These days, there are a large number of role-playing games that focus more on the journey rather than the story. For instance, some have sprawling landscapes that can take time to traverse or random battles that can slow the pace and even a number of mechanics that would make a garage-worker scratch his head. Its not true for all of them of course, but I have played plenty of games over recent years that contains such a long journey to where I am trying to get to, that I simply run out of steam and fall by the wayside long before I’m anywhere near reaching the end; leaving my puffed out hero to dwell in a remote field as they await my return, often for months or years. However, for us busy gamers who struggle with finding the time to embark on such quests and journeys, Game Freak, the developers behind the Pokémon series, may just have the answer with their idea-inspired RPG, Little Town Hero as it thinks of a release onto the Nintendo Switch.
The story revolves around an isolated village that sits on the edge of the world. The only way in or out, is through a heavily-guarded gate that sits at the foot of a grand castle. The soldiers within protect the village and its inhabitants from the outside world and the villagers don’t mind that they can’t leave their homes; living life instead, within the midst of their protective utopia. However, our protagonist, Axe (although you can choose your own name, should you wish), is a little more adventurous than everyone else and dreams of venturing out into the big, wide world. Their mischievous ways sees them, at the start of the game, working to sneak past the guards and enter the castle grounds, but after being caught-out are marched back into the village.
It’s here, where our adventure starts, as one of the soldiers, tasked to fight off the threat of any monsters from the outside world, agrees to train our hero towards, one day, becoming a soldier and, hopefully, fulfilling their dreams of leaving the village. Around their training, our protagonist also goes about their daily routine: going home for dinner or working a shift down within the mines. It’s here, where our hero finds a mysterious crystal; one that fills the hero with an incredible strength. With their new found energy, they excel at training but, unfortunately, injure the soldier who has taken them under their wing. At the same time, A monster infiltrates the village, something which takes everyone by surprise, even the soldier, as it has long been thought that monsters don’t really exist as it had been so long since they had last seen one. It’s now up to you, your friends, fellow villagers and the castle guardsmen, to fight off the threat of the monsters and discover the many secrets that have lied buried for a long time.
One thing that needs to be mentioned about this game, is that the developers have tried to produce a role-player designed around the lifestyles of busy gamers. By that I mean, develop an RPG that basically cuts out the middle-man; no need for endless journeying, a myriad of side quests or random encounters and an easy to use, yet to difficult to master, mechanic in how it plays. In order to achieve this, Game Freak have based the game solely around the little village in which where you live, as well as a few other local areas. It makes the game almost feel bite-sized, but believe me, once you get your teeth into it, it’ll take a great chunk of your limited time.
There is the usual exploring element, learning the layout of your village or where the mines, high street of shops or local farm are to be found. But everything here is literally just around the corner from each other. You also interact with a whole host of NPC’s, their bleepy-squeeky voices providing a quick-fire narrative that simply flows with the general progression of the game. It does so in a charming manner also, with some beautiful environments, animations and character models which gives this game the graphical presentations of a AAA title. The music too, composed by Undertale’s Toby Fox, flows with a mind-sticking melody throughout as you hum your way through the green fields, darkened mines and busy high streets of village and real life.
The game’s most unique selling point though, comes in the form of its combat. Using a turn-based variant, it runs along a similar path as to what may normally be associated with a TCG/CCG style of game, yet uses the notion of ideas in a series of decisions that affects the outcome of the battle. It’s actually quite an easy mechanic to get to grips with, but at the same time can be a difficult one to master. These ideas, or Izzits as they are known as, can be ‘bought’ to unlock their thoughts; thus making them dazzits. Each dazzit comes with an attack and defence value, as well as a colour coding and, depending on the numbers on yours and your opponent’s dazzit, decides whether they break each other. Once each character has all their thoughts, or dazzits broken, they are then vulnerable to an ‘all break’ attack that is dependent on their opponent having a red coloured ‘attack’ dazzit.
With each round you play, you gain experience which, in turn, allows more crystals with which to purchase more expensive and powerful izzets. Therefore, the longer you fight, the more powerful you can become. However, there are a number of other factors that need to be considered also. These range from three lives, numerical shielding that needs to be broken down, buffs and debuffs and the ability to refresh your mind and remember all of the Izzets available to you. It sounds complicated, but in reality, its really not. It’s extremely accessible and really fun to play. This is further bolstered with a board game style of play which, between each round, creates a random number in which you can move places. Some of these places can contain helpful abilties, such as other villagers, or friends, who can grant special attacks and helpful ideas, weapons that can deal direct damage and explosive barrels to name but a few.
It produces a style of combat the feels fresh, yet strangely familiar at the same time; even more so if you’re a fan of TCG/CCG games or just Pokémon in general. It contains a certain charm and that is something that is prevalent through out everything within the game. You can’t help but feel the love that has been put into this game. It’s something that shows throughout, even down to the point where I found the ‘voices’ of the NPC’s to be grating and annoying, but after a while, I actually began to love them. The music too, just sticks in my head all day long. Along with a fresh feeling and fun style of combat, beautiful graphics, a level of role playing upgrades and a lovable cast and story, this is a wonderful game to have come to the Switch; especially if you’re a fan of its mish-mash of genres and styles. It feels distinctly Game Freak, yes it contains little snippets of a Pokémon style, yet at the same feels so different too.
Overall, Little Town Hero brings something new to the genre of role-playing, with a more concise and bite-sized feel to its mechanics, yet contains a mass of depth to keep you invested. It’s utterly charming in everything that it does, looks great and sounds fantastic. If there’s one slight misgiving that I’d give the game, it’s that the combat sessions can feel a bit overdrawn at times and each bout can last a while; especially if you haven’t completely figured out the mechanics of its combat. There’s a real AAA quality to the title and overall, should last you anywhere between ten and twenty hours; depending on your skill level. It may not be as big as some of the journeys we undertake digitally, but it’s all the more better for it and the truth is, this is one of the most enjoyable titles that I have had the pleasure of playing this year. It may be little, but it’s certainly heroic.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.