Title: Little Town Hero
Developer: Game Freak
Release Date: October 16, 2019
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: Game Freak
Making the impossible, possible, all starts with a dream. Without dreamers, those who think of doing or creating extraordinary things, the world wouldn’t be what it is today. Because of this, following a dream takes bravery, which is fitting for a town-protecting hero like the one in Little Town Hero.
The turn-based RPG Little Town Hero, from Pokémon franchise developer Game Freak, is all about a dreamer who wants to make his dream of seeing the world a reality. Not only that, but the game itself shows how the developers wanted to step out of their comfort zone, and, I’m assuming, follow their dream to make something new. That said, even though poor pacing makes the adventure in Little Town Hero feel like a long slog, at times, — regardless of it taking only about 10 – 20 hours to complete — it’s charming and challenging enough to keep you entertained.
This hero is a red-headed child — which whom you can give a name (his preset name is “Axe,” though) — who lives in an isolated, little town on the edge of the world. All of the villagers in the town are content with their everyday lives, especially given the fact that they aren’t allowed to leave since a castle heavily guards the only gate leading outside. However, the protagonist isn’t like the other townsfolk; he has dreams to see the outside world for himself. Things take a turn, though, once a massive monster swarms in, and from there, the protagonist’s journey into being a little town hero truly begins as he must unravel the secrets of the village.
Unlike the Pokémon games, where you immediately head out and explore a massive world, Little Town Hero takes a vastly different approach since you instead learn the ins and outs of the small village. While this significant story element did draw me in at first and made the game have a more light-hearted and short story overall, I quickly came to realize that it hurts the game’s pacing tremendously. Exploring the village was great the first time, but going through the same areas repeatedly made me dream that there was just something more to see in Little Town Hero.
What also hurts the game’s pacing how is the cast of characters suffer from the lack of any meaningful character development. The protagonist has two friends, Nelz, the nerdy, helpful one, and Matock, the hot-headed rival, and there a slew of other characters in the adventure. All the characters aren’t too memorable, though, because they don’t have their own exciting stories to tell. Thankfully, they each have unique personalities that make them likable.
Little Town Hero focuses on the protagonist protecting the village at all costs, through slice-of-life moments of storytelling. But of course, having to not focus so much on the characters helps, along with just enjoying the fun written dialogue between the characters, makes the game a more easy-going adventure — that said, expect to fight Matock at random moments a whole lot.
Fortunately, the gameplay is the cream of the crop of Little Town Hero. As mentioned before, protecting the village and exploring all that it has to offer is your mission. While exploring, there are moments when a monster invades the town, and you assume the role of a monster-fighting hero. Surprisingly, combat is a traditional turn-based battle system with digital CCG (collectible card game) or tabletop game-like elements. Rather than spamming the “attack” button, Little Town Hero has you rely heavily on coming up with new ideas and strategies.
When a battle begins, the protagonist conjures up five different potential actions called “Ideas” or “Izzits” that look like playing cards that generally have an attack and defense value — along with, at times, special abilities tied in with them. There isn’t a rhyme or reason as to which Izzits received since they are random, but the cards can be split into three categories, attack, defense, and support. Rather than be able to use the Izzits all at once, you have to use the limited “Power” to turn an Izzit into a “Dazzit.” Once that’s done, it’s then up to you to pick a Dazzit and watch as the enemy’s Dazzit collides with your Dazzit. This happens until all Dazzits are used, and then the turn is over. The real goal here is to garner an “All Break” by breaking all the enemy’s Dazzits, all the while making sure to not run out of Dazzits and earning a chance to hit the enemy’s hearts.
Okay, I’m sure you think the battle system sounds like it’s a lot to handle, but really, it’s quite easy to get the hang of. I decided to give you an in-depth overview of the system only so that you can be aware of just how strategy-heavy battles can get in Little Town Hero. Often in combat, I had to weigh out all my options, and think of creative ways to overcome challenges — like, for instance, an enemy having a debuff ability that caused one of my Dazzits to break automatically.
Not only are there Dazzits and Izzits, and all sorts of other battle system terms to keep in mind, but there’s also the fact that ending a turn causes you to change locations around a top-down map that looks similar to a map found in a tabletop game. What’s particularly neat about the map is how specific spaces let you call in friends, such as Matock, who can strike at an enemy’s hearts, and use particular objects, like cannons, to support you in battle. Battles are exciting because of just how many options you have, and also the fact that you always need to be one step ahead of your opponent, no matter what. Mastering the challenging battle system is where all the fun lies within Little Town Hero; however, do know that battles can take a long time to finish. There isn’t any grinding at all in this adventure, so you don’t have to worry about that.
Exploration, however, leaves a bit to be desired. While the town you’re in is bustling with life, there isn’t much to do in it other than talk to NPCs and take on optional side quests — since there’s no reason to check out shops since equipment and items aren’t features in the game. Because of this, similar to the overall story, exploration gets somewhat repetitive, but at least side quests aren’t run-of-the-mill at all and offer plenty of fun moments.
Aside from exploration, Little Town Hero does have a stat system called “Eurekas” in which you can level up Izzits. It’s a straightforward system that takes only a couple of seconds to understand how it works. But, I was hoping for there to be more to it. However, it works well enough, so it doesn’t take too much of your time, which is reasonable given that Little Town Hero is best played in short bursts.
Presentation-wise, the anime art style is without a doubt charming, yet the game’s graphics aren’t pushing the Switch’s capabilities by any means. Regardless, Little Town Hero looks cute, and all of the cuteness is further amplified by the game’s soundtrack from Toby Fox, the creator, and composer of Undertale.
It’s best to think of Little Town Hero as a bite-sized RPG. What makes this game a fun adventure is its unique and challenging battle system that’s unlike anything else in any other RPG released this year. While the experience has plenty of charm, unfortunately, it suffers from issues that make it not as grand as it could’ve been. If you’re dreaming of playing an epic RPG, it’s best to look elsewhere, but if you can look past its kinks, Little Town Hero is worth playing through.
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