Of all the games I’ve reviewed in the past year or so, The Cruel King and The Great Hero is a nice change of pace. Not only is the overall feel of the game relatively simplistic, you just can’t help but feel those tingles as soon as the pop-up book, Yoshi-styled graphics appear on screen. Not going to lie, I half expected the Super Happy Tree to show up on more than one occasion… I don’t know how many of you actually got that reference. But just know that even though the gameplay is pretty straightforward, it does contain a fair amount of depth – especially in the combat system.
Simple, Yet Effective Combat
The Cruel King and The Great Hero is a classic, turn-based JRPG in every sense of the word. Random battles included. Although the main hook of this game comes in the form of managing your skill point energy and how enemies are positioned on the battle grid. Now you’re probably thinking
“Isn’t that like every other JRPG… ever?” Well, yes. And it’s not like these are new concepts either. But the amount of fun I was having trying to plan out my attacks, several steps ahead was surprisingly addictive.
Since there’s a limit of two party members per fight and the fact that skill energy is only restored after a turn is complete, it’s very easy to be overrun without proper planning. Choosing to guard also grants the player an extra skill point. However, the skills at your disposal are always capable of handling any enemy lineup. Whether it be a diagonal magic attack or a high-speed slash to knock opponents down before they retaliate. It’s all worth considering, as it almost feels like a survival game at times. Since some of the dungeons are quite long and full of menacing enemies, healing supplies can start to run low fairly quickly. Well, unless you start grinding for days.
The developers must’ve been aware of said resource scarcity. As right after a final command’s been entered, the game will give the player a few moments to reconsider, which is a neat touch. Even though the random battles can get annoying, I love how you don’t need to waste a turn trying to escape. As the RNG will simply either allow it or not. It’s also refreshing that you don’t need to diverge off the beaten path to grind XP. Except for one very specific boss at the mid-way point. Some enemies will just casually wipe the party out with no real warning as well, but these instances are very rare.
The Quirky Presentation of The Cruel King and The Great Hero
In regards to the dungeons, they’re mostly long hallways with a few hidden items tucked away for good measure. Certain party members have specific abilities for unlocking extra treasure chests and paths, although it does start to feel very samey after a while. However, the slick art direction and whimsical Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles-ish music does help the player forget that they’re essentially just playing a hallway simulator.
The side quests further supplement this too. They’re mostly just standard fetch quests, but the characters who issue them exhibit such varied and memorable personalities which really help flesh out the world’s presentation. Plus, they do offer up some decent accessories which can effectively change the tide of battle.
The story of Yuu and her quest to become the greatest hero of all time is actually not bad. Although it is blatantly obvious what’s going to happen and the story does muck around a little too much for my tastes. Each party member has their own arc, but they quickly fall to the wayside once complete. The dynamics between the cast works well though, as Yuu herself has this bright and bubbly persona. Ultimately making for some silly, yet genuinely tender moments that’ll surely tug on those gamer heartstrings.
There’s a reason why most JRPGs are so fun to play, and this game is no exception. The Cruel King and The Great Hero features a relatively basic story and gameplay, but the way it’s presented feels lovingly hand-crafted. Almost every combat encounter becomes an engaging test of wits that pushes the player to stay on their toes, while a bouncy woodwind-themed soundtrack and highly dynamic art design invigorate these intense battles. There are some frustrating moments of gameplay here and there, and the story and characters can feel somewhat lacking. But all things considered, The Cruel King and The Great Hero is worth picking up for any type of JRPG fan, new or old.
The Cruel King and The Great Hero is as classic as JRPGs get, but its little touches of modernisation truly shine through. As the gorgeous art style and chirpy soundtrack complement the thought-provoking battle system with grace. Some story and character moments are left wanting, and there are a few missteps with the general gameplay. But overall, The Cruel King and The Great Hero is a timeless 15-hour adventure that demands at least one playthrough.
This game was reviewed using a download code provided by NIS America. The Beta Network uses affiliate partnerships, however, this does not influence reviews or any other content published. The Beta Network may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links that are on the website.