A Hasty Launch
It’s been several months since we first heard of Game Freak’s ‘Town’ game, which was given a full reveal last month as Little Town Hero. From the start, I was never certain how I felt about the game. The UI looked clunky, the combat seemed hard to understand, and the premise seemed a bit weak. Obviously, the addition of Toby Fox as the composer was a nice touch, but I still was unsure what to make of it.
Now that Little Town Hero has been released, I’ve completed the game and want to share how my initial thoughts have either been reinforced or drastically changed.
From Zero to Hero
Little Town Hero puts the player in the role of a young boy who wants to leave the town, so he learns to fight from a soldier whose mission is to fight monsters. From the start, it was clear that the story wasn’t the focus of the game. Being a smaller RPG, it didn’t have any of the grandiose events that one would normally expect, instead opting for a more “comfort food-like” tale. It’s easy to pick up on where the story is going and what roles each character plays. Because of this familiar story, it was difficult to get invested.
The combat is where things start to get interesting, for better or worse. The combat is much different than any RPG I’ve ever played. Each character gets a wheel of ideas, which are called “Izzits”. For a certain cost dictated by the big number in the middle of each Izzit, it can be turned into a “Dazzit”. An attack can only be performed if you change an Izzit into a Dazzit. Each turn, you’re given limited points to spend on your Izzits, so it’s important to plan out your moves.
There are also three types of Izzits/Dazzits: red, yellow, and blue. Red dazzits are offensive and can only be used once per turn. These are the only dazzits that can damage opponents. Yellow dazzits are defensive and can be used until they break, but they cannot damage opponents. Blue dazzits are wild card dazzits that apply all sorts of effects on the battle, be it damaging opposing dazzits or applying a buff to your own.
The goal of each fight is to take away all of your opponent’s three hearts. This can only be done when you break all of their dazzits, triggering a Chance Turn. If you have a red dazzit available, then you get a free hit on them. To break opposing dazzits, you have to strategically use your own dazzits. Red and yellow dazzits have attack and defense stats that dictate how much damage they do and how much they can take before breaking. If a dazzit breaks, then it’s off the board until you revive all of your ideas.
That’s just the fundamentals of the combat. I haven’t even touched on traveling. In between turns in monster fights, you’ll travel to different spaces throughout the town that can apply different effects, whether it be another NPC helping you in battle or a unlocking a new izzit.
Ideas and Execution
The point of going through the combat is to point out just how awkward it is to explain. It’s not the kind of thing that you can look at and understand the information on-screen. It demands a detailed explanation, and even then, it can still be difficult to grasp. There is so much information that you have to keep track of that it’s easy to make mistakes, especially when you’re starting out (the game desperately needs an undo command). Combine that with some difficult monsters, and battles can take a few deaths before you finally come out on top. I think the game would’ve benefited from a demo, as playing it seems to be the only way to understand how it works.
When I first started the game, battles could take me close to an hour to complete. However, I got quicker as the game progressed. Once the mechanics began to click with me, I was cleaning up monsters in 20 minutes on my first try. It has a steep learning curve at first, but if you stick with it, it gets a lot better, and much more satisfying.
I have to point out that the system, while confusing, does address a problem in more traditional RPGs. You don’t get into the habit of using the same four attacks because they’re objectively stronger. There aren’t that many battles in Little Town Hero, but each one requires you to think on your feet, plan your moves, and mix up your strategy to come out on top. I was never playing the game passively pushing the ‘A’ button, so I have to give credit to Game Freak for that.
Inside the Town
Being an RPG, Little Town Hero offers more to do outside of fighting monsters. Within the small town are some side quests to do. I won’t beat around the bush. They’re not very good. The side quests boil down to just talking to certain people until it’s done (as do the main quests outside of battling). However, they reward you with more points to upgrade your abilities or having extra people to aid you in battle. The quests don’t take long, and those benefits are worth it, so I was motivated to keep doing them.
Speaking of the town, Little Town Hero has some charming presentation. As expected, Toby Fox delivers an impressive soundtrack. While it will never be as memorable as Undertale‘s themes, I think that’s moreso because of the game they’re in as opposed to the quality of the tunes themselves. Everything from the relaxing town theme to the battle arrangements are catchy and got stuck in my head.
I wish I had similar praise for the graphics. The art style and graphics are fine, but the performance is where things are unfortunate. The game seems to run at 30 fps, but it certainly looks like it could run better than that. Worse yet, the game often drops frames during certain battle animations and while just walking around the town (on top of the bridge especially). The game even slowed down on the menu where you upgrade izzits, which was beyond confusing to me. The game will also just freeze while it loads cutscenes or even regular dialogue. I also encountered a lot of pop-in and some noticeable graphic glitches. The game never crashed on me, but it overall shows a lack of polish that I found hard to ignore. I hate to bring up Pokemon Sword and Shield with all the recent controversy, but I hope those games fare much better in this aspect.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: A review code for Little Town Hero was provided by the publisher.