[Review] Little Town Hero
Posted on October 16, 2019 by Campbell(@CampbellSGill) in Reviews, Switch eShop
Release date: October 16, 2019
Developer: Game Freak
Publisher: Game Freak
Little Town Hero is the most deceptive game I’ve ever reviewed. On the surface, it doesn’t look all that intimidating – this original RPG from Game Freak features a lighthearted story and cartoonish visuals, even claiming to be built with “the busy gamer in mind.” All that considered, it makes itself out to be a charming little experience. Yet beneath this welcoming veneer lies an extremely strategic combat system whose depth and complexity will likely prove overwhelming for all but the most seasoned roleplaying veterans. It’s vastly rewarding for those willing to dive deep into its dense mechanics, but for anyone looking for the lighter experience that the game makes itself out to be, then they might be let down.
As its name would suggest, Little Town Hero is a distinctly little game. It features neither a massive world to explore nor an epic story about saving the world. Instead, it is set exclusively within a single town, and although its story includes its fair share of otherworldly monsters, its narrative is much more concerned with the dynamic of growing up in a small community than it is with protecting humanity. It puts you in control of Axe, a boy who has spent his entire life in this secluded village. Like any good protagonist in this situation, he longs for nothing more than to finally escape to the outside world. Yet he puts these ambitions aside when his village is suddenly besieged by a mysterious horde of monsters – and of course, he discovers that he is the only one able to defeat these fiends.
This story does bear a few hallmark stereotypes of the roleplaying genre, but Little Town Hero’s very smallness makes these tropes refreshingly intimate. You may constantly be in danger of monster attacks just like in many other RPGs, but by limiting the scope of these dangers exclusively to the town in which your character was born and raised, it makes every plot beat feel that much more immediate. It’s a very character-driven story as well. It often digresses from the immediate issue of evil monsters to focus on Axe’s coming-of-age, his relationship with the other kids in the village, and how he comes to terms with himself. This low-key storytelling does lead to a handful of pacing issues, especially during the sluggish middle portions of the story, but this emphasis on slice-of-life storytelling makes for a uniquely charming and relaxing RPG.
Since the game takes place exclusively within the eponymous town, there’s no grand world to explore – instead, you’ll only travel through the neighborhoods and shops of your town throughout the story. On the one hand, this allows the story to be fleshed out in ways that simply aren’t possible in sprawling open worlds. Each inhabitant of the village has a story of their own, and likely a side quest or two to go along with it. Yet on the other hand, this means that there isn’t much variety throughout the main quest. It takes only a few minutes to see all that the world has to offer, despite the full story taking about eighteen hours to complete. It makes the moment-to-moment activity in between battles a bit repetitive; this makes it all the better that its presentation is so exquisite that I don’t even mind spending extra time in this world repeating mundane tasks.
This little world comes to life through its vibrant visual and audio presentation. The world is painted with bright pastel colors and models are presented in a soft cell-shaded style, with characters adopting a charming bobblehead body design. The environment might be compact, but it’s brimming with personality thanks to the game’s distinctive art direction. It’s a shame that it’s not the most technically sound product, though; it’s not uncommon for the frame rate to fall to a sluggish pace while exploring the world, and there’s also a substantial amount of texture pop-in thanks to the low draw distance.
Regardless of the performance, the music remains perhaps the most surprisingly delightful aspect of this presentation. It’s composed by Toby Fox, creator of the indie hit Undertale, and he bring his signature charm and style to every piece of music in the game. From the soft flutes of the main theme to the boisterous percussion and strings of the many different battle tunes, the music captures the same emotional and empowering feeling that made Undertale’s music so memorable. Between the gorgeous music and striking visuals, Game Freak’s latest creation is a beautifully charming thing indeed.
Beneath this welcoming veneer lies Little Town Hero’s biggest, dirtiest secret: its battle system. The combat is a unique hybrid of typical turn-based style mixed with elements of strategy and, oddly enough, competitive trading card games. In each turn, you and your enemy are allotted a random set of potential moves called “Ideas,” each of which requires a certain amount of power to turn into a usable move. Each Idea comes with certain attack and defense stats; if your Idea’s attack is greater than the enemy Idea’s defense, then you’ll break their Idea. Break all enemy Ideas and your foe will be stunned, giving you a chance to attack their bodies directly.
This explanation covers only the absolute basics of combat. There are different types of Ideas to consider, power limits to keep track of, status effects to deal with, randomization to trudge through, and even environmental advantages that can be gained by moving around the map in between turns. Put all these parts together – and consider that every enemy has some sorts of unique gimmicks of their own to completely change your strategy in every fight – and you’ll find an extremely deep combat system that requires deep deliberation before choosing a single idea.
Make no mistake – these battles may be complex, but for those willing to wade through the layers of depth, it provides an immensely rewarding experience. Monsters battles full of unexpected twists and turns to flip your standard strategy on its head each time; it’s not unusual for encounters to exceed thirty minutes in length. However, when you finally do bring your enemy down, there’s an immense sense of satisfaction that simply can’t be found in simpler RPGs like Pokémon. Battles may be far more intense than its childlike presentation or story would suggest, but its incredible depth will be worthwhile for those willing to put in the time to master its many systems.
Little Town Hero is a much bigger game than it may seem at first. Its beautiful visuals, charming story, and fantastic soundtrack may make it look like a friendly little RPG, but this first impression hides its true nature as one of the most overbearingly complex RPGs I’ve played recently. While this complexity is certainly more than I bargained for when starting up the game, I can’t deny that it’s an exciting, thrilling RPG unlike much else I’ve ever played, and this very complexity makes it that much more thrilling. Of course, those hoping for an RPG akin to Pokémon or Undertale will likely be overwhelmed by the game’s incredible density; however, if you’re willing to march into the strategic fray, this little town will provide big payoff.
Little Town Hero review copy provided by Game Freak for the purposes of this review.