Review – Blossom Tales 2: The Minotaur Prince
Fun fact – because of the roaring success of the initial entry in the Blossom Tales franchise, financial stability was given to Castle Pixel LLC. It sold gang busters due to paying homage to The Legend of Zelda. That alone isn’t enough to sell a game, but being a delightful romp certainly is. I recall purchasing that title solely on word of mouth and nothing else. The screenshots and colourful pixel art didn’t hurt, though. As a thirty-three year old man, I was immediately warped to my youth when I’d sit in front of my CRT television, being yelled at by my mother to back the hell up. When I saw a sequel coming, I was first in the metaphorical line – my excitement was immeasurable. I might be setting myself up to be disappointed, but I have faith. Does Blossom Tales 2: The Minotaur Prince maintain the momentum?
Perhaps this is a startling comparison, but the storytelling and its progress are akin to Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands. Well, more specifically, that sweet D&D structure. Throughout the plotline of Blossom Tales 2, there are brief instances when dialogue options pop up. You see, the narrative playing out before you is just that, a narrative recited by a Grandfather to his Grandchildren. Certain sections, such as deciding what kind of enemies ambush the heroine, Lily, spark a disagreement between the young tykes and you, the player, get to pick who is most agreeable. Unfortunately, there’s zero grander effect to these choices. While it’s a shame that’s the case, the sheer charm it adds to my session is irrefutable. It never feels out-of-place, fitting seamlessly into the universe and nailing that fairy tale aesthetic.
Speaking of brother and sister, I was astonished by how well it mimics an actual relationship between siblings. The back and forth bickering with a hint of love in a concoction of pleasantries and insults brought a smile to my face. This term isn’t necessarily a great descriptor, but it’s the only one I can think of to depict it accurately – it’s so friggin’ cute. It unabashedly embraces being wholesome, and it excels because of that. Don’t expect character development or an in-depth script of twists and turns. Manage those expectations because, in actuality, Blossom Tales 2 is just a love letter to the SNES era. Writing prowess has limitations, particularly in an action title such as this. Hell, one-liners are often repeated amongst the NPCs. Thankfully, that doesn’t ever devolve into annoyance, thanks to dialogue bubbles being short and sweet.
The Legend of Zelda is an obvious inspiration. The similarities pop from the screen and slap you across the face. Combat is a pixel-perfect portrayal of Link’s Awakening. How it functions is familiar, and thus, easy to understand. That gives it the pick-up-and-play facet that a few others in the past have struggled with, relying heavily on tutorials to get you up to speed. Of course, there’s more a game needs to stay faithful to a tried and true formula of a classic, and Blossom Tales 2 accepts the challenge. It tears a page from Zelda’s homework, but instead of switching it up a little, it’s a carbon copy. That’s not a diss. Let’s face it; there’s no reason to fix gameplay that isn’t broken. The vintage hack-and-slash style remains relevant, but by being identical to its muse, they share hiccups.
Inventory management was always a problem in the past due to buttons not being plentiful. It has improved as more advanced controllers are released, but some titles still won’t take advantage. Blossom Tales 2 is one such title, neglecting both bumpers on the console. Sure, one of them is tied to dodging hits which is preferable. However, it’s also assigned to B, which seems redundant. As it currently sits, items are only bonded to either X or Y. With a wide variety of gadgets, though, I was opening the menu ad nauseam. The thing is, that shouldn’t even be an issue because there’s already a solution for it. By adjusting prompts and freeing up B to no longer recycle a command, it would single-handedly mitigate the tedium this process tends to manifest. Granted, customizing inputs is possible, but it insists on keeping dual implementation weirdly intact.
Now, suppose you were to inquire about what makes the old-school Zelda so attractive to a person, I would answer the secrets. Thankfully, Castle Pixel LLC shares my sentiment. I’m encouraged to explore every nook and cranny of this vast world because there are multiple hidden areas, from a tucked-away route to a wall waiting for an explosion. Speaking of, it’s hard to discern which one is brittle and, therefore, ready for the boom. They’re missable unless you’re paying close attention. Actually, even then, it’s no guarantee. I was lying down with my screen inches from my face and routinely walked passed several. Some textures made it easy to differentiate the sturdy from the flimsy ones, but others aren’t as obvious. The treasures within can be crucial, too, ranging from the common finds of chests full of cash to the much rarer ones of a heart container or a stamina booster.
Unfortunately, this very facet introduces a massive accessibility deterrent. It’s enough to cause a whole heap of frustration. See, I’m the kind of player that loves scouting my surroundings at any time. Blossom Tales 2 tries forcing me into doing that at the end of my journey, right before the final fight. It achieves this by placing small dungeons inside those veiled caves with obstacles that can only be beaten with late-game items. Naturally, if this happens, you’d exit before returning once acquiring it. For me and my goldfish memory, however, that’s easier said than done. Point blank; I’d forget their general location. I may have what’s required, but I’d spend endless minutes, upwards to hours, wandering with no real destination. A waypoint system is desperately needed. It would alleviate this snafu while adding an excellent quality of life feature.
When Breath of the Wild was released, it received universal praise, but complaints lurked behind all the compliments. The main one was that it steered very far from the vintage playstyle that Zelda had perfected back in the early days – that fun loop of finding intriguing tools in an area, then utilizing them to conquer that very area. I was a fan of that, more so due to its genius – it doubled as a tutorial. It taught me the intricacies of it and the plethora of ways it could function. Well, Blossom Tales 2 emulates that stance to a tee. I dug the hell out of some of the things found in this game. They’re unlike anything I’ve ever seen, and I was delighted to toy around and figure out cool little tactics. Nothing substantial, mind you, but ways that took full advantage of whatever I was using.
Apart from the main questline, there are smaller ones to accept that reward objects like heart containers, stamina boosters, and money – essentially, whatever can be acquired inside a blocked cavern. There are, however, extra goodies that make taking time to do these a worthwhile endeavour. Throughout the adventure, as you slash at the grass and slaughter enemies, flowers and other types of materials might suddenly appear. That’s right, there’s not only a tiny crafting system, but these act as ingredients to concoct potions, too. The overall game length may not reach astronomical hours spent, but the time it has is dense – it’s a meaty experience. If I wasn’t delivering letters for the post office, I was searching for a bard in trouble. If you’re hesitant to grab everything Blossom Tales 2 offers, reconsider. Doing them might net you something legendary.
Puzzles are a mainstay within the action genre, especially in those that strive to replicate a franchise as revered as The Legend of Zelda. To be successful, they must be clever yet simplistic and easy to comprehend fully. That’s something Blossom Tales 2 does well. Based on appearances alone, there are a few that look intimidating as hell. It gives off the illusion of a challenging brain teaser when in reality, that isn’t the case. Nothing is obtuse about them, and through traditional trial and error, I’d quickly find the solution. It’s due to this organic methodology of solving that I felt satisfied by the end. By harnessing all the direct context clues, I’d piece together the steps and arrive at the proper conclusion. As a title geared towards the younger demographic, that’s what you want. It lacks any hair-ripping difficulty, resulting in a pleasant experience.
Blossom Tales 2’s graphical fidelity depends on a gorgeous pixel art style. The character sprites, especially Lily, are so damn cute. Sadly, they aren’t as plentiful as I hoped. When it comes to NPCs, there are a handful of examples of merely colour palette swaps instead of creating unique ones. It’s a minor gripe, and it doesn’t take from the immense detail in environments. Everything pops thanks to the vibrancy. The animations are fluent, with no signs of stuttering. It’s solid, and I love that when I’m walking out of the water, tiny footprints are left behind. It adds weight to the character, making her feel robust. I can’t help but applaud the attention and passion that’s on display. Castle Pixel LLC did a fabulous job capturing the old-school appeal of the SNES. My one favourite aspect is when Lily is idle. She whips out a cellphone and begins scrolling.
When it comes to the musical pedigree, I’m somewhat split. On the one hand, it has a few genuinely great songs that match well with the vibe of the aesthetic. They’re whimsical and cheery. Then there’s a track that’s produced rather strangely. It doesn’t match the rest, with sluggish and drab pacing.
Simply put, it lacks any oomph. It isn’t memorable; then again, that’s praise that I can only lop at one facet of the score. It’s heard after entering the field outside the starting village. Even as I’m writing, I can’t help but hum the tune. Something about it has a vice grip on my heart. Perhaps it’s thanks to the catchy melodic beat. Maybe it’s thanks to the tinge of Legend of Zelda influence buried within the notes. Whatever it is, it effortlessly brings me back to an era so timeless: the 90s.
Blossom Tales 2 continues what the first set out to achieve – paying respects to the golden standard and not only accomplishing that, but killing it too. It’s a masterstroke of unadulterated glee, with nods to its inspiration and other unrelated genres. I love the cheeky references sprinkled throughout, like the jab at a cliché of farming simulators. It pokes fun at Grandfathers always handing down their business. I also enjoy the overworld map’s size. There’s a lot to discover, which is why waypoints are severely missed. I shouldn’t have to backtrack and meticulously search around. Even in doing that, there’s no guarantee I’ll find anything. A fast travel system does attempt to soften traversal and does a modest job. My biggest compliment, though, is much like Link’s Awakening – a bite-sized excursion with endlessly replayability. I wholeheartedly recommend it.
Be warned that Blossom Tales 2 has flashing lights.
I the pixel art is very well done. The style of it and the design decision to fatten up the sprites may not be to everyone’s taste, but I like it. It’s a shame that a few NPCs tend to be identical with only colour variations to differentiate.
It’s that classic old-school hack-and-slash. It doesn’t stray far from the formula but introduces things like crafting to add a bit of spice.
The soundtrack is serviceable, but only one track is certifiably memorable. Don’t get me wrong, the music is still good, but it takes something special to reach those heights, and Blossom Tales 2 does it. Well, except that one tune.
Fun Factor: 9.0
I’m a Zelda freak. I’m obsessed with Nintendo’s franchise. To be able to find a clone that respectfully emulates the playstyle, and doing it so well, is like heaven for me. I loved every minute of it.
Final Verdict: 8.5
Blossom Tales 2: The Minotaur Prince is available now on Nintendo Switch and PC.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
A copy of Blossom Tales 2: The Minotaur Prince was provided by the publisher.