There have been many developers accused of wearing their influences on their sleeve. Saint’s Row’s Volition loves them some Grand Theft Auto, Visceral took handfuls of God of War and dropped it into Dante’s Inferno, and so on and so on. Developer Castle Pixel is showing the same type of loving homage to Zelda in their upcoming action-RPG Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King. Instead of wearing it on their sleeve, their Zelda worship could more accurately be described as a shirt made of lit roman candles and colored smoke, even going so far as making a crack about telling the Zelda story again in the opening sequence.
There is a story within a story in place here. Two young children sit in front of their grandfather on a cold night in hopes of hearing a tale of adventure. This story takes the form of the adventures of Dame Lily in the Kingdom of Blossom. (Sorry, Sir Lily, according to the granddaughter.) Awakening in bed, the heroine soon finds herself embroiled in heroics, starting with…killing rats in a cellar. Look, the demo on the show floor was heavy on the action and puzzle solving, but light on the potential story beats. However, what was present in the actual narrative showed that Castle Pixel is taking careful aim at genre tropes, mocking them lovingly.
The action itself does shine through, and the Zelda influence is heavy with this one. Every gameplay element encountered seemed to be pulled out of the SNES title, A Link to the Past. This would be the correct one to choose. Swinging the sword and performing twirling cuts feels spot on to the classic, as do the puzzles that make use of bombs and arrows. In fact, one could argue that Blossom Tales assumes that players have experienced the inspiration, as it didn’t take long for the game to leave me absolutely stuck on some of the brain scratchers. Four switches needed to be thrown at once, which can only be done making ample use of the bombs’ time delay and throwing mechanisms present.
While the game uses the SNES mechanics for play, the graphical look is closer to Link’s Awakening. Decidedly 8-bit, Castle Pixel worked hard to straddle the line between the two to create a memorable adventure. While I would have preferred if they had tried to emulate the Mode 7 and sharper look of the Super Nintendo Zelda look, there is no denying that the pixel art here is rather well realized. Creatures like the Rat King and stone golems fit well into the world, boasting plenty of detail while embracing its roots. The style choice certainly shows that it was taken as a short cut; there are plenty of design attributes to draw the eye.
While the actual release date of Blossom Tales hasn’t been nailed down just yet, it is expected to be earlier rather than later this year. This is quite alright with me, as I would rather have a good finished game later, than something sooner. Plus, I need to play through A Link to the Past again, so that I won’t throw Sir Lily directly into a pit trip again.