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Review: Little Town Hero

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I need a hero

In recent years, there has been some effort spent to reinvent the typical JRPG turn-based battle system. While many still see turn-based combat as enjoyable and even preferred, there’s a growing number of developers who find it antiquated. Attempts have been made to iterate the formula with added tweaks and features, or simply do away with it entirely in favour of real-time combat.

None have been so successful as to become ubiquitous, so the search continues for the perfect blend of RPG stats and compelling gameplay.

Which is to say nothing of Little Town Hero, a game I must snobbishly declare isn’t an RPG, despite its claims.

Little Town Hero review - Destructoid

Little Town Hero (Nintendo Switch)
Developer: Game Freak
Publisher: Game Freak
Released: October 16, 2019
MSRP: $24.99

Perhaps that was the original intention, but Little Town Hero more closely resembles a deck-building game than an RPG. There are no statistics, no dice rolls just you, the enemy, and a shuffled deck of abilities. The idea is to present an experience that you can’t just grind your way through. There’s nothing between you and the enemy except pure strategy. And math. Lots of math.

Math can be fun. Games like Calculords have proven that.

Each of your cards (or izzits as the game refers to them) has three stats: cost to play, attack, and defense. You bash your cards against the enemies with your defense soaking up their attack and vice versa. Izzits that you spend power on become dazzits, and if they survive an enemy’s attack, they’re carried over to the next turn or can be immediately used again. The strategy comes from deciding which cards are needed to soak up damage, and which ones can be sacrificed to take out the enemy’s.

It may sound simple, but further complications are layered on top: BP to restore or trade out cards, guts and hearts that represent health, gimmicks and support characters that apply special effects. It can sound confusing, but in practice, it’s a relatively straightforward system. Until it isn’t.

The story revolves around a boy with stunning sideburns who lives in a town isolated from the outside world. Villagers aren’t allowed to leave, so no one is really sure what’s beyond the protective canyon walls. The boy finds a strange stone in the mine. Suddenly, monsters.

There’s a mystery around where the monsters are coming from, but it’s often side-tracked by day-to-day town life. The story isn’t without its charm, but it’s formulaic and moves with the pace of a hair clog. If we’re going to continue to be charitable about the plot, we can say it’s largely just a vehicle to shuttle you between battles. There are three types of fights you’ll get involved in boss, friendly, and puzzle battles and all of them are a drag.

Little Town Hero review

Boss battles are the longest as before you can damage a boss, you need to destroy the guts that shield their heart meters. Friendly battles have you facing off in a spar against a townsperson. They’re usually resolved quickly, since there’s no guts counter blocking your health. Puzzle battles have you figuring out how to damage an enemy by playing your actions in a rigidly specific order.

Here’s where I’m going to put all my cards down: I absolutely couldn’t stand this game. Boss battles are far too long and it’s way too easy to get stuck in a stalemate for several turns as you attempt to blast your way through their defenses to get a killing blow. Whenever a puzzle comes up, it’s often trial-and-error to solve, which makes them more of an annoying chore than a fun challenge.

I’d probably be warmer on Little Town Hero if all the battles were like the ones against townsfolk. These are at least shorter, and typically resolved in under 10 turns. That seems to be the sweet spot before things get frustrating like they do in boss battles.

Little Town Hero review

It’s the lack of predictability that got me cursing at the screen. It seems that every time I’d ready a prime selection of dazzits, a boss would pull out some trick to make their attacks completely invulnerable or would be gifted the ability to instantly damage my dazzits. Turn-to-turn strategy goes out the window when, at any moment, your opponent can pull out a debilitating card that dashes any hopes you had of advancing the fight.

At times, it feels like Little Town Hero has suddenly changed rules. I managed to clear one boss’s dazzits with an opportunity to do some damage, and, out of nowhere, they assumed a defensive posture. Apparently attacking them directly while they still have guts results in taking 4 damage. That would have been nice to know earlier, even if it would still be bologna.

Even without the blatant cheating on the part of the bosses, there’s no getting past the fact that the game is repetitive and dry. Maybe the same can be said about any JRPG battle system, but at least they have the decency to resolve fights relatively quickly. Here, turn after turn is practically the same, but boss battles drag on and on.

Little Town Hero review

Little Town Hero feels like a game best played in short bursts, but that doesn’t seem possible with how long these boss battles are. Even the town part of the game the filler in which you run around town, battle with its inhabitants, and do fetch quests is thin and doesn’t stand up very well.

The advertised soundtrack by Toby Fox of Undertale fame does little to help things. It’s not bad, but it’s definitely generic and forgettable. I don’t think it’s going to trousle anyone’s bones, is what I’m saying.

I found myself wishing pretty hard for the end of this game. Every time I sat down to play, I’d walk away in a bad mood. It’s hard to enjoy a game when its battle system, the core mechanic it’s built around, is so aggressively boring. The fact that it tries so hard to frustrate any strategy you can build up just makes playing it a tedious chore. And to round things out, it’s tied to a generic story.

I didn’t expect to have so much vitriol for Little Town Hero going into it, however, I found very little to like. Its 18-ish-hour runtime felt like an eternity as I slogged through battle after battle. I struggle to fathom who this game is designed for, but all I can recommend is to stay away lest you get dealt a bad hand.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game purchased by the reviewer.]

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Little Town Hero reviewed by Adzuken

4

BELOW AVERAGE

Has some high points, but they soon give way to glaring faults. Not the worst, but difficult to recommend.
How we score:  The Destructoid reviews guide

 
 
 

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Adzuken
AdzukenContributor   gamer profile

Adzuken Q. Rumpelfelt is a gadabout gaming hobbyist, avid tea enthusiast, and aspiring writer. She's been playing video games all her life and is a lover of both new and retro games. Obsessed ... more + disclosures


 


 


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