It’s no secret that we’re fans of the Legend of Zelda franchise. “Link to the Past” has been my personal favorite video game of all time for several years now. When I first heard about “Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King” from FDG Entertainment and Castle Pixel, I was immediately excited. I had never heard of it, despite it being released earlier on PC. Everything about it reminded me of the classic SNES game that I’ve adored the majority of my life, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. I’m happy to report that while it doesn’t reach the level of perfection for which Nintendo is known, it scratches the itch and then some.
Remember the movie, “The Princess Bride”? In that film, Columbo reads a book to Kevin from The Wonder Years. Blossom Tales starts in similar fashion with a grandfather telling a story to his two grandchildren. His tale is of a young girl named Lily who becomes one of the “Knights of the Rose”. Despite being a young recruit, Lily must save the king, who has been put to sleep by an evil wizard named Crocus. Lily needs to recover three ingredients in order to awaken the sleeping king and thwart Crocus’ plan to overthrow the kingdom.
There’s simply no denying the blatant homage to Zelda in Blossom Tales. The gameplay consists of exploring an overworld in a slightly isometric view, looking for dungeons. You even have bombs, arrows, a boomerang, and an equivalent to a fairy available in your inventory. There are literally quarter heart containers to be found in order to raise your hit points. With all that said, however, there’s enough here for Blossom Tales to stand on its own.
The pixelated visuals of the game are a large portion of its charm. It looks beautifully old-school in the same way that games like Shovel Knight do. Fans of classic 16-bit games, even ones other than Zelda, will feel right at home with this title. The music is completely original, yet somehow feels like it belongs in “Link’s Awakening”. Although the game borrows from a beloved franchise, I’m still very impressed with the original touch present in Blossom Tales.
One of the big draws of any Zelda game is the dungeons, and Blossom Tales is no different. Again, they’re not quite to the level of polish that we’ve grown accustomed to, but they’re still solid and satisfying. There are only four main dungeons, and each has a unique flair that feels like something directly out of the mid-90’s. In each one, you’ll gain a new weapon that’s helpful in defeating the boss or in gaining access to the next dungeon.
This brings me to one of my biggest gripes with the game. While the overworld is a decent size, I found navigating it more than frustrating at times. Getting from A to B was no simple task, since you had to find one specific way to traverse. It felt a bit like the developers were either forcing me to explore the world more or padding extra minutes to the gameplay time. Still, it made the dungeons all the more satisfying once you got there.
If you’re having issues with your left Joy-Con on your Nintendo Switch, you’ll find several portions of Blossom Tales very frustrating. I understand that this isn’t the developer’s issue whatsoever, but there are moments where I nearly had to play this game in handheld mode in order to be able to navigate narrow bridges or puzzles.
Another great design in this title is the boss battles. Sure, you have a couple that are very reminiscent of those in the Zelda series, but most are fresh. FDG and Castle Pixel brilliantly used pixel art in a vibrant fashion that brings characters to life in ways retro games mastered years ago. I will say that the bosses are much more difficult than the dungeons themselves, which gives the player an erratic difficulty spike. But that difficultly never goes too far. In fact, the game isn’t that hard at all, which is welcome for a bite-sized adventure like this one.
“Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King” Final Verdict
Blossom Tales may not be exactly what you’re looking for in the next retro-style Zelda title, but it sure comes very close. The storytelling is charming, the gameplay is familiar and fresh at the same time, and its definitely a labor of love. If you’re a fan of “Link to the Past”, this is an easy game to recommend. Just go into it expecting “Zelda Lite”, and you should have a great time with it. Even after you finish the main story (which should take you six to eight hours), you’ll find yourself drawn back to the world to explore every inch of the overworld. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some heart containers to seek out.
Blossom Tales is available for the PC and Nintendo Switch for $14.99. This review was based on a copy of the game provided to The Gaming Outsider by FDG Entertainment.