There are those among us who say imitation is the best form of flattery. If something is a hit, whether it be a TV show, movie, literary franchise, or video game, you can bet knockoffs, rip-offs, clones, copies, and different takes on the material will inevitably flood the market. When creative individuals love something from their past, they tend to create a kind of love letter to that very thing. Is this a homage to a great work of art, or a blatant rip-off with no soul of its own?
This is the thought I had to keep at the forefront of my brain, as I played through Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King from FDG Entertainment. There is no doubt that Blossom Tales is a love letter to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past in almost every way, shape, and form. From the very start of the game until the credits roll, Blossom Tales borrows heavily from Zelda, but I am happy to say, also adds its own indelible mark on the adventure-RPG genre.
Blossom Tales is presented in the form of a fable being told as a bedtime story. Young Lily and her little brother Chrys beg their grandfather to tell them the story of Lily (yes, named after the granddaughter), who becomes a Knight of the Rose on the very same day that the evil wizard Crocus puts the king to sleep and takes over the kingdom. Lily the new Knight must now go on an adventure to save the king and vanquish the dark wizard who has taken over the land.
The story narrative is one aspect of Blossom Tales which separates it from Zelda in a significant way. As the grandfather is telling the story, the two kids are always chiming in with questions and alterations. The kids love to change what challenges Lily will face and are constantly asking their grandfather why things are happening. It’s all rather reminiscent of The Princess Bride, but with less Fred Savage and Peter Falk. I found this aspect of the narration to be quite adorable throughout, as items and creatures change or appear/disappear as the grandkids manipulate the story. Occasionally the grandfather reminds them that it’s his story to tell, but he happily makes the changes his two young listeners demand.
Everything in Blossom Tales, from the look, sound, and play mechanics, all feel like they’re taken straight from Link to the Past. Like Zelda, this game starts with our protagonist waking up and embarking on her adventure. Lily starts with a sword and shield but acquires more weapons throughout the journey. Although the weapons in the game aren’t unique, the way they’re used is night and day when compared to Zelda. Once you acquire an item (other than your sword), it’s now attached to a usage meter. Players can use as many bombs, arrows, and other weapons as they want, as long as their usage meter still has juice. Waiting a few seconds will recharge it, so players won’t have to look for potions as they travel. There are concoctions you can drink to give yourself a full meter, but just waiting twenty seconds also does the trick, and is much cheaper. Even your shield uses this play mechanic. Each hit you block depletes the meter, but I used my shield so little, I hardly ever noticed.
Just as in Link’s adventure, Lily can blow holes in boulders and cracks in walls to reveal hidden rooms and chambers. There are treasure chests scattered throughout, along with your typical array of stores, carnival games, and eccentric people populating the land. Lily must also collect pieces of heart in order to increase her life. If you hadn’t guessed by now, you need four pieces to make a whole heart. A part of me wishes the developers could have been slightly more creative with all of this, but at this point, everything’s been done already.
At first, using bombs and arrows willy-nilly is great fun, but after a while, you realize that’s all you really do. I hardly used my sword at all, relying on bombs eighty percent of the time and arrows the rest. It all tends to get monotonous when you can just blast away anything that comes your way.
The lack of needed strategy is also prevalent in the dungeons. There are a total of four in the game, and although the layouts are large and unique, the boss fights are not. In A Link to the Past, you need weapons and items found in the dungeon to defeat that level’s boss and gain access to the next one. In Blossom Tales, I used bombs to defeat every single boss (of which there are two in each dungeon). I never once had to change my strategy, and that got boring after a while. What’s the point in unlocking a slew of items when you really don’t need any of them?
The game is also rather short in my mind. Aside from the monotony, I still rather enjoyed the adventure and really wanted more. In order to wake the king, Lily sets out to three dungeons to collect items needed for a recipe. This reminded me of Link to the Past, and the three pendants Link must find in the beginning of the game. Unlike Zelda, where you then must go on to acquire more items and search more dungeons, Blossom Tales ends soon after Lily visits the third temple. Once the king is awake (sorry, spoiler alert), Lily treks to the evil wizard’s lair (fourth dungeon), defeats him, and returns the land to peace and prosperity.
I was shocked when the credits started to roll soon after the Wizard’s defeat. I thought for sure, there would be more, or perhaps the Wizard escaped death or SOMETHING. If you choose to continue the game after the credits roll, the grandfather simply tells the kids that although Lily saved the kingdom, there are still heroic deeds to be done. From this point on, Blossom Tales becomes entirely about side quests and helping those you’ve met and will meet throughout the kingdom.
There is plenty more game to play, but without the narrative guiding everything along, it just doesn’t feel the same. There are still areas of the map at this point to uncover, and secrets to learn, but without a sense of urgency, I never felt the need to go back and keep playing. I still had several empty slots for items, but I never saw a point in trying to find them.
The best way for me to describe the look and sound of Blossom Tales is as a watered down version of Link to the Past. The game looks good, but not as refined as Zelda. The same goes for the sound, as it’s all rather pleasing to the ears, but there were times I heard things lifted directly from A Link to the Past. The funny thing, they actually make a joke about all this in the game. As the grandfather is telling the story, he nonchalantly suggests that elements of his adventure resemble that of the little elf boy in a far-off land. This and other off-the-cuff remarks actually give the game a sense of credibility as it admits it borrowed heavily from other source material.
There was one annoying thing I couldn’t get over about the game: it doesn’t utilize the Y button! With your sword taking up the A button, you now only have two slots for other items and weapons. With so many to choose from (although, you don’t really need them), it’s mind-boggling that the developers would simply choose to not utilize one of the main buttons. I can understand why they didn’t program anything into the triggers, but it makes no sense that the Y button is unusable. After playing through the main game, I can safely say it would have made the experience much better if they programmed the use of the Y button into the game controls.
There have been a plethora of Zelda clones made over the last thirty years and most of them never hold a candle to the original. Blossom Tales, however, may be a clone, but it most certainly holds its own. This game is the closest I think anyone has come to recreating the tone and whimsy of A Link to the Past but also manages to add a bit of its own personality into the mix. The narration and constant changes as the kids chime in add a fun and unique twist to this overused genre. I wasn’t a fan of the lack of strategy needed, nor the ease at which I could dispatch enemies. The game felt incomplete as the credits rolled, but one could say that is a good thing, as it left me with wanting more.