In the first year of the Switch’s life, it was relatively common to see massive indie success stories from developers who managed to get their game on the eShop before the true deluge of new game releases – many of them excellent – hit the store. weekly flooded basis. One of these titles was Blossom Tales, an adorable action game that wasn’t even shy about how heavily it scribbled from the playbook of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. After Blossom Tales’ huge and unexpected success kept the development team from shutting down, work began on Blossom Tales 2, and we’re happy to report that this second attempt is just as fun as the original – though it’s also just as derivative.
Here the story takes place again as a ‘story within a story’, as an elderly man tells his two eager grandchildren a story in which they both play as characters, with Lily, a brave warrior, who lives with her obnoxious brother in a fantasy land. . The two start off having all sorts of fun at a nearby fairground, but a minor sibling quarrel leaves Lily wishing the evil Minotaur King would come and get her brother somewhere far away. Somehow this causes the Real Minotaur King to appear and do just that, which is the beginning of her quest across the land to reclaim her brother and defeat the evil king.
It’s not an incredibly deep story, but it fits well with the premise of it being a story told over a campfire and echoing with elements of Labyrinth and The princess bride. At many points, the kids will squabble over certain details of the plot, ultimately giving the player a choice between two options that affect the outcome. For example, if you get the symbolic item ‘magic instrument’, the kids argue about what kind of instrument it actually is, and we chose the accordion. We appreciate these moments because they aren’t overused, but occur often enough to keep you from forgetting that none of the events on the screen are really ‘real’.
The gameplay is similar to the classic top-down Legend of Zelda games, and by “similar” we mean “almost indistinguishable”. Where the original release seemed to get more out of A Link to the Past, this release feels more like Link’s Awakening, down to the confusing owl that pops in every now and then to point you in the right direction. Starting with three hearts, you travel through a vast overworld dotted with enemies, secrets and obstacles, overcoming with a slowly growing inventory of useful items. Every now and then you find yourself in a dungeon full of puzzles and enemies which are usually ‘solved’ by finding the dungeon item, and eventually you clear the dungeon by winning a boss fight that gives you an extra heart and the slightly further plot.
Like its predecessor, Blossom Tales 2’s biggest drawback is that it isn’t very original in gameplay design. Minit was clearly inspired by Link’s Awakening, but it was all built around a 60 second life for your character. Crosscode borrowed a lot from Zelda puzzle design, while still mixing many elements of ’90s JRPGs. Swords of Ditto was a roguelike where the entire overworld would reset and become random. The point is, there’s nothing wrong with borrowing from Nintendo’s legendary series – there’s a… rode it’s so acclaimed, but most games just pick and choose elements that serve a bigger vision based on a more unique idea. Blossom Tales 2 is more content to copy 2D Zelda wholesale, but the execution is not as good.
On the other hand, Blossom Tales 2 turns out to be almost as good as the games it aspires to and this is not something that can be pushed out of control. Sure, it may be distracting, but this is a release that doubles down on what it’s trying to achieve and doesn’t water down anything. Even if we sighed when the exciting “new” item in a dungeon was just a legally different hookshot, the dungeon itself still proved to be a really engaging and fun place to explore. Moreover, the experience of slowly discovering the overworld while getting all kinds of news toys to subtly alter fights and movements proves to be well paced and addictive. Both puzzles and battles are simple enough that they aren’t necessarily difficultbut they remain challenging enough that it feels satisfying when you overcome them.
Presentation wise, Blossom Tales 2’s visuals look a little more sophisticated than its predecessor, though it still sticks strongly to a classic 16-bit retro look. Whether you’re battling evil cacti in the desert or dastardly pirates near the sea, most of the sprite work has a cute, simple aesthetic that fits well with the mood of a story told by a doting grandpa.
We would have liked a little more creativity in the design of the environment – the feeling of forests and deserts So played by now, but what’s here is enough to keep parts of the game from feeling like they’re fading together. The music, meanwhile, is a little less impressive, consisting of a series of rousing adventure tracks and more low-key tunes for the dungeons and villages. None of the soundtracks are particularly memorable, although this also means it doesn’t get in the way by feeling too distracting or repetitive.
Blossom Tales 2 is the kind of game that is absolute good, but certainly not great. The cute narrative premise, solid dungeon design, and pace of overall progress make this all worth while, but it’s also the kind of game that feels like it’s been crippled by the lack of daring to try anything new. In that sense it is the epitome of a “buy it on sale” game; you’re not missing out by waiting to capture it at a later date, but if you’re a fan of the traditional 2D Zelda template, it’s probably worth getting at some point when you’re in the mood.