Sunday, October 20, 2019

Little Town Hero (NSW) Review

Game Freak has a smaller series of games coming out next month called Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield, but all the hype right now is on Little Town Hero. Wait a minute. Sorry. I was writing up this introduction in an alternate dimension. Still though, Little Town Hero is an intriguing title from the makers of the Pokemon games with a creative but complex battle system. As the review tagline asks, "Izzit worth buying?" SPC has the answer with its review.

Little Town Hero: Izzit worth buying?

While most of the gaming world focuses on the developer's more prominent and popular property, Pokemon (especially as it receives a brand new duo of entries next month), Game Freak recently pushed out one of its smaller projects akin to its HarmoKnights, its Tembos, and its Giga Wreckers. Little Town Hero saw itself featured in a couple of Nintendo Direct video presentations, but to say that the game arrives with any fanfare would be a flat out lie. Still, with Game Freak's credentials and Undertale's Toby Fox providing some music to the game, does Little Town Hero deserve your attention, or would that be a bad idea?

Little Town Hero's tale brings to the table a precocious youth named Axe, who wishes to leave his hometown and explore the world beyond. However, there's just one catch: the people of his town are forbidden to leave as the world beyond is extremely dangerous. Thus, a castle and protective wall keeps the foreboding beasts and malicious monsters out of the town. At least, they're supposed to! One day, after training with a guard, Axe and his friends find themselves in the midst of a monster attack. Using a red stone that he found in the mines, Axe apparently gains enough power to vanquish the attacking monster and save the town from destruction in the process. 

There's no coincidence that Little Town Hero's full adventure happens within the confines of this little town.
While early on, Axe has a tremendous desire to leave his hometown, this desire diminishes about halfway through the game. The middle word in Little Town Hero's title is where the entire 15-hour adventure plays out. The town is a bit expansive, offering plenty of space, but many times you're limited to where you can go. Axe will stop himself from proceeding any further, usually saying that you, the player, as Axe need to go to the next quest destination. 

When there is some freedom in exploration, it becomes quite clear that there is little to do in Little Town Hero's town, apart from the occasional side quest. These side quests generally offer a rare glimpse and back story into some of the game's quirky characters, but more often than not they're simply busywork. 

The town itself is visually nice with its clear, crisp, and colorful charm, but unfortunately and some astoundingly, there are frame-rate hiccups that pop up while exploring and also in the game's battles, where Little Town Hero players will spend the majority of their time with the game. 

Getting my brain wrapped around Little Town Hero's battle system and its quirks was quite the challenge for me. Sure, battling Axe's rival Matock in the game for the 70th time in the story eventually made me a pro, but the combat is certainly quirky and definitely one that possesses a learning curve. It involves the concept of Izzits (ideas) and Dazzits (actions). Izzits require points to turn into Dazzits, and these Dazzits are then used to combat and counter your opponent's own set of attacks. Starting off in battles, you get a hand of five random Izzits from your collection of 13, as well as three points to utilize to turn Izzits into Dazzits. Generally, the more powerful and beneficial the Izzit, the more points you need to spend to turn it into a Dazzit. As battles progress, this number of points you get to use at the start of each turn increases.

Izzit? Dazzit?! Whazzit all mean?! It takes a bit to come to terms with Little Town Hero's
 battle system, and even when you do, it still is challenging to win battles!

There are three types of Izzits in battle: red, which are attack-based and can only be used once per turn; yellow, which are defensive and can be used as many times in a turn as you like until they are broken by the enemy, and blue, which have special abilities such as the power to pelt your opponent's set of Dazzits, lowering each Dazzit's defense by one. Some Dazzits, particularly ones tied to your enemy, have secondary effects, such as turning a spent Izzit back into a Dazzit, lowering all of your Izzit's attack and/or defensive levels, or dealing direct damage to your hearts. There's a puzzle aspect here in trying to figure out how to best combat and counter opposing Dazzits so they don't a close battle into a losing one.

Each side of the battle has three hearts which serve as their overall health. When all hearts are gone, the battle is over. Most battles, particularly ones against bosses, give the boss and you an extra shield which must be first whittled away before damage can be done to you or the boss's health. If you take damage to your hearts, then your shield returns to you. It's the same way with the boss. In order to injure an enemy's hearts, you must first defeat their hand of Dazzits, and also have an extra red attack Dazzit to dish damage to them. 

Each red and yellow Izzit and Dazzit has a pair of numbers attached to it. One signifies the attack power, while the other displays its shield, or its defensive power. In battles, you want to break as many of your opponent's currently active Dazzits as possible so they don't have any left over to attack your shield or worse yet, your hearts. Though, the latter grants you an automatic reshuffling of your Izzits so ones you've already used (or discarded in a card game sense) can be turned into Dazzits again. As an aside, Battle Points (or BP) can also be spent to reshuffle your Izzit "deck" as it were.

After each turn in Little Town Hero's battles, you get a roulette wheel that spins and the number it lands on determines your movement around a board game-like map. Landing on different spaces on the map can have various effects. Some allow you to call upon the help of a fellow townsperson, resulting in actions like allowing you to turn an Izzit into a Dazzit without needing to spend any points, or having that character directly attack the enemy's health. Some battles feature objects and traps that can be used to your advantage, but require a specific Dazzit attack to unleash them. Such an example is launching a rooster into a sheep-turned-boss with one of your Dazzits. No real explanation needed on that scenario since I'm sure we've all been there.

Some secondary Dazzit effects allow you to choose which nearby space you'd like to land on.
As the game goes on, battles become more and more arduous as well as taking a lengthy duration to complete. To give you an idea (or should I say "Izzit"?), the first boss battle in Little Town Hero took upwards of 20 minutes to complete. Later battles took over a half hour, and there are no checkpoints either. That means that if you lose, you just wasted a sizable amount of time. Sure, you get a pity Eureka point to spend in the game's skill tree of sorts (these are used to upgrade Izzits to make them stronger and more effective in battles), but it can be absolutely soul-crushing to be invested in winning a battle only to lose and have your progress halted. I found myself sometimes bashing my head against progression walls, as some encounters just didn't seem fair, much less fun for me. Throw in that many times you winning is dependent on how lucky you are with the Izzits you're dealt in your current hand, and things can get quite maddening and just plain cheap.

Little Town Hero certainly delivers a delightfully cozy setting with a unique and creative battle system. However, this sometimes luck-based combat and somewhat convoluted concept can make a poor first impression on players. It definitely did with this one. Fortunately, as I stuck with the game, came up with solid strategies, and persisted despite losing battle after battle, I made progress and enjoyed a fair amount of my time with the game. That said, I doubt as many players will have the same level of patience as I had, and I doubt that I would have continued with the game if I had not needed to review it.

[SPC Says: C+]

A review code was provided for this review.

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