Blossom Tales is a 2D action-adventure heavily inspired by The Legend of Zelda. As you might expect given its influence, Blossom Tales features numerous dungeons to delve, a variety of monsters to defeat through either sword or sorcery, and naturally, a whole bunch of puzzles to solve via the generous application of bombs. Wrap all of that up with some charming visuals and a surprisingly catchy soundtrack and you've got yourself a rather intriguing adventure game.
Before you get too excited, however, allow me to just say that Blossom Tales is still under heavy development, and as such isn't expected to arrive before 2017. On the positive side, I recently got a preview copy to try out and so I would love to give you a glimpse of what Blossom Tales is all about, what it does well, and what areas still needs improvement. So without further delays, let's jump in!
Nothing says "welcome" better than four weapons and a 'severed' head on the table!
Given that I've compared Blossom Tales to Zelda, perhaps one of the most influential games of all time, it would probably be wise for me to start by explaining why this is so. I mean, how similar could these two games really be? Well, let's just say that if you replaced the visuals and music you could easily fool people into thinking that Blossom Tales is Nintendo's return to A Link to the Past style of Zelda games. They are that similar in spirit!
They both feature a young hero that fights primarily through the use of a sword and shield combo, and they even have exactly the same special items (Bow, Bombs, Shovel, etc.) which can be used in combat or for puzzle solving. And speaking of combat, the mechanics are almost exactly the same as Zelda's, though Blossom Tales does take the concept a lot further by introducing slightly more complicated enemies and puzzles. But perhaps the most telling comparison is that your character even has the same sort of desire for wanton destruction of private property, as well as an incessant need to destroy any and all pottery!
If they didn't want their pots destroyed they wouldn't have filled them with gold!
While some people might argue that this sort of homage is a bad thing because its 'ripping off Zelda', I would argue the opposite. Blossom Tales borrows heavily from Zelda, that is completely true, but it isn't a straight up copy. There are numerous changes, both small and large, that have been implemented in order to correct some of Zelda's problems, or just to add new and interesting things to do. As such I consider Blossom Tales to be more of an evolution of the concept than a simple rip off, though whether it does things better than Zelda I'll leave for you to decide.
Now that we've gotten through that minefield of a topic, lets move on to my favorite aspect of any action-adventure - the exploration! Much like Zelda, and get used to me saying this, Blossom Tales features a gigantic overworld you can practically explore at your leisure. Naturally, you'll find plenty of barriers you can only break by finding the appropriate item or special key, but otherwise you're free to roam the world and take in the sights.
Given that I've seen a couple of screenshots beforehand I knew that Blossom Tales features an expansive world, but what really surprised me was how little of it was mandatory to explore. Your heroic quest will usually send you to into some sort of a temple or dungeon, the entrance to which is only one or two 'screens' large, with the rest of the world simply being there to add flavor... or to hide secrets!
The overworld is quite expansive, even this early in the game
I am not sure how many there are, and to be perfectly honest if I knew they wouldn't be very secret, but I found numerous piles of hidden treasure throughout my journey. There was even one moment when I discover a random hole in the ground that contained a brand new item - something that is quite shocking to see given how much Zelda games rely on giving you items at a predetermined pace. Mind you, the shovel I found wasn't that amazing, but it did make me excited every time I ran across any bump in the ground - because you never know when one of those might contain a bunch of money... or even a new sword!
My preview build only had access to a relatively small portion of the overworld, but the stuff I've seen so far gives me great hope for Blossom Tales. Its obvious the developers understand what makes roaming the world in Zelda games so enjoyable, and as such they've decided to copy the best parts, and improve upon the rest.
Shortcuts that lead to old areas - a telltale sign of good map design
But no action-adventure is complete without the action, and it is here that Blossom Tales resembles Zelda the most. As I've mentioned previously you'll spend most of your time beating up enemies with a sword and a shield, and if you've ever played A Link to the Past you know exactly how this works. You have a short ranged swing that does moderate damage, a charged attack that takes a little while before unleashing a whirlwind of blades, and for those pesky enemies that don't feel like dropping over dead you also have a variety of special items to use.
Where Blossom Tales differs from Zelda, however, is in the difficulty. You won't hear me say that its an incredibly challenging game, far from it, but it does feature not only more enemies, but also a greater number of them that require special tactics. Even during the first hour of gameplay I had to dodge 3-4 archers, 2 teleporting wizards with homing attacks, and 2-3 massive enemies with a whole bunch of HP to their name... at the same time! Since you have more than enough tools to deal with all of these threats the combat is never anything more than slightly challenging, but it does a good job of keeping you on your toes and constantly moving.
Fast-moving rats AND spikey balls of doom? Ouch!
The reason the combat isn't as brutal as it could be is the simple fact that you don't have to pay for your special items. You don't need to buy bombs or arrows, using them simply drains a rapidly regenerating stamina bar. You obviously can't just throw bombs around like they're going out of season, the stamina bar is there to prevent that, but you are able to pretty much demolish any even remotely difficult enemy you encounter.
This is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand it made me use more special items, something I always had trouble with in Zelda given that I always kept them ready for the 'next big boss', but on the other it also means that the iconic sword is mostly pointless. Why bother risking your life by slicing and dicing through a horde of enemies when you can simply stand back and chuck bomb after bomb at them? If it were up to me I would either make these special items less powerful in combat, or at the very least have them drain more stamina in order to prevent the player from trivializing most encounters.
How adorable, he thinks leaves can beat bombs
While it might seem like a simple solution to just make these special items require you to actually purchase them before usage, that little change would invalidate both of the dungeons I've had a chance to visit so far. What I mean by this is that the dungeons feature much more item-based puzzle solving than in Zelda. I remember one room in particular where I needed to hit four switches at the same time, an act that requires both good bomb timing and aim, which would be nearly impossible with Zelda's system. And honestly, that would be a massive shame given that some of these puzzles are perfectly enjoyable, even though the ones shown so far are somewhat on the simple side.
Outside of these specific examples, the dungeons in Blossom Tales are once again quite similar to Zelda's. They are all fairly lengthy and require you to prove every single one of your skills before you can proceed to the boss, and as you might expect, they always award you with a new item with which you can solve previously inaccessible puzzles. It is an extremely simple system, and one that has been proven to work time and time again throughout the years, so I'm happy to say that its implementation in Blossom Tales is just as good!
The only aspect I would consider weak, and this is a complaint I have with Zelda as well, is that the early bosses are a complete cakewalk. Their attacks are so predictable and slow that getting hit is highly unlikely, but even if you do get hit they will only chop off half of a heart, essentially giving you the ability to mess up as many times as you want. You could argue that this is OK because they are all early-game bosses, but the problem here is that they are actually weaker than some of the arenas that precede them. I would rather go up against a slow-moving snake boss than to fight a room with dozens of fast-moving bandits that will try to attack you from behind. Hopefully this is something that will be corrected in the release version, because right now the bosses are more or less trivial while the 'trash' enemies can and will occasionally pound you into the dirt.
The bosses do look pretty damn cool, I must admit
While I can understand not wanting to die over and over again to a tough boss, there is one feature of Blossom Tales that might change your mind - the music! Much to my surprise, almost all of the soundtrack is pretty damn awesome and perfectly fit for the area it plays in. Your peaceful home town full of happy little trees has an equally relaxing tune, the cursed forest has a rather ominous and foreboding tone to it, while the combat orientated boss fights have music that gets can only be described as 'heroic'. Music in games is one of those things that most people don't even notice unless it downright sucks, so its a good thing indeed that Blossom Tales' soundtrack caught my eye... or rather my ear by being genuinely enjoyable to listen to!
And while I'm on the topic of presentation its probably worth mentioning that Blossom Tales features a whole bunch of charming pixel art. This is a bit of a controversial art style, and one that some people love while others can't stand, and even though I won't argue with someone's tastes I feel I can comfortably say that Blossom Tales falls squarely on the 'good' side of the spectrum. The world is nice and colorful, there is plenty of detail on nearly every single background object, and the characters themselves look about as good as you can possibly hope for given the art style.
The visuals are downright adorable
However, while Blossom Tales is generally extremely pleasant to look at, I do have one major complaint with the main character - she is too fat! This might sound like a bizarre thing to complain about, and believe me I'm aware of how horrible it makes me sound, but the main character appears to be twice as wide as most of the enemies... and this includes people wearing bulky plate armor! I tried to ignore this as best I could, but Lilly's horizontal barrel-shaped body is not an easy thing to overlook.
When you combine this strange design choice with the Zelda inspired movement system you get a character that is supposed to be a great hero of legend, but instead appears to be a female version of Cartman from South Park. From what I've seen online the main character had already undergone a redesign some time ago, so hopefully this current one is still a work-in-progress model, because right now its incredibly difficult to take Lilly seriously when she is as wide as an entire couch! And if you think I'm exaggerating, just check out the screenshot below. On the positive side, at least my biggest complaint is that the character is obese, rather than there being some serious issues with the gameplay.
She is twice as wide as a knight in full plate armor!
Blossom Tales is still under heavy development, but from this preview build alone its quite obvious to me that it has a ton of potential. If the developers manage to fix all of the issues and address some of the balance concerns, I could easily see Blossom Tales becoming something far greater than a simple Zelda clone. They've already done most of the hard work, so chances are high that they will manage to do just that!
As it stands right now I believe I would enjoy playing through the entirety of Blossom Tales, though I probably wouldn't pick it up for a second playthrough given how easily exploitable the combat is. Whether these issues get fixed in time for its early 2017 release or not, I would still recommend for any fan of classic Zelda games to give Blossom Tales a look as its quite clearly a love letter to everything the Zelda series stands for.