If Ni No Kuni turns a child’s movie into a game, then The Cruel King and the Great Hero does the same with a child’s book. This simple, story centric RPG is as family friendly as a game can come, and it doesn’t take long to see what makes it appealing.
From a gameplay standpoint this has a retro feel, you choose from limited actions at the beginning of a turn, then everyone moves in an order roughly determined by speed stat. You gain a skill every few levels, and there are various items to use. Enemies have weaknesses that you can figure out with hints given through your analysis skill, but they aren’t always the typical elemental weaknesses you would expect. For example, there is an enemy that tucks itself into its spiked shell, and if you do not attack it during that time it will be stunned when it comes out. This feels like a game from the 90s, in a good way, with a fairly middling difficulty where enemies do pack a wallop but I never felt like I needed to grind or was put against sudden damage sponges with chunking blows.
Map design is also simple, with teleportation points to unlock for easy travel, a way to escape to town from inside dungeons and simple markers to assist with locating side quest goals. When you outlevel an area, you unlock the ability to run and encounter rate goes down so you aren’t wasting time on low level battles. Each part of the game’s design both evokes and softens the retro experience, which fits with the feeling that this is a game anyone should be able to enjoy.
Overall, gameplay comes with solid vision, is easy to pick up and fits well with the theme; it is fun especially if you enjoy turn based combat without complexity. This however is a game where the aesthetic is clearly what carries it.
As mentioned, this game has a theme, and every part of it plays into this. Immediately upon starting the game you know what to expect if you’ve ever opened a picture book, the artistic style is crisp and gentle, full of details and incredibly charming. Monsters are more cute than scary, the positive protagonist is high energy and expressive, and even menus and the text book visually fit.
The story is one of play, a girl who just wants to explore and help others, even her side quests are called acts of kindness. She is like that one kid in the neighbourhood that just wants to help others for no reason but to make their lives better. Much like in a child’s book, characters have overwhelming personalities, often eccentric or cynical with the hero’s kindness warming their hearts as she solves their problems, while her father hides in the background, both giving her a chance to prove herself on her own and offering little bits of help from the shadows when she needs it. Everything about this game feels wholesome, a perfect blend of all things endearing.
All of this is well supported by audio, the music has a bit of calm and whimsy to it, and the voice acting seals it. Much like being read a book, the voice actor narrates, does the voices of characters, and truly captures the spirit.
This is a relaxing game anyone can enjoy, evoking nostalgia and with a positivity filling it. It’s put together perfectly, entirely capturing their vision and this ends up being a very easy recommend to anyone looking for a simple, vibrant RPG. This is not built to be challenging or frustrating, and is very much a case of you get what you see, my initial opinion of the game remaining stable throughout.