Growing up in a small town and never knowing what lays beyond the gates drives a group of young friends to mischief. But when their quiet corner of the planet is suddenly attacked by monsters, Axe and his compatriots fight back in Little Town Hero.
At first glance Little Town Hero looks like it has a lot in common with its creator’s other considerably more well known franchises. Game Freak are definitely better known for their work on the Pokemon universe, so you could see why it draws parallels.
Early screenshots depicting the hero facing off against a larger than life creature, familiar battle menus hovering around the screen and an art and animation style reminiscent of Pikachu & Co’s most recent outing on the Nintendo Switch all had me chomping at the bit to pick this up. After playing this for a few days it’s clear that the differences are massive and the games share very little in common, for both the good and bad.
An extremely colourful affair, Little Town Hero looks great. The Hero’s town is fairly large with each area illustrated down to the minute detail. Grass and wheat sway gently in the breeze whilst the waters of the local river flash by and through the centre of the main residential district. Terrain and textures change as you move to various parts of town keeping the scenery interesting. Not only is it eye candy for exploring but also keeps the battles varied as most of them take place within the town rather than on a generated playing field.
The tale of Little Town Hero is delivered through cutscenes interspersed with conversation between the main characters and kicks off immediately. Nobody is allowed to leave the village for reasons unknown to them and the local kids try various ways to infiltrate the local castle which appears to house the only exit to the enclosed village. TL;DR The kids end up training with a castle soldier, injure him and take his place when a monster attacks.
Little Town Hero has one of the (if not the most) complex battle systems around today. It’s not a pick up and play sort of game and many Pokemon players drawn to Game Freak’s new RPG will likely walk away due to both difficulty and complexity. The mechanics are layered on thick and fast as you progress whilst slowly creating an extremely tactical but rather cumbersome set of rules by which encounters are resolved.
The basic premise contains Ideas (known as Izzits) and Actions (known as Dizzits). Turning Izzits to Dizzits requires power, of which you have a limited pool. Each idea/action has an associated Attack and Defense value and in some cases a special effect which comes into play when it’s activated or played. Actions are played off against each other until one player loses all their Actions and then takes damage. This is repeated until a player loses all their hearts.
In practise it’s a similar premise to a card battler in how you can see your deck, choose which cards to play from your power pool and then attack or defend until you create an opening and then try to take victory. It’s simple enough at that level but Little Town Hero truly believes that more is obviously better value and layers more systems on top.
Players start with a stock of three power and the only way to increase it is to play more rounds and build the POW meter to a maximum of six power. Enemies however don’t play to your human rules and can deploy 3-4 Dizzits immediately, leaving you with very few options if the right Izzits don’t appear in your dealt hand. The game realises this and tries to even things out by giving you guts. Guts essential equates to a shield to deplete before your lives do. Unfortunately it also gives enemies guts too…
Similar to other card battlers, when Dizzits are played against each other, the attack and defence values are played off one another. Dizzit values are depleted and when they reach zero they “Break” and you lose the Dizzit.
Izzits/Dizzits are then split further into several colours. Red are attack Izzits and are spent when deployed. Yellow Izzits are defense options and if not broken can be used again during the turn. Blue Izzits are actions that generally deliver a positive outcome or enable a buff to your other actions. If you manage to break all of your opponents Dizzits within a single turn and then have enough power left to play another red Dizzit, you can damage your opponent.
If you don’t have enough power to play a red or have no reds available when reaching an All Break scenario; Little Town Hero gives you one “Break Point”. These can be used to reach into your deck and swap in a selected idea. Or if everything is in your “graveyard” then you could use them to regenerate everything back into your deck.
If it sounds complex… it is. It doesn’t stop there though as between each turn you travel around town via a board game style dice roll. This matters quite a lot as each space on the board can contain either one of the Hero’s friends or an environmental object. Both may be played (with enough power) to give you an advantage.
On default difficulty the game is already hard and that can be pretty frustrating if you can’t get the right hand. Battles can go easily in excess of twenty turns with a single round destroying the flow and turning the tables. That scenario very rarely happens in your favour though and defeat means starting that battle again.
The main quest is extremely linear with the only diversion being some minor side quests around town. These do however reward the valuable and sought after upgrade points so they are worth doing if you are in it for the long haul.
With a great feel and a very unique battle system the monster confrontations can either be very rewarding or very frustrating. With a few tweaks Little Town Hero could be amazing but many players won’t get past its feature laden systems and steep difficulty curve.