In a world where much of what we get video game-wise are repeats, small advancements, or definitive cash grabs, it’s refreshing when a developer or publisher branches out to try and make something fresh and new. Not surprisingly, the people who tend to do that are indie game companies…or Nintendo and their developers. Not blasting anyone, just calling it as I see it. Nintendo has made a lot of unique games with the Switch and beyond with titles like Mario + Rabbids, Arms, Snipperclips, 1-2-3 Switch, and now, Game Freak (the team behind the main Pokemon titles) branched out to make their own unique RPG title via Little Town Hero.
Game Name: Little Town Hero
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
Developer(s): Game Freak
Release Date: 10/17/19
So what exactly is Little Town Hero? Well, it’s an RPG that focuses on a small village within a larger continent, and in this village there is one rule: you do not leave. Not because of a mystical spell or dangers that will be let in if you go, but rather, the nation is safe where they are and don’t want their villagers hurt by going outside.
However, that doesn’t stop your protagonist (who you get to name, but the default is Axe so I’ll use that) from wanting more than anything to get out of the village and see the world. It’s typical anime/cartoon stuff, and just as you would expect, as he trains to become a soldier (who can leave the town by blessing of the king), monsters start showing up randomly. Now, Axe is the only one who can save them via the power of a magic red stone that he found.
The story is decent, a little on the nose at times, but it’s very fun and quirky, but as I noted, how much you enjoy the game will depend on the battle system. Check out this picture:
In Little Town Hero, you don’t play with standard weapons and such, rather, you fight with the power of ideas. In this case, you start the battle and rounds with “Izzits”. Or base ideas you can use. Depending on your BP (Battle Points), you can transform those Izzits into Dazzits, which are fully-formed actions that you can take in battle.
There are three types of Izzits: Red ones are pure combat actions, Yellow ones are more defense and speed based in nature, and Blue ones are special attacks and power-ups in general. It’s YOUR job as the player to figure out the best strategy and summoning pattern in order to get the best of your opponents.
Because not only do they have their own Dazzits, they often have ones with special abilities. What’s more, you need to break the “Guts” around their hearts to do real damage. All the while being mindful of your ideas, because they are either used once and vanish until you get them back (via heart damage or special ability), or they’ll last until they “break” via combat when their life points (the blue number) hits 0).
So just via that, and there are still things I’m glazing over, this makes Little Town Hero one of the more complex RPG battle systems. Which technically isn’t a bad thing. As it means that EVERY. SINGLE. BATTLE. will be unique and force you to not just go through the motions. Because that won’t happen very easily. On the other hand, it can lead to a LOT of frustrations.
The reason for this is simple. While the notion of winning a fight is easy to understand (get damage on the hearts three times), getting there can be a slog, and sometimes a downright pain. As I noted on the most recent episode of the Nintendo Entertainment Podcast, the battles can be LONG and tedious as you try and blast through the enemies Dazzits, guts, and other things just to get the win.
For example, one boss fight has you constantly under fire of taking damage through the enemy Dazzits if you break them the wrong way. Another boss will counter damage when you give it damage. The final boss will only have its Guts broken if you do VERY SPECIFIC things which can take a lot of time, a lot of effort, and a lot of luck. In short, if you are the kind of game who rage quits when things get tough? You’re not going to like Little Town Hero.
Does that mean that the whole battle system is bad? No, at all actually. When the matches are balanced, they can be quite fun, and the strategy element will entice many. But, when I am spending 40 minutes on a match and then lose, and thus have to replay it and hope I get the right Dazzits this go around…it can wear on you.
Without a doubt though, the biggest plus of the battle system is having the entire village be at your beck and call.
What do I mean by that? Well, the whole game quite literally takes place in this small village, with each of the nine main chapters having you fight both monsters and sometimes your fellow villagers in order to get stronger. To that end, the battlefield is the village, you’ll move across spaces like a board game, and on some of those spaces are the villagers.
Sometimes you’ll land on the right space and they’ll give you a special Izzit to use in battle. Other times you’ll land on spaces with objects that can help you even the odds if you have the right Dazzit activated. As for the villagers, each one has their own special ability. From damaging enemies, to hurting the Guts or Hearts of the boss, allowing you to summon a Dazzit without using BP, and more. Part of the strategy in the moving battles is landing on the right spaces so you can maximize your turns, and that’s a lot of fun.
But again, it’s a matter of luck, skill and having the right cards. I lost many battles by the slimest of margins because of a wrong summon that I did, a terrible turn because of the enemy, and more. And the final boss fight was easily the most frustrating because despite giving you a “break” in the battle, you don’t get a recharge, you’re just expected to keep fighting against very near-impossible odds.
Plus, there’s a way to actually screw yourself during that break, because if you save the game (which many RPG gamers will do instinctively), you’re now stuck in that position because the battle will reset at that spot if you lose. So you won’t be able to replay the whole final boss without playing the game over again.
Thankfully, the story and characters of Little Town Hero bring a lot of charm to bear. Watching Axe desperately try to get out of the village, working with his friends on ideas about the monsters and what’s going on, learning about the various villagers and their families, it’s good stuff. Granted, some characters are annoying, but that’s the intention with the game at times. Because who doesn’t have a few annoying people in their hometown?
The graphics of the game are basic and very cartoony, but that works to its advantage. As they don’t have to render a large open-world, just a some-what large village with buildings and characters. What’s more, the enemies that you face (in terms of monsters at least) are very unique and creative in their design.
The only real downpoint of the story in Little Town Hero is that at times it doesn’t feel balanced. At one chapter, I had to fight my rival Matock like 4 times, all because he felt he could beat me (he couldn’t…not once). Then, in the final two chapters you’re basically rushed to the end with little dilly-dally. Which I usually would appreciate, but it just felt out of place here.
In the end, Little Town Hero and the enjoyment you feel about playing it will depend on how you like the battle system. It’s literally the make or break of the game. If you like a challenge and being pushed to your limits, then go for it. If not, then you might want to stay away. But, given that it’s only $25, it’s not too expensive for you to give a try and see what you think yourself.
Little Town Hero Review
Game Freak went bold with Little Town Hero, and they did indeed make a game very different from Pokemon. But their desire to go big and bold kind of backfires because of the touchy battle system. If you like a challenging RPG, you might like it, else, you might want to consider waiting to get it.
- Little Town Hero Is A Daring RPG Experiment That Doesn't Always Quite Hit The Mark