Title: The Cruel King and the Great Hero
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Release Date: March 15, 2022
Reviewed On: PS5
Publisher: NIS America
Genre: Role-Playing, Adventure
RPGs come in all shapes and sizes, don’t they? From how they present their story to how their mechanics are shaped…there’s always something for everyone. The Cruel King and the Great Hero presents these systems through an adventure that resembles a children’s book but the narrative never really captures the imagination of the player.
The Cruel King and the Great Hero begins with a young child named Yuu, who was raised by the Dragon King and taught the main dangers and hazards of being a great hero. The previous hero was her father, but since his passing, the humans and monsters have been living in peace with each other…or so it seems. However, as you progress through the story, you’ll learn that while the two races have declared “peace,” it doesn’t necessarily translate to “being on good terms.”
The story presents itself as a children’s storybook, which shows in the cutscenes depicted as book pages flipping over. A female narrator soothingly tells you the misadventures of Yuu and her companions. From a mythical forest to a mysterious fountain, everything in the game is voiced by this narrator. You’ll possibly find that if you focus solely on the main story, the game’s runtime will only last a few hours.
However, that is not to say that the main story is all there is to this adventure. After each Chapter, monsters across the realm will constantly be asking Yuu to help them, whether it’s for a small chore of gathering materials or perhaps defeating a vicious enemy that is blocking the passage of others. And this sort of sidequest system is what brings me to a “delightful” annoyance, which is the amount of backtracking you have to do.
Yuu doesn’t dash. Or rather, she does, but that is only if your level is higher than that area’s average level. Until then, you’re stuck with a relatively slow walking speed, which weighs on the pacing, especially in areas that are very long horizontally and take 3 to 4 enemy encounters to go the next section. You can mitigate the encounters somewhat by using an item, but by doing so, you’re risking not getting enough EXP, so…pick your poison, I guess.
Speaking of combat, however, it’s your bog-standard turn-based battle system that sort of reminds me closely of the mechanics you see from the Mario and Luigi series. The faster your speed, the earlier you’ll attack, the more defense, the less damage you take, yadda yadda, all that standard stuff. Nothing particularly crazy. For each chapter, you’ll have additional party members, each with their own unique skills that may or may not help you in battle.
Now let’s talk about localization. I’m going to brush this off as a thing that may be fixed in a later patch, but during my time with the game, I’ve encountered various moments where the text doesn’t line break properly and almost goes off the bounds of the screen. Further, the localization also felt very “dry” and “literal” in some places, lacking the punch you would expect from certain games.
The Cruel King and the Great Hero is a cute RPG, I can’t deny that, but it, unfortunately, doesn’t fully invest in any of its features. The combat is tacted on, the story is predictable, and missions feel like unnecessary padding. Still, the charm is there with a more laid-back narrative than your thrilling style RPG. If you’re someone that just wants to wind off and take a break from stories that make you grip your head in fear and confusion, then perhaps this game is for you.
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