Little Town Hero
Developed and Published By: Game Freak
Category: Turn-Based RPG / Adventure
Release Date: 10.16.2019
Game Freak has a long and storied history in the gaming space, with its biggest credit being as the creator of the largest gaming franchise in history — Pokémon. Even with the release of Pokémon Sword and Shield around the corner they have found the time to produce another game on the side. Little Town Hero is a turn-based RPG / adventure game with some of the most unique features and mechanics I have encountered in a game of this style. There is no grind for XP, no weapons or armor, and no major statistics to upgrade. You are who you are, and you’re bringing the fight to the monsters plaguing the town.
You play as Axe, the protagonist of this feel-good underdog story that has a boy dreaming big and wanting to see the outside world. You are from an isolated village that is not allowed entry past the castle that guards you. You cannot leave the village, no matter what, and so this ragtag group of boys is curious as to what adventures might unfold outside the mountain range’s defenses. As you gain the friendship of a local soldier from the castle who trains you in combat, your village is attacked by a monster, of which everyone thought there was no actual existence. It is then that you realize the mysterious red stone you found in your day job as a coal miner allows you to take on the monster and save the town. However, more monsters are on the prowl, and it is up to you to discover the secrets behind this stone and the creatures infesting the area out of nowhere.
As I mentioned, this isn’t your grandfather’s RPG. You don’t have any grinding on experience point fodder, and you don’t collect weapons or increase stats. In this one you are focusing purely on the one-on-one combat system while progressing through the story. You can upgrade your attacks, but beyond that this game is straightforward and is more of a sprint than a jog.
The battle system is the unique portion of the game that really makes it stand out. Feeling more like a match of Yu-Gi-Oh than a traditional JRPG, you take on foes with ideas. These ideas are referred to as “Izzits” and are where you will play through the planning stage of each round of attack. You spend your combat points on these ideas to turn them into “Dazzits” which are primed and ready to use in the fight. You stack your Dazzits against your foe’s and with a basic attack/defense structure you have to outlast the enemy. If your Dazzits attack is higher or tied with the enemy’s defense than their Dazzit is destroyed and vice versa. From there you work through each and every Dazzit available for the round until you reach the conclusion. This is where the strategy of these fights comes in. You will wants to try to either reach a “Break Point” where all Dazzits are cleared in order to increase your combat points for the next round, or you can try to go for broke and open up a line of attack directly to the enemy. Like I mentioned, it feels like a card game like Pokémon in the way you move from round to round trying to best the opponent’s “cards” in order to strike at their hearts. That is the basic structure of a fight, with the inclusion of special abilities of the Izzits, colored descriptive for each Izzit that allow you to do different things with them, as well as support “characters” that allow you to bring another force into the fight that can unleash havoc as well when certain conditions are met. Although this system of fighting is so unique and fun to play through it can also be brutal with a lot of randomness added into encounters and rounds. One enemy can be bested easily while the next takes multiple attempts. This lack of decisiveness takes away a bit of the meaning behind what you are doing, as in traditional RPGs you grind to beat enemies and can feel a substance behind your level and gear, but since this one is devoid of those mechanics you just have to trial and error. People who are not into frustrating gameplay will loathe this part of the game, but if you practice a bit you should find yourself starting to be able to better utilize the system to your liking.
Beyond that there isn’t a lot to the game. You have your story and the combat, but the village and people are lacking in side quests or important information necessary to discover. As the game doesn’t have items outside of the stones you find you don’t have a lot of digging through the environments. And without the deep portions of traditional RPGs that really pad out a play time you are looking at a 10-15 hour experience. Perfectly made for hop in and hop out gameplay that is unique to the Switch but wouldn’t be something you might have sought out as a fan of the genre if it wasn’t for the developer behind it. I really enjoyed the world and story that was built here so the length and lack of mechanics is a blessing and a curse.
Visuals are something that game does very well, looking like a Studio Ghibli movie at times with a cartoon-esque flair. Character and monster detail are primo. The only issue I found was a bit of hitching and stuttering in and out of cutscenes that gave the performance a slight hiccup, but other than that the game runs like a dream and looks good doing it.
Probably the most interesting part about this game is the musical team-up with Undertale’s Toby Fox as composer. The music hits the notes you’ll be looking for, and matches with the brilliance of the scenery and the intense matches you will be fighting through. I knew the music from his own games was good, but I’m excited to see where Toby Fox finds himself in more Nintendo projects.
Overall, Little Town Hero offers a fun and unique experience unlike any other RPGs on the market. And as, arguably, the RPG kings you can see where this is an exciting proposition. Unfortunately, the izzits in the game stem from a combat system that mimics its own card game in a sense, and beyond that doesn’t attempt to excel in any of the other RPG categories. I would almost classify the game as more of a turn-based fighting game with adventure elements, as the systems in place don’t match up with the genre very often. A fun title to play through on the weekend, and at a fair price, it is one I could recommend you give a shot to regardless of its flaws or emptiness.
Buy Now – $24.99
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*The Switch Effect was provided a code for this game*