Anna Leah Karasik
- Developer: Game Freak
- Publisher: Game Freak
- Release Date: 16/10/2019
- Price: £22.49 / $24.99
- Review code provided by Rainy Frog
As a die-hard fan of the Pokémon franchise, I am thrilled to report that Game Freak sticks to what it does best in its much-anticipated Switch original. Little Town Hero’s charming story revolves entirely around its combat system, which challenges players to use their wits as they take part in drawn-out battles with difficult bosses.
The Big Idea
Although young Axe is determined to see the world outside his village, he ends up finding adventure right at home, as monsters suddenly begin to appear there. Luckily, our hero discovers a mysterious red gemstone that enables him to go toe-to-toe with the dangerous beasts. Aside from getting to the bottom of that problem, Axe and his friends have their own personal issues to deal with – like finding presents to give their favorite girls during the village’s gifting rite. Even mundane tasks like that will eventually tie into the overarching plot, though, so none of it feels like time wasted.
The basic story doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not, playing on what we all expect from a game of this style – right down to the hot-headed, spiky-haired protagonist. Each named character has a memorable personality, displayed through their vibrant dialogue, quirks, and sprite designs. The script for Little Town Hero is brilliant, with all kinds of hilarious one-liners. Talking to characters often yields helpful or interesting information, or even a side quest, so it’s worth it to make the rounds and see who’s up to chat.
Speaking of side quests, they’re hit or miss here. There is no in-game inventory, so there’s no trading system; quests are limited to information-gathering and the odd battle. There are new quests that pop up every chapter, so it’s important to jog around the map and look for the blue side quest icon!
Little Town Hero feels empty when you aren’t in a battle or cutscene, though. The main reason being, since there are no items in the game, there’s nothing to find or collect. You simply run or fast travel between story points. It’s really a shame that with such a big and beautiful map to explore, there are no hidden treasures.
Dream It, Do It
Battles are the bread and butter of Little Town Hero. Think of it like a mix between a card and board game, where the goal is to deplete your enemy’s three hearts.
The player has “Izzits,” or ideas. Each Izzit can be turned into a “Dazzit,” or action, at the cost of action points which regenerate each turn. There are three types of Izzits: red for attacks, yellow for guards, and blue for power-ups. By strategically combining the three, you can break all of your enemy’s Dazzits, sparking an All Break. During those moments, your character may get the opportunity to deal damage to the enemy’s hearts.
Between turns, the battle moves to a new location, decided by a roulette. Each spot on the battle map may have power-ups called gimmicks, which often deal damage to the enemy directly. The map also has support characters sprinkled throughout: each has a different power, like Granny Yarne’s ability to break all damaged enemy Dazzits (through the power of her funky dance moves!) This kind of locational support can absolutely turn the tide of a difficult battle.
No Pushovers Here
Each enemy you encounter through the story is like a boss in its own right. Most notably, they have unique power-ups that can throw a wrench into your strategy. For example, one boss can disable your Dazzits, and another randomizes your Dazzit selection. In a game where each move matters, these boss abilities are killer! It’s more of a welcome challenge than an annoyance, though, because without those bumps in the road, battles could be too easy and repetitive.
At times, I tried defeating difficult monsters over and over to no avail. What kept me from frustratedly putting my controller down was knowing that I had the tools for victory at my disposal – I just wasn’t using them in the most efficient way. In addition, there is no consequence to losing, and the game even prompts you to spend any unused “Eureka” points you earned during the battle to permanently power up the Izzits in your headspace.
It was pleasant to see that, for all of the strategic elements that make them challenging, battles are very snappy and simple overall. There are no extra shenanigans, no items to add to the chaos. The battle system does take some getting used to, but once you’re familiar, you’ll find yourself sinking an hour into a single fight as you weigh your options each turn. (Yes, get friendly with your Switch’s sleep button – because battles are long, and there’s no saving partway through.)
One of the first things anyone will notice about Little Town Hero is that it has a colorful, bubbly art style, similar to the recent 3D Pokémon games. The eye-catching visuals extend to the character and monster designs. In addition, when it comes to graphics, it’s always satisfying to see cutscenes and gameplay flow seamlessly into each other.
Although it’s not that important from a gameplay perspective, as there’s nothing all too important in the overworld, it can be difficult to maneuver the camera angle. There is also no map for reference. Other than that, though, navigating is a breeze: if you don’t feel like running somewhere, there is a handy fast travel option in your menu.
When running places, though, you really get a sense of the attention to detail that went into this little game. You’ll notice that the music shifts depending on where you are, while the tune never changes. So, for example, in the bustling market area of town, you’ll get a more upbeat version of the overworld song. The battle music is also fantastically arranged, and even after hours of combat, doesn’t get old.
Dazzit hit the mark?
I was shocked when I saw the low starting price for Little Town Hero. For the most part, it looks and plays like a full-price title, and if it were, it’d be worth every penny. Peel away the gorgeous visuals and witty writing, and you’ve still got a combat system that just works. There’s something to be said about turn-based battles that feel as intense as real-time shootouts. Players are forced to really think about each move, knowing that any fight is possible to win with the right combination of attacks – and a little bit of luck. Combine a stellar battle system like that with a simple but strong story, and you’ve got yourself a must-have for your single-player Switch library.
- Challenging, strategic Combat
- Cute characters and plot
- Quality music and graphics
- Long battles
- Empty overworld
A challenging turn-based combat system is the crown jewel of Little Town Hero, which is stunning and witty to boot.