Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King is a game I first encountered at PAX South this year, as it was being demoed next to Monster Boy and Oceanhorn at FDG Entertainment’s booth. I was pretty enthralled by the demo, which reminded me a lot of NES era Zelda, which for me was a reminder of my high school years (if you can guess my age based on that, kudos) spent playing Zelda for days on end, leaving my NES on while I went to school just so I didn’t lose my progress. Obviously, when I received a key from Phillip at FDG, I was pretty stoked and immediately embarked upon what would end up being a fairly memorable experience, sadly marred with an extreme bug situation early in its life.
The story in Blossom Tales starts with a couple of children staying with their grandfather, who apparently sleeps a lot, to the sheer boredom of the two kids. They wake him up and he decides to alleviate their boredom by telling them an epic fairy tale, which begins with you, the protagonist named Lily, being woken up by your grandmother, with whom you live, almost late for an important event. Turns out, you are being accepted into the ranks of the Knights of the Rose. However, as the new recruit ceremony reaches its conclusion, King Orchid’s brother Crocus, mage of the land, casts a spell which causes Orchid to fall into a potentially permanent slumber. Crocus states his intent to conquer the kingdom and takes off.
The knights of the land are set with the task of finding three items that when combined will wake the king from his magical slumber. However, Lily, still a recruit doesn’t want to sit around doing nothing. So she also sets forth to find these ingredients and save the kingdom.
Although not the most original idea out there. I loved that the game didn’t hesitate to poke fun at pop culture, both gaming and otherwise, past and present. That gave this a lighter mood which it really needed in my opinion.
7.5 out of 10
The graphics in Blossom Tales are reminiscent of NES era gaming, but obviously upgraded via modern era technology. Blossom Tales is a nice looking game. In fact, for what it aspires to be, I would suggest it is nearly perfect. While the sprites have that distant sense to them that gives them a certain lack of clarity, they are still unmistakable despite that fact and the game in general looks like it was crafted with a loving hand.
8.5 out of 10
The gameplay in Blossom Tales is pretty diverse. The core aspects center around sword and board, bows, boomerangs, and a variety of spells and items. Sound familiar? It should. Since Blossom Tales is a clear love letter to the old Zelda days, you will find copious similarities in gameplay throughout your experience.
Each enemy encountered has its strengths and weaknesses which you will need to figure out in order to more easily defeat them. Each boss also has it’s peculiarities that will need to be figured out before you could hope to defeat them. While you can pause at any moment to adjust your inventory and slots in use, you will still need to plan well as you only get two equipment slots for items and spells (plus a default sword slot). Bombs and the bow will be the most frequently used, and especially after you find their upgrades. However, each thing found in the game has definite use and will be relevant to your experience.
As such, exploration is definitely not only encouraged, but indeed should be considered mandatory to the experience. While not as vast as most open world games these days, the world within Blossom Tales is still fairly large with plenty of secret areas and areas that can only be entered after certain conditions have been met. There is a lot of backtracking in Blossom Tales, but thankfully, there is a generous fast travel system queued to magical squares found throughout the land, and these also function as autosave spots as well.
The map itself is set up into large square blocks, and travel between them does feature some nominal load times. There is some diversity between them fortunately. There are desert, forest, meadow, arctic, and swamp setting along with what is essentially this games version of Mordor. Each features unique creatures and encounters and will require the use of different abilities and items to find greater success.
Beyond simple combat and such, there are also a lot of puzzles in Blossom tales. Most are fairly easy and include filling in puzzle boxes completely without hitting the same square twice, button/switch puzzles, musical puzzles, and so on. I enjoyed most of them. The only puzzles I found to be somewhat frustrating were the disappearing tile puzzles, especially when they were not very wide and also featured enemies attacking you while trying to navigate them. I found those to be particularly frustrating. Not because they were specifically difficult per se, but more because they were completely unforgiving and one error meant starting over, often with quite a bit of backtracking required.
There is a lot more I could focus on with the positive aspects of gameplay, but I think the above is a nice overview. I would now like to chat about a very negative experience I had with this game. I will note that the issue I am about to mention has been fixed via a patch, but it was dramatic enough to mention regardless. At the first boss battle you will typically encounter, the Golem, the game would send my GPU into an infinite loop which would crash my computer and in fact require me to reload a previous save point on my hard drive.
This also ended up being the death knell for my GPU (a 7900 for perspective). Apparently, Blossom Tales didn’t play nice with AMD update 17.3.3, and this actually ended up killing my GPU, which forced my hand as far as replacing my GPU, which I probably would not have done otherwise for another year or so. While that might be considered a blessing in disguise, the reality is Blossom Tales basically ended up costing me money to replace said GPU. I reached out to the developers to let them know about the issue with it’s compatibility with the new AMD driver update, and that was met with silence (I didn’t mention its impact on my computer beyond the infinite loop crash itself).
So, while I would typically assign an 8 out of 10 in this section of my review, the lack of responsiveness from the developer (a far cry from the absolute helpfulness and communicative nature of their publisher) regarding a serious issue with their game coupled with the actual personal cost associated with my having played this game for review has me reducing that score to a 4 out of 10. While I appreciate that they patched this later on, they certainly made no effort to respond to the issue in the moment. While I would have replaced my GPU anyway at some point with something more modern, I shouldn’t have HAD to simply by virtue of having played this game.
The chiptune sounding tracks in Blossom tales are perfectly crafted to the experience being presented and are fairly diverse as well. Each different game area has its own track and there are plenty of other tracks for encounters and such. I quite enjoyed the soundtrack.
The other audio tracks in the game, from battle sounds to special effect sounds and so on were likewise done quite well. You definitely feel like you are playing an NES era game with modern sensibilities.
9 out of 10
Blossom Tales isn’t without its shortcomings, and there was obviously an issue with the game that I particularly objected to, but despite that fact, Blossom Tales still manages to provide a charming and memorable experience that is worth your time. I would recommend playing Blossom Tales if you have any love for the older Zelda type games. This game will scratch that itch quite well.
7.2 lost ingredients needed to wake a sleeping king, lift a curse, and upgrade your gear out of 10 possible. This rating would however have been a full point higher had such an extreme and costly bug not occurred during my playthrough.