Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King, a Steam game from indie developer Castle Pixel, is a throwback Zelda-like in the vein of A Link to the Past, mixed with a little storytelling flair via The Princess Bride. That’s all you need to know, really, as the game leans hard on tropes from both (maybe a bit too hard).
The princess’ pride
The game starts with a cutscene of two grandchildren asking their grandpa to tell them a story. He leads into a story about Link of Hyrule before being cut off by the children, who are tired of hearing about that guy. It’d be a cute, subtle jab at a game that Blossom Tales is clearly paying homage to if the game didn’t jump right into being a Zelda clone.
Next, Grandfather then goes into telling them a story about Lily – our playable protagonist. Lily wakes up in her Aunt’s house. She soon visits a nearby castle, where an evil castle sorcerer casts a spell on the King. You’re tasked with going to three dungeons to wake the king. If you’ve played A Link to the Past, you see where this is going. The gameplay is all overcut with a running dialogue between the Grandfather and the Grandchildren. It’s a cute wrinkle, but one that feels inessential for this style of game.
While the game seems to set out deconstructing the Zelda myth, it mainly just retells it with minimal window dressing. The town, castle, and enemies all look similar to the classic games, leading one to wonder whether the developers wanted to playfully pay homage to remake A Link to the Past or remake it entirely.
That said, Blossom Tales does a lot of things right around this derivative story. The pixelated art style is absolutely gorgeous, clearly crafted with love. The colors, characters, and settings really pop visually; and the accompanying music accentuates the game’s sense of style.
Gameplay comes straight from the classic Zelda mold, with three buttons with which to use Lily’s arsenal of weapons and gadgets. Classic Zelda games only used two buttons, so the addition of the third is a welcome improvement. This cuts down on the need to flip to the menu to change your loadout.
Still, all is not completely well when it comes to the gameplay. The hit detection feels a bit wonky, resulting in missed sword swings now and then. The checkpoint system is too unforgiving, sending players awfully far back after they fall in battle. Hopefully, these annoyances will be easy to adjust to after extended play.
Perhaps too familiar
So far, Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King is a pretty package built around a game you’ve already played before. The beautiful art style and solid gameplay mechanics will be wasted if the game never expands beyond a retelling of A Link to the Past. If you’re looking for a nostalgia trip and little more, this may be the game for you. Otherwise, you could always dust off your SNES or GameBoy Advance and just play the real thing.
Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King costs $14.99 on Steam, and there is a free demo. No word of a console version yet, but here’s hoping!