When Game Freak first released Pokémon in 1996, nobody knew that it would become a worldwide phenomenon. 23 years later, Game Freak has released their first brand new IP – Little Town Hero – and I’ll say it right off the bat – it’s no Pokémon.

GAMEPLAY

Combat revolves around randomly generated “Izzits” and “Dazzits”

In Little Town Hero, you play as a red haired boy (the player chooses his name) and the inevitable hero of the village. Throughout the game, you come across different monsters and enemies in which you battle using randomly generated ideas called “Izzits”. These are drawn from a bank of sorts called your “headspace”. Using power earned every turn, these “Izzits” can be turned into “Dazzits” which are what you use to battle with.

Now, it doesn’t bother me that this is what the combat is like. It’s actually very inventive and can take a lot of planning. What bothers me is the fact that the game is solely dependent on randomly chosen Izzits for you to work with. This is compounded by the fact that quite a few end-of-chapter bosses have Dazzits (yes, they’re different than Izzits – it’s gonna get confusing) that randomly wipe out one of the ideas in your headspace or change the Dazzit you’ve chosen EVERY TIME they use it. Some can be used multiple times. When I’ve gone through and planned out my next two or three moves, this can be incredibly frustrating and cause for a 30 min boss battle to turn into a 2 hour boss battle. And yes, that happened. 2 hours on one boss.

Aside from combat, there are multiple different quests to complete throughout the game. The quest log in the pause menu is actually very aesthetically pleasing and the amount of side quests available to complete speaks to the completion it’s in me. My biggest complaints in this regard are two;  firstly, no minimap or navigation compass or SOMETHING makes finding quests and objectives an absolute chore. Too many of them are fetch quests with no clear idea where to fetch anything.

And my second gripe – at one point, when teaching the player about the different quests available to complete, the game tells them that some quests can only be found or completed in certain chapters. The biggest problem is that there’s no way for the player to know WHICH quests those are. One minute I’m helping a girl find her sheep and the next I’m fighting the end-of-chapter boss and there’s still a fourth sheep left to be found. My completionist screams at this point. The sucky thing is, this could be solved by one of two little things: a minimap or indicator system or the game not automatically starting MAIN quests upon walking to a certain area. These additions would’ve made the game far easier QOL-wise and would’ve made it that much more enjoyable for me, personally.

PRESENTATION

The art style is classic Game Freak and that’s a good thing

A couple things about the game do stand out to me. First off, the the art style. Game Freak seems to have gone back to their DS days with this art style, albeit a much more HD version of it. The classic chibi feel of the characters, the vividly colored backgrounds, the unique looking monsters all scream Game Freak at its roots. That’s what I’ve always personally loved about the Japanese studio and I’m sure I’m not alone.

Second, the soundtrack. Surprisingly, the soundtrack is done by none other than Undertale’s Toby Fox. There are definitely elements of his work on Undertale in the battle music especially. An almost electronic sound resonates while fighting certain enemies, much like it did for Undertale. Game Freak was right to get a well established composer to do their soundtrack. And one that everyone seems to love, at that.

STORY & CHARACTERS

Dialogue feels uninspired and characters are bland

Game Freak has always been very good at writing a captivating and deep story for their Pokémon games. Pokémon Diamond and Pearl and X and Y have some of the best stories in all of gaming in my opinion. Little Town Hero, on the other hand, doesn’t.

Unfortunately, it seems the studio put their B-team on writing. The story feels like something right out of a Playhouse Disney TV show. The other problem is that because the game only takes place in one little village, there’s not many places for the story to go before it gets incredibly boring. I found myself merely skimming dialogue 5 or 6 hours into the game just so I could get to the next round of combat.

The characters are a different beast. Every NPC is one of four different designs – an old man with a tuft of hair; burly buff guy; a little girl/boy; or an “old” woman who looks like she’s 24. These generic characters do nothing to enrich the story or background of this village, unlike most NPCs in the Pokémon series. Even the main supporting characters are uninventive and did little to catch my attention.

THE VERDICT

As it stands, Little Town Hero might be Game Freak’s first adventure out of the realm of Pokémon but it’s not a very good one. It seems as though the effort wasn’t put in to make this game a polished final product and it needs two or three more updates to become a final product. At the price point it sits, however, it may be worth it for interested fans to give it a try, as it wasn’t ALL bad. The visuals and music are worth trying and the combat can be fun and interesting at certain points.