A bedtime story for all ages, The Cruel King and the Great Hero is a 2D RPG published by NIS America. It was unquestionably such a lovely tale and the more I learnt about Yuu’s story, the more I felt for her and wanted her to succeed in her quest with all my heart.
It’s good when a video game provides enough content to keep you entertained, and although this game is quite simple, the lack of complication can be easily forgotten as you get lost in the different whimsical worlds.
The Cruel King and the Great Hero is available on Nintendo Switch for $29.99 and PS4 for €29,99.
STORY – ONCE UPON A TIME…
Yuu is an adventurous little girl with a noble wish: to become a great hero like her father. In order to achieve this, she embarks on a journey—with the secret help of the Dragon King—that will take her through different lands and have her meet many characters with unique personalities.
What promptly catches your attention is the way the game is set, and you follow Yuu’s adventures like they were chapters from a bedtime story book, complete with the pages turning.
You play as Yuu and therefore get to experience the world with her eyes. What I found great about this game is that it is a very good tool for children to learn about kindness, altruism, and that—if you set your mind to it and work hard—you can achieve your dreams.
At the end of her daily adventures, Yuu will mount on the Dragon King and fly back to his den. And like a parent reading their child to sleep, the Dragon King will tell Yuu her favourite bedtime story, which also gives you a glimpse into the past. How does the Dragon King know Yuu’s father? Why is Yuu with him? There’s only one way to find out.
GAMEPLAY – PAVE YOUR WAY FOR YOUR DREAMS
The gameplay is pretty straightforward, and the clear instructions given are easy-to-follow even for people that are not used to playing RPGs.
If you worry that there may be too many things to remember or to check, don’t sweat. The main menu is really organised, and you will get an overview of every aspect during the “tutorial”. It’s not really a tutorial per se, but it certainly helps, especially because the game has a lot of important aspects.
WORLD MAP SYSTEM – NO GETTING LOST FOR YUU!
The World Map shows the various world Yuu will need to venture into during her exploration, and by clicking on each realm, you will see a more detailed map listing your objectives, secret treasures, and anything relevant to Yuu’s journey.
Just remember that the path will reveal itself as Yuu gets further in her quest. It would be too easy otherwise, wouldn’t it? The fact that you always know where you are and where you need to go helps you stay focused on your objectives. However, there still is the small chance of taking a wrong turn which will force you to have to travel all the way back to where you started (don’t be like me, kids!).
I would have appreciated if the game offered a better fast travel system, though. This option unlocks at some point in the game and is exclusive to certain areas only and, while I can never get enough of the beautiful visuals, being forced to having to walk all the way back to where you came from (because the object you need to find is there, or because the game tells you to), unfortunately becomes a bit of a burden and threatens to ruin the gaming experience.
BATTLE MECHANICS – TURN-BASED COMBAT MEETS KAWAII
During her journey, Yuu will meet an array of quirky characters, but also an assortment of enemies and—like a good RPG game—the more you advance, the stronger your enemies will be.
Don’t be fooled, though. These monsters may look cute and adorable, but some can be deadly so, be careful!
Like the overall gameplay, even the turn-based battle mechanics are quite uncomplicated. Yuu can choose between different actions, and each action consumes a certain number of skill points. As Yuu levels up, her skill points will increase as well.
Just make sure you use your points well, or Yuu may end up succumbing to the monster! You also have the option to escape certain battles, which was a nice addition as sometimes you just want to walk to your destination. I just wish Yuu’s enemies wouldn’t pop up so randomly and so often!
If you’re successful and defeat your enemy, you will receive experience points and also shells, which is the currency used to buy items from the various peddlers Yuu encounters along the way. If you have enough shells, stock up on battle items as much as you can: they will save your life during the boss fights!
MONSTERDEX – THE POKEDEX’S GOT NOTHING ON THIS
Every time Yuu faces an enemy, they will be catalogued in the Monsterdex. The Monsterdex is a compendium of all the monsters Yuu meets in her adventures, and each monster has basic information on their appearance, as well as different stats. You can learn about a monster’s traits and/or weaknesses by observing them during battle.
YUU’S ACTS OF KINDNESS – LET’S MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE
Like I’ve mentioned earlier, Yuu encounters many different “good” monsters. These are creatures who have chosen to live in peace in the realm ruled by the Dragon King. As Yuu strives to be a better person in order to become a great hero, she will help these monsters with their troubles, hence they’re considered acts of kindness. Call them secondary quests, if you will.
Once Yuu completes these acts of kindness, she will receive a reward, as well as something called Star Fragment. What do you do with a Star Fragment? You’ll find out in a moment!
COLLECTION & BADGES – SOME THINGS YOU DON’T WANT TO MISS
The Collection page (which you can find in the Main Menu) is where you use the Star Fragments Yuu receives after completing an Act of Kindness. Use them to unlock special illustrations and exclusive sketches! Each collection requires a certain number of Star Fragments, so make sure to complete Acts of Kindness to unlock all the sketches!
The badges (located below the Collection in the Main Menu) are achievements you can unlock by completing certain events during the game. Will you be a legendary hero and acquire them all?
SCRAPBOOK – IT’S LIKE THE NOTEPAD YOU CARRY IN YOUR PURSE
If you’re like me and at times you forget what you are supposed to be doing, or where you left Yuu the previous day, you don’t need to worry, the Scrapbook is there to help you. Check this section to see Yuu’s current objectives, her ongoing Acts of Kindness, but also everything she has completed at that point.
COMPANIONS – YOU’VE GOT A FRIEND IN ME
While helping Monster Creatures with her Acts of Kindness, Yuu will also encounter characters which will accompany her on her quest to become a great hero. These charming companions have hurdles of their own, and with the help of Yuu they will overcome them and are free to join Yuu in her adventure. Not only that, but companions will also be very useful in battle, especially if you’re facing multiple enemies at once.
AUDIO & VISUALS – WHIMSICAL COMES IN TWO FORMS
Music plays a crucial part in a game, and I am delighted to say that the outstanding soundtrack in The Cruel King and the Great Hero is one of my favourite features of this RPG, if not the main one.
Akiko Shikata’s melodious voice makes the theme song equally haunting and somehow nostalgic, a characteristic that beautifully suits this fantasy game. I loved how each track plays with your heart and gently directs the way you’re supposed to feel.
In particular, I feel Whisper of the Icicles evokes that nostalgia, perceiving this melody almost like a lullaby, a song you quietly hum to give yourself a sense of inner peace.
The other aspects of the sound design are well fitted for their purpose, from the flip of the pages, to the victory celebratory harmony, to the cute chime you hear after consuming a Power Fruit. All of these sounds, melodies, and noises made me feel like I really was in a fantastical land inside a fairy tale.
I can’t, however, discuss the audio aspect without mentioning Reina Kondo’s marvellous narration. Her comforting, soothing voice is an impeccable choice for recounting Yuu’s tale.
The astonishing symphonic aspect flawlessly complements the soft visuals of the hand-drawn illustrations. The colouring style makes the drawings appear delicate, even in their detailed depiction of the forests and the other enchanting lands, suiting the story (it’s made like a picture book, after all) and the overall gameplay.
Throughout the story, we also get to see some pretty sketches—entirely drawn in pencil—and, alongside the perfectly executed animations, they enhance the enchanting storytelling.
The Cruel King and The Great Hero was reviewed on Nintendo Switch with a key provided by NIS America.