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When I first got my Switch, I got it planning to have a library full of games like Blossom Tales II. While retro-style and heartwarming nostalgic games aren’t reserved solely for the Nintendo console, they certainly suit the Switch like a Santa Monica bachelor suits a new Tesla.
Blossom Tales II: The Minotaur Prince is the second installment of the Blossom Tales series. Developed by Castle Pixel, the game tells the tale of the knight Lily and her adventurous journey to defeat the Minotaur King, an evil and treacherous king she inadvertently summoned that wound up kidnapping her little brother.
Knight Lily’s Second Adventure
If you enjoy some retro-style game with neither one nor two but several influences from The Legend of Zelda, you’re in for a treat. Even the first game’s official Nintendo Store synopsis mentions similarities to A Link to the Past. And well, I could just sum it all up, saying you’re playing the next advent of our green-hooded hero in 16-bits and finish the review.
Instead, I’ll tell you my start-to-finish experience to help you decide if you should get it or just pop up your Nintendo Switch online and play Zelda. Since I know some of you prefer a snap consideration, here are some express thoughts. If you love a carefree and lighthearted 2D action-adventure game, then Blossom Tales II: The Minotaur Prince is for you.
Blossom Tales II starts with Lily and her brother Chrys throwing a tantrum as most kids are lawfully required to. To appease their moods, Grandpa decides to tell a story. I haven’t played the first Blossom Tale, but given the boy’s animation, I imagine he wasn’t included in the first tale.
The story has a modest start. The grandfather tells how two siblings, conveniently also called Lily and Chrys, are excited about the Minotaur Moon Festival that is taking place in their town, Blossomdale. Grandma wakes them both, and if there is one thing that indicates that we are playing with a destined-to-be hero, it’s whenever the introduction shows us the hero getting out of bed.
As soon as Lily gets out of bed, the game hands us her control. We can get mischievous and destroy pots, chairs, vases, and any other object in front of us, collecting gold and some items that will serve as materials or currency in the long run.
Within the festival, there are several minigames that I had to complete to proceed with the story. These minigames acted like a tutorial, teaching me the ropes of what a knight can do. The commands are charmingly simple, reminiscent of A Link to the Past. You can slash with your sword, defend with your shield, roll, and use any tool applied to two hotkey buttons.
Tools in Blossom Tales spend chunks of an energy bar that automatically recovers over time, so don’t worry about running out of bombs or arrows. Lily can also roll from attacks, which also consume a bit of energy, but adds another layer of dynamism to the gameplay.
Storywise, the game isn’t text-heavy. Most NPCs you talk to babble something identical to any other NPC in the same vicinity. However, you should still speak to everyone you cross as some may offer sidequests.
After completing most minigames, Lily joined the tournament. That’s when I noticed how well-crafted the narrative system was. When a storyteller shares something in real life, there are usually interruptions and inquiries. In Blossom Tales, there are as well. Frequently, Lily and her brother Chyris argue at some point about an outcome, and the player must decide who to please.
For example, when I reached a new map, the grandpa said I was surprised by frogs coming downstream. Lily hates frogs and said she would prefer honey badgers, so the monsters instantly changed. But Chrys got upset and asked Grandpa to stop changing the story, and the frogs were back at it again. In the end, it was up to me to decide whether I would face frogs or honey badgers. Little details like these added to the fun and made me be part of the story, however slightly.
Back to the tournament, I had to select whether to engage a lancer or a swordsman. After I won, Chrys barged into the story and added his character as the next opponent. Ultimately, the boy won with a sucker punch, driving his sister to make a reckless wish. Lily hoped the Minotaur King would take her brother away, so he did. At this moment, I thought grandpa was losing control of the story. Apparently, the old geezer found it humorous to make his grandson’s character kidnapped. So did Chrys, so oh well.
After this, the adventure begins for a remorseful Lily, driven to save her brother from the villain she helped bring forth. If you’ve ever played a Zelda-like game, you know the drill; brave dungeons, face bosses, collect key items and take the fight to the baddie before he takes over the world.
Explore, and You Shall Find
No genre hits the mark with exploration better than an adventure game. Blossom Tales II has a map that pinpoints the next main quest destination. At first, I thought this would take the adventure feeling away from the game. But it did not. I could always choose to ignore the marker and explore the map to my heart’s content. Until, of course, I was barred from progressing because I lacked the right tool to blow up a landslide. But that’s exactly what I was expecting from an adventure game. (That’s also what defines the Metroidvania genre, but I don’t think you’re ready to talk about how Zelda is mostly a top-down or a 3D Metroidvania game.)
Exploring sure pays off. Not only do you get coins from destroying barrels, grass, and furniture like a rascal, but sometimes you find chests beneath said objects that boast even more bountiful rewards. Such as heart pieces, which increase your life after collecting four of them, or energy crystals that boost your energy bar.
Before long, my inventory was filled with various items ranging from fruits, plants, monster parts, and shells. Several NPCs I met on my journey accepted items I’ve collected in exchange for valuables like a heart piece, empty bottle, or energy crystal. So expect to spend some time gathering these items if you intend to power up mighty Lily.
I met a boy who wanted to build a sand castle and needed fifteen shells. At first, it seemed quite a lot since I had only two. But it also motivated me to defeat enemies, something I thoroughly missed when replaying A Link to the Past earlier this year. Since enemies in Zelda games (Breath of the Wild being the exception) rarely give loots, and there are no levels to be earned, I simply avoided them. In Blossom Tales II, however, I made sure to kill every monster I came across to amass their gut in hopes of exchanging it for a better item. Oh yeah, some pirates I killed also dropped guts. What kind of children’s story is this, Grandpa?
The game also has something you can expect from adventure games: puzzles. Lots of them. At first, they were so easy that even my 4-years old brother could solve them blindfolded. As I progressed through the game, they started to get increasingly challenging. One of those required me to light all braziers in a dungeon to open up the path. However, two torches were across a gap, and I had no idea how to lit them. I was positive I was missing a tool, so I revisited the entire map seeking it. But the map still pointed to the dungeon as my next goal. Then, it hit me. Since there were two braziers on my side, what if I shot an arrow from behind them to reach the other side as a flaming arrow? Eureka! It worked! so all the time I wasted wandering around was because my gray matter was failing. Don’t blame the game; blame the player.
The dungeons are nicely designed and progress in a natural and didactic manner. They all have two bosses. When you defeat the first one, you acquire a new tool that helps you open previously unreachable locations within the zone until you fight the second boss. Defeating the second one rewards you with an essential item to move the quest.
Whenever I acquired a new tool, many new areas were now accessible. So I revisited previous regions and amassed gold, heart pieces, and energy crystals with my new gadget. However, seeing the same rewards repeatedly started to discourage me. That’s when a minor sidequest restored my point of view. I helped a camper hunt down a goblin; as compensation, he upgraded my bow to shoot three arrows simultaneously! Seeing that the rewards could vary was exciting and motivated me to explore deeper.
Gold, by the way, is used to buy items in the shops or participate in some minigames. Every damn shop sells the same thing, a heart piece, an empty bottle, and an energy crystal. Gold isn’t exactly an issue. Every time you leave and reenter a room, the breakable objects respawn. Per reentry, I could collect 7 to 12 gold. For comparison, heart pieces and energy crystals cost 250 gold.
Gameplay Evolves Over Time
In addition to its tools, Blossom Tales II has features that enhance the game’s enjoyment. For instance, there’s an Alchemy system in the game. You need an Empty Bottle and a combination of four materials to brew something. In the game, recipes can be collected in various ways, or you can just wing it and throw the materials you have at your disposal. Eventually, I had so many materials that I could incessantly brew Health Potions and unfairly recover myself several times while facing a boss.
To improve exploration and avoid the slog of backtracking, scattered through the regions are balloon stands that act as fast travel. They are neatly placed close to most sidequests and towns. After you pick up a musical instrument, accordion, or guitar – depending on your choice in grandpa’s narrative – you can learn a song that calls the air balloon anywhere on the map, making logistics even handier.
As far as sidequests are concerned, the game lacks variety. Most are about trading your gathered items for heart pieces, energy crystals, or an empty bottle. But in Blossomdale, there’s a sidequest where you act as a mailwoman, delivering letters worldwide and being paid a measly ten golds. In some cases, recipients are happy to include something extra, such as an alchemical recipe.
When the game’s combat was getting slightly repetitive, I encountered a Dojo. With each combat scroll I gave the master, I learned a new sword skill. Initially, Lily employs a simple three-attack combo, or I could hold the attack button and make her whirl with her sword, just as you’re imagining. After handing the combat scrolls, I learned to do a ground pound, a dash strike, a whirlwind, and even shoot energy balls. As these attacks used up my Energy Bar, I had to choose whether to use these combat arts, dodge or use my tools.
You can choose, but if you hand over all four combat scrolls, you will learn all the skills.
While I know I may be nitpicking, there was something that irked me about the game. Blossom Tales II offers many exploration or harvesting tools, like the shovel, the fishing rod, the bomb, or any other that aided me in gathering items. Since these situations are abundant, I had to constantly open the menu, equip a new tool, use it, move just a few steps ahead, switch back to another instrument, and so on.
What is weird, however, is that of the 4 triggers in the Joycon, 3 weren’t tied to any action. That left me wondering why the game didn’t let me put other tools into them as shortcuts. In the last dungeon, I needed to use every gadget at my disposal, so I spent a lot of time opening the menu and managing my hotkeys.
How Tales of Blossom Sank Its Hooks In
I am fascinated by great stories and narratives in RPGs. Especially JRPGs that show our student hero evolving into a godslayer. So why does such a simple little game, very light on the story, appeal to me? Precisely because it’s unpretentious. I didn’t need to keep up with every single event within it, understand each character’s motivation, or expect a plot twist to amp things up. The game is charmingly straightforward and fun, which, at the end of the day, is what games need to be.
Blossom Tales II isn’t a challenging game. I explored the four corners of the world and garnered many hearts pieces – at the end of the game, I had 17 out of a total of 20. But I died only once, and even then, since I had a Rejuvenation potion in my blood, I was automatically resurrected and beat the boss.
As someone who easily gets stressed out after dying five times to the same boss in some Soulsborne, knowing that I will die another forty or so times, Blossom Tales II: The Minotaur King was a much-needed treat both to prepare me for the following text-heavy narrative JRPG and to show me that I am still capable of defeating bosses in the first try. I clocked in almost 17 hours when I finished the game and had a wonderful time for most of it.
What You Can Play Instead
If you want to test the ground before diving into Blossom Tales or prefer to make comparisons, here are some alternative game suggestions.
HYPER LIGHT DRIFTER is another indie game with pixie and retro vibes. It’s more fast-paced than Blossom Tales II. Still, it has the same essence of puzzle solving, top-down camera, and exploration at its finest. For those who like it, it has a more robust customization system, allowing you to upgrade stats your way.
Moonlighter is another 2D game, but with a roguelike feel. The game mixes a simulation system, where you must handle and manage your item store, with exploration, delving into dungeons to build your reputation as a hero, and restoring the village. Moonlighter is more in-depth than Blossom Tales and guarantees a lot of replayability.
And if you don’t want to make a mistake, why not go straight to the source? Nintendo Switch Online subscribers can play both NES and Super Nintendo games and access the most classic The Legend of Zelda games, including some unique modes that deliver a fully-fledged Link with the best equipment and attributes at maximum. It’s the most practical and legitimate way to trip down memory lane if you have a Switch.
Pros and Cons
- Easy to pick up and start playing
- Exploration is enriching and fun
- The puzzles are basic but still challenging
- The gameplay progression pacing is flawless
- The interaction between Lily, Chrys, and grandpa during the story is lovely
- The story is predictably simple
- For those who don’t like to explore, backtracking can be annoying
Question: Is Blossom Tales II a direct sequel?
Answer: Yes, somewhat. In the first game, Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King, grandpa is also telling his grandchildren a nap time story portrayed by the hero Lily. The second story takes place hundreds of years after the first one. That doesn’t mean you will miss anything relevant if you skip The Sleeping King. Probably just a minor reference here and there.
Question: Do I need to fully explore the game?
Answer: You don’t! The map marks the next destination of your main quest, and if you prefer, you can go towards it directly. At the end of the game, I had 17 hearts and found the King’s Sword embedded in stone. The tooltip in the game implied that I needed to fill up the 20 hearts to remove it. To do this, I needed to find possibly twelve more heart pieces, which I was a little overwhelmed with, so I brushed this sidequest aside. I managed to finish the game even without the sword.
Question: Should I play the first Blossom Tales before this one?
Answer: If you like to see and feel the graphical and gameplay evolutions, be my guest. The series does not require you to play them sequentially, but you can see that the second game is a visual and technical upgrade from the first.
Suppose you are looking for a quiet game that rewards you at every step and encourages you to explore and uncover all the secrets it holds. In that case, Blossom Tales II is for you. The game oozes that retro-vibe from earlier 90s Nintendo brands.
It’s a perfect game to be played in handheld mode, especially if you can only play for short periods. If, like me, you don’t have the patience to dig through every pixel of the world to complete everything, fret not. After completing the game, a bard in Blossomdale teaches you a song that makes the grandpa give you hints of hidden treasures on whatever piece of the map you are on. There are a lot of subjective directions, and some are more confusing than helpful. Still, it’s better than no guidance at all.
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