I am always enamored by the experimental gameplay elements of Japanese RPGs. Developers are continuously looking for new ways to transform the classic monotonous formula of turn-based battles into something more interesting and fun. The new innovations do not always hit home, but a game such as Little Town Hero is full of noteworthy ideas that we hope other JRPG developers are made aware of and are taking notes on what should be done to make the gaming experience more enjoyable for everyone .
Little Town Hero is a new and interesting creative project from GameFreak (Pokémon). The game was first released in 2019 on the Nintendo Switch platform, but it received many criticisms at the time regarding technical issues, and unkind hurdles in gameplay. On the bright side, after porting the game to other platforms, the switch version received an update that fixes many of those issues, and shaped the game into the best version it could ever be.
Little Town Hero is now available on PS4, Nintendo Switch (Tested), PC and Xbox One.
Little Town Hero Review
The story setting is somewhat ordinary, monsters start invading a peaceful town out of nowhere, and your protagonist takes it upon himself to protect the everyone from danger after obtaining some strange magical powers. It might not look appealing at first, but the combat system and its upgrade paths has done a great job of making us feel that every character in the game is important and essential to our progress.
The battles in Little Town Hero are an odd blend of Traditional Turn-Based style of gameplay and digital collectible card games such as Hearthstone or Shadowverse. The confrontations with monsters revolve around the use of dueling cards – as or this game would like to call them, “Ideas“- to collide with the opponents’ cards/ideas until you exhaust their three hearts/life points and win the duel. Of course, its much easier said than done.
I will try to simply things a bit for those unfamiliar with card games. There are multiple colors for each idea, and each one comes with specific values of attack and defense. When two ideas collide, your idea card’s attack points are substracted from the opposing card’s defense value and vice versa. Whenever a card is destroyed, a new card replaces it from the deck to continue the battle. Methods to restore lost defeated cards will be discussed later in the article.
Most battles in the game start with three base points that determine the cost of idea usage and how many ideas you can play each turn, and these points gradually increase as the turns pass so you could use much more powerful cards concurrently. Points are used to activate any of the color coded ideas: Red ones are mainly used for attacking, Yellow ones are used for defense, and blue ones are like magic cards that provide strengthening or detrimental properties to each player’s cards.
In order to start tearing apart your opponent’s hearts, you need not defeat his whole deck of ideas, but simply have enough power to break through all the ideas he put up for defense during a single turn, then play an extra unused red card to strike and eliminate the heart. That means you will always have to keep one extra card in hand whenever you want to land a direct attack, but things are not always straightforward like this.
Some of the opponent’s cards have high defense numbers that take more than one card to finish them, and other ideas have strange characteristic that can affect the course of battle in its entirety. Also decreasing an opponent’s heart recharges all the cards he used and puts you in an awkward situation if you don’t have enough cards a proper comeback, that’s why you are left with two options: either sacrifice your own heart during the next attack to recharge your deck of ideas, or use BP points to exchange cards in your hand with lost broken cards, but the amount of BP you can get in one duel is very few and its not always a viable option to depend on.
Another factor that makes the process so tiresome is that enemies in this game are constantly evolving. The types of cards and techniques they use change drastically with each new encounter. All the more reason to start working on your own deck, but weirdly enough you can only upgrade the parameters of your own starting set of cards, and add some extra properties to them. You can’t buy any new cards, so how to overcome these increasing challenges and stand in front of those unique opponents?
Little Town Hero prides itself on relinquishing bothersome factors of other JRPGs such as the need to grind, and following to that concept it carries on its battles in a new strategic course similar to monopoly. After each turn based battle, your character will walk a number of randomly determined steps, which is essential to your success because some tiles on the grid contains many aids to help you from the town people themselves, such as the mother who can increase your card parameters, or the girlfriend who can help you recover your ideas without having to spend any points.
That’s how NPCs in the game are reutilized to work side by side with you in every step of your journey, in addition to giving you many powerful and unique abilities that you could not have unlocked on your own, so there is no grinding or side strolling in this game. Everything depends solely on strategy and a small amount of luck. You could just say the sense of randomness, like any other card game can affect the consistency of your turns and put you in some tough situations simply due to the factor of luck and nothing more.
Recovering from a mistake or a bad hand is kind of hard and time consuming, it could take you half an hour at least in battle to replenish your hands with the cards you need, and your focus shifts from the strategic approach to just wishing for luck in drawing the right cards, or that the enemy finally stops being fascinated with sabotaging your deck using his powerful abilities. It should be noted that less time in consumed in the newly added easy mode, which was exclusive for the PS4 version but later ported to the switch version. Playing the game on easy mode should not take you more than 8-10 hours at maximum.
The level of writing in the game is a lot childish and infantile, don’t expect anything more, and there are too many recurring battles with your self proclaimed rival which I think could have been presented in a less gritty manner. On the other hand, the Ghibli-like designs are appealing, very similar to the art style used in the Ni-no-Kuni series but with more popping colors, lively facial expressions and many cute icons and interactive elements all over the place, and personally we wanted the recent Pokémon entries to approach its artistic presentation with the same level of depth found here.
The main battle soundtracks are another thing to looking forward to as they change between each fight and even inside different areas of the same town. I was really glad that indie developer Toby Fox decided to pitch in for this game and add some of his touches to the soundtracks to make it more retro and cutesy with some modern influences here and there. It’s unfortunate though that there isn’t any voice acting present in the game at all, as it would have added a lot more to the soul of the experience.
- Creative battle system with a noticeable amount of depth
- Vibrant art style and distinctive soundtrack
- Performance is much better and Easy Mode is godsend
- Mediocre story with repetitive elements
- A hint of randomness affect the consistency of battles
- The absence of voice acting is a missed opportunity