IF you were to ask me what my favourite video games series of all time was, I’d more often than not proudly say it is The Legend of Zelda.
Despite this fact, I for whatever reason have never really gotten into the top down 2D entries, such as The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. I have however played plenty of quality indie titles that are cut from the same cloth, with Blossom Tales II: The Minotaur Prince the most recent to grace my Nintendo Switch. It’s unashamedly a Zelda clone, borrowing elements not only from A Link to the Past, but also from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, which just so happens to be my favourite game of all time.
Akin to the first game, Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King, the story begins with young protagonist Lily and her brother Chrys listening in on one of their Grandpa’s stories. Both Lily and Chrys are both characters in their Grandpa’s story, with the fictional world of Blossom presented to the player, as if created within the imagination of the two children.
The pair visit the Minotaur Moon Festival, an event held within the village. After partaking in the more relaxed festivities the two feature in the Minotaur Moon Tournament, where the two come up against each other. Chrys exhibits younger brother energy and cheats to defeat his sister, resulting in an angry outburst from Lily that springs the story into action.
Lily’s frustration results in her wishing the Minotaur King would return and take her brother away. Having not heeded the warning of “be careful what you wish for ‘cause you just might get it” from The Pussycat Dolls, the King promptly appears and whisks her brother off to his kingdom. Desperate to atone for her mistake, Lily sets off to rescue her brother from the Minotaur King, who intends to make her brother serve as his new Minotaur Prince.
The story of Blossom Tales II: The Minotaur Prince is really cute, and its ‘story within a story’ premise is executed well, with both kids and the Grandpa chiming in on the events of the story. There are even instances where you can dictate minor moments of the story, such as whether the opponent you fight is a Jouster or a Hulking Brute, to what instrument will accompany you on your journey. They’re choices that are pretty much inconsequential, but they do play into that imaginative story vibe that the game strives for, and allow for you to put your own personal spin on things.
The happenings of the narrative are quite formulaic and lacking in originality, and I would’ve liked more to happen in the story, but it still does a good job overall, allowing space for the gameplay to do the majority of the heavy lifting, as it rightly should.
Presentation wise, Blossom Tales II: The Minotaur Prince has a gorgeous looking pixel art style that looks great regardless of whether you’re playing the game portably in handheld mode, or directly on the TV. It’s not the most intricate pixel art I’ve seen, but it’s detailed enough for the world to be appealing. The soundtrack is also pretty solid too, with the track “Flickering Lamplight” present in the graveyard area a personal favourite.
In regard to gameplay, Blossom Tales II: The Minotaur Prince is a 2D action adventure experience that isn’t afraid to basically be the indie version of classic Zelda. You make your way through a decently sized overworld consisting of various different biomes, with the core goal being to collect the three pieces of a key that will lead you straight to the Minotaur King and his new Prince.
To get your hands on these MacGuffins, you must make your way through various dungeons, which in typical Zelda fashion, are full of environmental puzzles, as well as their fair share of enemies. They’re well designed and the puzzles in them are a welcome challenge, with some requiring you to use items you’ve found throughout your adventure.
Combat with the sword doesn’t feel the greatest, but as you get a hold of items such as Bombs, the Boomerang, and the Bow, it begins to feel a little easier to manage. Using these items will deplete your stamina bar however, leaving you unable to use them for a few seconds until the bar begins to replenish. It’s quite a forgiving combat system overall, making the experience arguably too easy, even if you opt to just hack and slash away with the basic sword.
Boss battles that take place at the end of dungeons provide a bit more resistance, but they can often be eviscerated in a cheap fashion, as you can often just stand right beside your enemy and take them out before they manage to deplete your health.
There are a decent amount of side-quests to complete in Blossom Tales II, with a decent chunk of them optional. Some require you to find a certain amount of a particular item in one area, while others require you to collect certain fish or flowers. There are also mini-games at the festival to check out.
I was surprised upon first finishing the main quest how much content there still was for me to indulge in. I hadn’t collected the more powerful sword from its pedestal, I only had unlocked three of ten potion recipes, and I only had unlocked three of five songs to play on my trusty (yes, this game has its own Ocarina of Time style instrument and unlockable songs), not to mention the various heart containers and stamina upgrades I had not yet found.
While I wish that combat provided more of a challenge, the quality of the dungeons and the experience of adventuring throughout an overworld packed with optional content was enough to keep me engaged throughout. Akin to the Zelda games that inspire it, Blossom Tales II does an excellent job of providing a sense of adventure, with plenty of reward in the world for those who seek to explore it fully.
Although I had a great time with Blossom Tales II: The Minotaur Prince, I do feel that its apparent desire to be a Zelda clone sees itself fail to reinvent the wheel or shake things up in a meaningful way. Being a newer version of A Link to the Past is awesome, and the feel of familiarity is going to draw in fans of those types of games, but that doesn’t mean you can’t also add some more variety to make the experience feel familiar yet fresh. This issue is further compounded when you compare the title to the original game, and see that not a great deal has changed at all.
Even though I feel that Blossom Tales II: The Minotaur Prince should try more to reinvent the genre instead of trying to be an indie copy of The Legend of Zelda, I still can’t deny the fact that I had an enjoyable time throughout the 14 hours it took me to finish the game.
Its combat may not be the most engaging, but its dungeons and overworld certainly make up for that, providing a strong sense of exploration. Pair that up with a charming story, a solid soundtrack and a gorgeous pixel art aesthetic, and you’ve still got a hell of a good time.
Written by: @GrumpyGoron