If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Blossom Tales: The Sleepless King takes this concept of fervent fandom to dizzyingly new heights, leaning into its Link to the Past inspiration with close comfort in terms of gameplay, perspective, and art-style. That’s not to say that the Castle Pixel’s new action-adventure homage doesn’t introduce us to any new ideas of its own, just that it does so while wearing its 16-bit inspiration firmly on its sleeve – it’s endearing. Now available on the Switch eShop, I can’t imagine a better way to come full circle after such a stellar first year line up for Nintendo’s game-changing console.
Blossom Tales: The Sleepless King enthrals you immediately with its charm in true classic action-adventure fashion, largely thanks to the aid of a Princess Bride-esque framing device. A grandfather settles down to relay a story of bravery and good to his two grandchildren, but having already heard the tale of a young elf boy dressed in green (sound familiar?), we instead get a slightly different spin on the traditional good vs evil narrative. Picture the scene: The once-peaceful land has been decimated by an evil warlord, seemingly placing his brother the king in an eternal sleep in the hope of letting darkness reign. Only by gathering three key items can the sleepless ruler be awoken and peace be successfully restored, with you as unlikely heroine Lilly being the only hope.
The bulk of this top-down throwback is made up of working your way from dungeon to dungeon, collecting increasingly powerful items and besting tougher enemies in a bid to save the day. It’s familiar territory, sure, but when a game like Blossom Tales: The Sleepless King replicates its peer so well it’s hard to grumble. Think Link to the Past, but as you remember it and with a little more flourish – your primary mode of attack being the best example of this. Holding down the A button sees Lilly charge up her sword for a spin attack, before unleashing it in a flurry. Not only does this reliably clear the surrounding enemies, but it does so using the kind of animation sequence never before possible on a SNES. Minor touches like this are expected, but it’s appreciated nonetheless.
There are only 5 puzzle-laden dungeons to thwart and head scratch your way through in Blossom Tales: The Sleepless King, but what the game lacks in amount it more than makes up for in length and intricacy. Following the introductory one which serves as a nice tutorial on all the game’s core mechanics, the remaining 4 each play on a different theme or element. Travel to the North West of the map you’ll be greeted by an ancient race of snow-dwellers for example, while the far East of Blossom evokes more ghoulish scenery as you venture amongst the graveyards to find the next dungeon.
Each dungeon ratchets up in difficulty the more you progress as expected, and the only time I found myself truly dumbfounded was when constantly being bombarded by an enemy’s projectile that seemingly couldn’t be defeated. Because of the game’s brief nature however (it took me roughly 8 hours to complete) such minor difficulty spikes never outstay their welcome to the point of frustration and there are always side ventures to undertake to improve Lilly’s many skills and abilities.
Speaking of skills and abilities, Blossom Tales: The Sleepless King doesn’t stray too far from what made Link to the Past’s various trinkets and weapons so useful. The most unique I found came in the form of bee summoning, whereby Lilly could beckon the help of three crawly critters at a time to help take down minion enemies. It worked well for crowd control, and I appreciated its use all the more because the skill was one discovered off the beaten path of Blossom Tales’ main story. Who knows what I’ll find when I dive back in to clear-up all the secrets still hidden within my current save?
Blossom Tales: The Sleepless King is, in many ways, video game comfort food. It twists and improves upon just enough of what fans of the genre will already be familiar with, while remaining faithful to what made the 16-bit action-adventure games of your so special. Until Link to the Past inevitably graces the Switch as a Virtual Console release, I have no problem in wholeheartedly recommending Blossom Tales: The Sleepless King, being a well-made nostalgia trip that delights more than it devastates.