Game Freak are most commonly known for a small franchise you may have heard of, Pokemon. However, they do sometimes branch out from the world of Pocket Monsters and create games which are published on various platforms, such as Tembo the Badass Elephant and Giga Wrecker – despite popular belief, they’re not actually owned by Nintendo. Today I’m reviewing Little Town Hero, a unique RPG which initially launched on the Switch followed by Steam, the PS4 and the Xbox One.
Upon its initial launch, Little Town Hero received mild reviews with negatives that addressed the difficulty and gameplay mechanics within the game. For the release on other platforms, Game Freak addressed a number of these concerns and updated the game in hopes that the new ‘version’ would turn out to be a more fun experience for gamers. I never played the original Switch release but I have played the PS4 version through to completion on Hard (the original difficulty setting), so I understand why certain things were added.
But, let’s not get ahead of myself as we take a closer look at Little Town Hero…
Little Town Hero is the story of Axe, a young child who lives within a ‘little town’ that’s been cut off from the outside world. The townsfolk were told that the reason they’ve been forced to live a secluded life within this small self-sufficient mountain town is that beyond the walls of the palace lies many dangers, including beasts and horrific monsters. This has been the case for a very long time, long before Axe was born, but he was curious and unwilling to accept this isolated existence, he wanted more, he wanted to venture out into the unknown and explore!
Unfortunately, despite his ingenious plan to set his friend’s butt on fire to cause a distraction so he could escape, he was caught and reminded of the dangers and how ‘safe’ life within the town is. So, feeling down, Axe returns to his job in the mines which is where he came across a mysterious stone, a stone which seemed to bond with him in an unusual manner. As he rushes home to show his friends and mother (his father left them many years ago), disaster strikes when this seemingly safe town comes under attack by a massive beast!
Feeling the power surge within him, Axe takes on this creature and manages to take it down all by himself (with a little help from his friends). Just what is this stone and why was there a monster within the walls of the town? These are merely two of the questions which Axe sets out to answer as he becomes the Little Town Hero in this unique and in-depth RPG that’ll easily take you over 15 hours to complete.
Little Town Hero is a third-person RPG game with a twist, the twist being the very unusual and unique combat system (which I’ll get to later as it’s quite complicated). The game is split into two stages, the exploration and RPG side of the game and the boss battles which is where the strategy and RNG frustrations kick in. Although there aren’t many battles within the game (a few bonus fights, your rival, and one at the end of each chapter), it felt like the game was perfectly balanced as I spent about as long wandering around as I did begging for a good hand whilst facing the creatures.
Just like any good RPG, the ‘story’ segments contain NPCs to talk to, secrets to find, and people to help via side-missions. One of my pet peeves with the game is the missable nature of the side-missions though. You’ll regularly initiate a string of side missions (each one has about three or four stages in order to complete them), but you won’t be able to progress the stages until the next chapter or beyond. However, if you fail to start or progress some of the missions within a chapter, then you kill the chapter boss, you’ll lose the chance to complete that side-mission unless you replay the entire game.
I, luckily, never missed out on any of them, but I’m not a fan of things like this locking you out without specifically telling you that you have something you need to do.
You can also walk around this little town (it really is little) and talk to people in the interim, gathering a bit of backstory or general exposition of the events which are happening. There’s even a scarecrow in the field which you can use to replay any of the bosses you’ve already beaten but without any upgrades or enhancements that you own – making the battles much harder. These battles, annoyingly, are required for a bunch of trophies, so I hope you like replaying long-winded battles over and over until you finally get a good ‘random’ selection of ‘cards’…
I almost gave up on Little Town Hero at the first boss as I had no idea what I was doing. I kept losing and I couldn’t progress any further due to this. That’s when I restarted the game, took my time to read the tutorials and instructions, and then it all started to make sense – kinda. You see, Little Town Hero uses a rather unique and unusual set of mechanics for the combat, it’s almost like a combination of Hearthstone, Top Trumps and a turn-based RPG game, such as Trails of Cold Steel, only much more advanced and niche.
Sorry if this next bit is confusing…
Axe has a bunch of ‘Ideas’, these are attacks, skills and defence items which he thinks he can use. They are all randomly placed within your mind with only the first six being accessible on your turn. When the ‘Ideas’ are actively available, they are known as ‘Izzits’ – thoughts which are locked but selectable. You can use ‘Power’ to unlock these Izzits and turn them into ‘Dazzits’, which are now usable at any point without using any more Power. You need to strategically unlock and use these various abilities to play a game of Top Trumps with the enemy and break their own abilities by using Dazzits with more attack than their defence without allowing them to have more attack than yours and causing your skills to break.
If you break all of their skills then you can use one of your attacks (if you have any red Dazzits that are unused and unlocked) and attack the enemy directly, first reducing their shield then taking a life heart off them. Once they lose a heart, they get their shield back and you have to once again reduce the shield then take off a heart – this is the same process they have to do to you as well. If you run out of Ideas, you can use special points to restock your random Ideas or allow the enemy to take one of your hearts (as that also restocks them for free). You can also use these points to swap Ideas for ones in your head – this is handy as due to the random nature of what Ideas you have during play, you won’t always have the ones you need.
Also, once a turn ends you get assigned more Ideas to replace the ones you used up/had broken on that turn.
There are two things which help within combat though. First of all, you can level up the Ideas during the exploration parts of the game by using skill points you get after each chapter. These will boost the effects of each Idea or make them stronger and more resistive to enemy attacks. The second help is via you friends and family as Little Town Hero is also like Mario Party…
Yes, you heard that correctly, Little Town Hero is like Top Trumps, Hearthstone and Mario Party (or maybe Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival as there are no mini-games). Each battle is played on a ‘board’ and each time you finish a round against the enemy (providing they don’t have a skill forcing you to stay still), you’ll roll a dice and move around the location. You also have a few abilities which give you Free-Movement (which are essential to use at times). Most of the spaces you fall on will just be another part of the town or field, but some have friends, family or objects upon them.
If you land on a space with an object, you can use certain Dazzits to trigger special moves. For example, you can ‘Throw’ chickens at the enemies or ‘Slam’ cannons and force them to fire and injure your opponent. These need to be used strategically in order to turn the tides of war into your favour. However, due to the roll of the dice being random, you can’t always guarantee you’ll land on these spaces, which is why you have to also choose when to use a Dazzit with the Free-Movement ability.
If you’re lucky (or Free-Move) to land on a space with a friend or family member, you can call on them to help you out. Every person has a different ability such as unlocking a random Izzit for free, restocking all your Ideas, Instantly issuing damage to the enemies shield or hearts, and just flat-out attacking the enemies skills.
The combat has so many layers and parts to it, it’s all rather confusing and hard to explain but hopefully this gives you a little understanding of how the game works?
One of the main criticisms of the original Switch release was the difficulty of the original version. The game takes a while to get used to the various things you can do within the combat and it all boils down to the luck of the draw as the Ideas you get to use initially are always random and getting a headstart is a must. So, Game Freak added a new ‘Easy Mode’ to the game, which you can swap to whenever you wish during the game – it even asks if you want to drop if you are constantly losing. However, doing so will stop you achieving the ‘Defeat all bosses on Hard’ trophy, so I played the game all the way through on Hard…
I won’t lie, I got frustrated with this game many, many times, rage quitting and walking away on a number of occasions. There are some bosses which can regenerate and some which will come at you so hard, you can barely touch them before you’ve lost all your hearts. Thankfully, each boss has some form of strategy to them and if you can pick up on it early, you can get through most of them with little fuss. Now, the bonus fights, such as the Doll and the giant insect, they’re a whole different story as I hate those so much! But, if I can kill them, you can too.
One thing which I’m not a fan of are the visualisation battles via the scarecrow. As mentioned previously, these are replaying the boss battles but with no upgrades. So, all those skill points you’ve invested in the various Ideas to make them stronger – kiss them goodbye. You use default Ideas, and no health and defence boost. To say these fights are hard would be an understatement. If you don’t care about trophies then these won’t bother you as they add nothing to the game and aren’t required, but if you want the shiny platinum then you have to defeat them all. It’s not impossible but it is quite stressful.
The art style of Little Town Hero is gorgeous, everything is very stylised and colourful, with a comic book/anime look about it. Although some of the textures are quite simple, due to the game originating as a Switch title, nothing stood out or looked out of place. I loved the cute character models and enjoyed the interactions that Axe had with the people around the town, I just wished there was more interactivity and life within the game as everyone felt like mannequins just stood there repeating the same lines within the chapter. I know this is how the NPCs work in the Pokemon series as well, but more life would have greatly enhanced the atmosphere.
The music was another high point of the game, I literally had the game on in the background just so I could listen to the music on a number of occasions (like now). It’s a shame that Game Freak never released the soundtrack digitally on PSN, you can only get it if you buy the physical edition from NIS America. Speaking of…
Whilst writing my review I did a little research, as usual, and found out something very silly and confusing. Little Town Hero is $24.99 on the NA PSN store, yet it’s £29.99 on the UK one. That means you can buy the game for around £10 cheaper if you pick up some NA PSN credit and buy it over there instead. For a digital store, there’s no reason for it to be artificially inflated. Not to mention it’s $24.99 on the NA eShop and Xbox store, yet £22.49 on the UK eShop and Steam, and only £20.99 on the UK Xbox One Store. Now, the game was delisted on EU PSN and came back a few weeks later at the higher price, so maybe there’s a reason it’s charging more?
Also, NIS America still has the £49.99 physical edition available HERE – this includes the game, an Art Book, a Poster, two Pins, the Soundtrack and a Collector’s Box. I really want the soundtrack as it’s by Toby Fox, the creator of Undertale!
Little Town Hero is a charming RPG with gorgeous art design and very unique combat mechanics, resulting in a very strategic and tactical experience. Although it may take you a few hours to become accustomed to the gameplay during the boss battles, the satisfaction of taking down the enemies by utilising a long-winded chain of combos and pre-planned set-up is glorious. For a game set within a ‘little town’, there’s a lot of adventure and excitement to behold, introducing new characters and unravelling secrets the further and stronger you get.
By the end of the game, I was very satisfied and came to appreciate the unique nature of the game along with the challenging gameplay and intriguing story – I’d certainly recommend giving Little Town Hero a shot if you like games which try something new.
Little Town Hero£29.99
- - Very interesting and unique combat mechanics
- - Visually the game looks really cute with a very stylised appearance to it
- - The music is very catchy
- - Intriguing story which keeps you hooked
- - Interesting bosses
- - The game is hard and confusing at first, taking a while to get used to the various mechanics
- - Side-Missions are easily missable, requiring a full second playthrough if you do miss them
- - The platinum is quite tricky as the visualisation replays are brutal
- - Whether you win or lose sometimes comes down to the RNG-based assignment of the Ideas you get and the dice you roll