series it draws inspiration from and it doesn’t add anything particularly groundbreaking, it's still a heartfelt tribute to the earlier entries in Nintendo’s long-running series.