In the Switch’s first year of life, it was relatively common to see huge indie success stories from developers who managed to get their game onto the eShop before the veritable torrent of new game releases – including many excellent ones – only floods the store once a week. base. One of those titles was Blossom Tales, a cute action game that wasn’t even shy of how much it drew inspiration from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past playbook. After the huge and unexpected success of Blossom Tales saved the development team from having to shut down, work has begun on Blossom Tales 2, and we’re happy to report that this second effort is just as enjoyable as the original – although it is also just as derivative.
Here, the story unfolds again as a “story within a story”, as an elderly man tells his two eager grandchildren a story that introduces them both as characters, with Lily, a brave warrior , living with his obnoxious brother in a fantasy land. The two begin engaging in all sorts of fun at a nearby fair, but a small sibling quarrel causes Lily to wish the evil Minotaur King would come and take her brother somewhere far away. In a way, this causes the real Minotaur King to show up and do just that, which kicks off his quest across the land to get his brother back and defeat the evil king.
It’s not an incredibly deep narrative, but it plays well with the premise of being a story told by a campfire and echoes with elements of Labyrinth and The princess to be married. At many points, the children will bicker over particular plot details, ultimately presenting the player with a choice between two options that affect the outcome. For example, when you are given the symbolic object “magical instrument”, the children bicker about what type of instrument it really is, and we decided on the accordion. We enjoyed these moments, as they aren’t overused, but happen often enough to keep you from forgetting that none of the on-screen events are actually “real.”
The gameplay is similar to classic Legend of Zelda games, and by “similar” we mean “almost indistinguishable”. While the original version seemed to pull more from A Link to the Past, this version seems more in line with Link’s Awakening, right down to the puzzling owl that occasionally visits to point you in the right direction. You start with three hearts and travel through a vast world littered with enemies, secrets, and obstacles that you overcome with a slowly growing inventory of useful items. Occasionally you’ll find yourself in a dungeon full of puzzles and enemies that are usually “solved” by finding the dungeon item, and you eventually clear the dungeon by winning a boss fight that grants you a extra heart and advances the plot a little further.
Much like its predecessor, Blossom Tales 2’s biggest drawback is that it’s not very original in its 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 heavily from Zelda puzzle design while mixing in many elements of 90s JRPGs. Swords of Ditto was a roguelike where everyone resets and randomizes. The thing is, there’s nothing wrong with borrowing from Nintendo’s legendary series – there’s a raison it’s so acclaimed, but most games just select elements that serve a larger vision based on a more unique idea. Blossom Tales 2 does more than copy 2D Zelda in bulk, but the execution isn’t quite as good.
In contrast, Blossom Tales 2 turns out to be almost as good as the games it emulates and it’s not something to be dismissed out of hand. Sure, it can be derivative, but it’s a version that doubles what it’s trying to accomplish and doesn’t water down anything. Although we sighed when a dungeon’s exciting “new” object was just a legally separate grappling hook, the dungeon itself proved to be a genuinely engaging and fun place to explore. Plus, the experience of slowly discovering the overworld while getting all sorts of new toys to subtly change combat and movement proves to be well-paced and addictive throughout. The puzzles and combat are simple enough that they don’t have to be hardbut they’re still challenging enough to be satisfying when you overcome them.
Presentation-wise, Blossom Tales 2’s visuals seem a bit more advanced than its predecessor, though they still strongly adhere to a classic 16-bit retro look. Whether you’re battling evil cacti in the desert or dastardly pirates by the sea, most spritework features a cute and simple aesthetic that fits well with the vibe of a story told by a loving grandfather.
We would have liked to see a little more creativity in the design of the environment – the forests and deserts feel then played to date, but what’s here is enough to keep sections of the game from getting confused. The music, meanwhile, is a little less impressive, consisting of a series of catchy adventurous bits and more subdued tunes for dungeons and villages. None of the soundtracks are particularly memorable, although that also means it doesn’t get in the way by feeling overly distracting or repetitive.
Blossom Tales 2 is the kind of game that is absolutely good, but definitely not great. The cute narrative premise, solid dungeon design, and pace of overall progression make this one interesting, but it’s also the kind of game that seems crippled by its lack of audacity to try something new. In that sense, it’s the epitome of a “buy it on sale” game; you’re not missing anything waiting to pick it up at a later date, but if you’re a fan of the traditional 2D Zelda model, it’s probably worth getting it at some point when the mood takes you.