Thanks to Rainy Frog for the review code
Title: Little Town Hero
System: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Release Date: 10/16/2019
As an original title coming straight from GAME FREAK themselves, Little Town Hero is an RPG adventure where you take control of an adventurous boy, who’s desperate to learn the mysteries behind his isolated town and the rise of invading monsters.
Surprisingly, this story is a lot more in-depth than you might expect, with the plot getting really engaging around the second chapter or so and having a lot of mystery surrounding it, which helped make me want to keep on playing to find out what happens next, something that doesn’t really work on me in other RPGs.
In fact, if you want a more familiar Pokemon comparison, take the mysterious nature of the endgame of Sun and Moon, and combine it with the craving to know how things came to be that Red Rescue Team had, and you can easily guess the way this game’s plot might make you feel.
I really do have to give Little Town Hero some major credit, as it looks absolutely gorgeous, both in docked and especially handheld mode. The art style they went with here is very colorful and reminds me of Wind Waker in some aspects, but looks a lot more refined and makes the world feel like a living anime, which is a feeling I don’t really get from any of Game Freak’s other titles save for maybe Pulseman.
The fact everything looks so pleasing to the eyes is especially helpful considering how it leads to this game’s colorful UI. Each icon in your menu is color-coded which makes it easy to identify which one does what, and this also applies to the battle system, since the Dazzit system uses colors to help distinguish the types from one another and make things a bit easier to understand.
Another thing to compliment is the music, which impressed me more than I was expecting it to. Noted very recently by Game Informer, a majority of the game’s composition was done by Toby Fox, a game developer and composer that worked on the hit Deltarune and Undertale games, which are known for some incredibly famous video game songs that have joined the likes of Final Fantasy in terms of famous soundtracks.
Considering how this is his third major compositional role for a video game, I say he did an excellent job, as even though few of the Undertale songs really did much for me, a lot of his work in Little Town Hero stands out and is just excellent. From the serene nature of the town’s main theme, to the unique battle themes that bring to mind other games such as Chrono Trigger and Live A Live, Little Town Hero has some of the best songs from a Game Freak game to date, standing up right alongside Pulseman and Pokemon Emerald as my favorite GF soundtracks.
You can tell that there’s another composer though, since some of the songs such as the battle victory theme and a few of the jingles sound a bit more reminiscent of songs from more recent Pokemon titles than what’s undeniably Toby’s work, but I don’t think this is a bad thing either since I found these to go along well with the game just as much as the rest of the OST.
The main point of Little Town Hero is to complete each main objective and advance from chapter to chapter, advancing the plot and engaging in any battles it requires you to take on. Despite being a RPG, this game breaks a ton of norms in order to try and focus on making an RPG adventure that’s more compact and easy to play for people who are busy with their everyday lives, such as myself at times.
I’m happy to say that for the most part, they did succeed at their focus, since this game is very friendly with your time. You not only can save at any time outside of battle, but it autosaves for you on a frequent basis, and also lets you make multiple save files if you so desire. This makes the game a very good pick up and play title already, but the game itself is streamlined in such a way that makes the pacing a bit faster without dumbing down any RPG staples to an excessive degree.
For starters, you’re only allowed to explore the one main town, and everything inside it. It’s not a puny town by any means, and there’s plenty to look around and do, but since it contains familiar landmarks that are easy to remember traversing this town is remarkably simple, even moreso when you can fast travel to key locations from the menu. (if the story allows it, that is) As a result, navigating is quick and easy, both on foot and via the fast travel, which makes this Town a pretty enjoyable one to explore.
Exploring the town also helps you discover the many sidequests that you can take up, though some may require waiting for the main story to progress further before you can finish them. Still, if you do get around to finishing a sidequest you’ll be rewarded with Eureka points, which act as the experience system in this game and can be used on a skill tree to enhance your moves and add extra health points to your shield.
You see, the battle system requires that you use a rotating array of moves called Dazzits, which are formed from idea bubbles known as Izzits. These are fixed and can’t be obtained by grinding on enemies, and thus you have to deal with the moves that a particular battle gives you. This is why the skill tree is so useful as you *do* gain Eureka points after battles and sidequests, and while they don’t change any stats, (since there aren’t any) they at least allow you to power up the skills you have and strengthen your Guts Shield for extra defense.
During the actual battles, you start out with a set amount of power points that can be spent to turn your ideas into usable moves. Every time a turn’s cleared, you raise a meter that will gradually give you more points per turn in a battle as it drags on. In order to clear a turn however, you need to strategize, and I’ll be blunt when I say that this game might be one of the most difficult that Game Freak has put out in a long while, since some of these battles are extremely tough and require a lot of strategy to stay alive and take out the enemy.
You see, while you can turn an idea into a real move, you also need to make sure that their attack and defense points are higher than your opponents when applicable. Your opponent has their own sets of moves to use, and when you attack they’ll do so as well. Once two moves clash, the red attack points deduct from the blue defense points and if the defense points are reduced to zero, that move breaks and can’t be used anymore.
Thus, the main objective of a battle is to break your opponent’s moves before they break all of yours, and if you manage to pull this off you can get an “All Break” status. But even this isn’t enough to do damage to an opponent, as you need to also have a usable red move in order to land the damaging blow, otherwise the turn will just reward you with a BP point for use in your headspace, an emergency storage of ideas that you can switch with your current arsenal. But if you manage to land a damaging blow, then the enemy’s three health points will go down by one, and depleting them all grants you a victory.
On the other hand, you can easily be overwhelmed into getting hurt, even if you may not intend on it. You see, while you may have enough ideas to take out your opponent’s moves, if you poorly pick ideas that will break before your opponent uses all their moves, then you will have no choice but to use the Struggle attack, which has a chance to damage an opponent’s defense points, but at the cost of one hit point. Sometimes it doesn’t even work so you just take damage, though at least it reloads your ideas if you run out in the headspace. Thus, playing defense to gain more power points to unlock more ideas faster is the key to victory, as trying to focus on offense earlier in a battle will just lead to you taking reckless damage.
Luckily, the bosses add a bit more layer of strategy to this combat, since both you and the boss have an extra defensive shield known as the Guts Shield. This is an extra layer of defense that covers your hearts and must be depleted in order to deal proper damage, and the amount of damage done is dependent of the strength of the move used on the shield. So against a boss with 4 shield points, if I use a Red Dazzit with 5 attack points during the All Break phase, then it’ll fade and I can deal damage to the hearts on the next turn. However, any damage to the hearts will cause the shield to regenerate, and that applies to you too.
This makes boss battles last a lot longer than the smaller fights, but the game introduces an overhead map of the town during these special battles to compensate. You see, you’ll be permitted to move to certain spaces on the map using a Mario Party-esque dice roll, and if you land on a space where townsfolk are, you can call on their aid in order to assist during a turn. This can lead to effects from damaging the Boss’s shield, increasing your attack and defense points for a turn, reducing the cost of an idea to 0, among other things. If you play your cards right you can pull off some really cool combos that can drain a boss’s shield in no time, but if you go recklessly then you can easily be overwhelmed.
That very, very lengthy battle section I just described might make this game seem a lot more complicated than it actually is, but outside of these challenging battles the game’s actually pretty relaxing to play. The exploration is enjoyable, the battles are fun and very engaging, and the plot’s super intriguing, which makes this a very solid adventure all around that’s mostly easy to pick up and play. If you can get past the strategy heavy focus these battles force on you and have it click with you, then this is a great RPG with a lot of charm. Unfortunately, I can’t really say much else on the story for the sake of preventing spoilers, but I will say that it’s something I’m going to keep on playing for many weeks to come until I get every single quest done and finished.
In conclusion, Little Town Hero is without a doubt the best non-Pokemon Game Freak game I’ve played to date. Excelling at delivering a compact RPG experience without cutting out any of the challenge or charm that these games can offer, this is an absolute must-own for any switch owner wanting an engaging RPG with all the strategy, story, and quality presentation seen in other titles without the padding that comes with most games in the genre.
The battle system is complex, but not in an overwhelming way since there’s no need for grinding or really anything else to improve your performance outside of some extra though, making the battles feel a bit like mini-puzzles in a way. Their length does go against the pick up and play nature of the game however, and there’s no way to suspend a battle and come back to it later, so you’ll have to rely on sleep mode if you’re playing this on the go and need to pull away from one.
Stilll, It’s honestly a miracle that the same development company that made the auto-pilot, too simplistic Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire manage to pull off a simplistic RPG that maintains an excellent level of challenge while being a lot more accessible to people who have busier schedules or just want to play an RPG without needing to wander a field or explore a dungeon to get to battles or sidequests.
The $25 pricetag may seem especially steep for a game like this, but I honestly feel that this game is definitely a lot more fun for that pricepoint than Giga Wrecker was, and will hold your engagement from start to finish. The battle system is really this game’s only barrier to entry, but once you get past that you have a charming world to explore, and I’d absolutely love to see this world return for a future game.
It’s a game I recommend with no hesitation, but I also won’t act like the battle system may seem like a jumbled mess to outsiders even after all I described. The game does mandate helpful tutorials that made it easy for me to pick up and understand, but even when you know what to do the battles are super reliant on strategy, so if you end up losing to a boss then you only have your own strategies to blame and need to plan another course of action.
I can easily see some who can’t quite figure how what to do hit a roadblock with some of these fights, but I strongly encourage you to take on this challenge with all you’ve got, as you’ll find an amazingly charming game if you do. Definitely a must-own eShop game. So as a result, I give Little Town Hero a 9 out of 10.