Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
If there’s one thing in life that doesn’t really come with an instruction manual, it’s being a parent. Sure, there are loads of resources out there, but when you’re a giant fire breathing dragon taking care of the human child of a hero that defeated you all those years ago? Things may not always be simple but the love was clear to see in this latest heartwarming tale from Nippon Ichi Software.
Following up on NIS’ Liar Princess and the Blind Prince, The Cruel King and the Great Hero is another fairy tale-like adventure that you should prepare yourself emotionally for. While graphically adorable, this tale is the adventure of The Dragon’s King daughter Yuu on her journey to become The Great Hero in order to be like her biological father and defeat the The Demon King who may return one day to finish what they started.
From this premise alone, and without too many spoilers, you already see it coming. The difference with Yuu’s adventure to become The Great Hero though is that her dad supports her and tells her bedtime stories about her father’s adventures as the hero every night while falling asleep wrapped up in her blanket and cuddled up against him. With all of these stories and with all of her training near their home with her stick, Yuu’s dad finally sends her off on her own to make it down the mountain in a real beginning to her journey.
Well, sending her off alone is a huge stretch and will bring a smile to your face as our giant teddy bear of a father figure sneaks around in the background making sure that Yuu is alright. Popping in and out of the trees or rock formations in the background, he’s always around and the looks of worry when she is attacked in combat or faced with an impossible challenge are clear to see. So what’s a giant dragon to do? Lend his support without her knowing about it.
There’s a small shift as time goes on with Yuu going into places that her dad can’t follow without being noticed like the monster village at the bottom of their mountain. In these places you get to see how earnest Yuu is and how much she takes to heart what we dad has imparted to her. Help those in need. Be a kind and helping hand. Be a person that people can truly believe is a hero and this is exactly what Yuu does through both the main story and the loads of side quests that make up this JRPG adventure.
The premise works very well and the dialog that supports it is cute which is refreshing in an age where everything is an epic this or an epic that. The Cruel King and the Great Hero is simple and never tries to be more than the story that is put in front of you with a few branching paths to help those in need. Where things can get a bit long winded however is in the older styled JRPG mechanics that will have you battling enemies every ten steps without a proper quick travel system to make your life easier.
Had the adventure been more than 12-16 hours this would have been more of a complaint than it would have been a grumble. There’s nothing wrong with having to walk everywhere in an adventure, I recently walked through all of a 26 hour adventure with Stegosoft Games’ Rise of the Third Power but it was designed in such a way that didn’t make it feel like a chore. For The Cruel King and the Great Hero however, it follows a bit of this path until you get to the side content that you’ll often want to do to make sure that you are prepared for the main events as it can be grindy at times.
Most of the areas that you’ll be exploring are a bit of an intertwined maze with paths leading from one block to the end while throwing in some dead ends with treasure. In the beginning, you’ll be walking slowly enough through all of these places as Yuu is obviously cautious of these new areas and monsters could be tougher so she’s on her guard. As Yuu levels up however, she’ll start to run through with a bit of a smile on her face as she’s out and about adventuring. Halfway through the adventure, you’ll unlock the ability to use magic fountains as fast travel points to make this go even faster.
It would have worked, if there had been more magic fountains per area instead of just one and if all of the side quest markers weren’t so far from the fountains. Even with Yuu being able to run which will decrease the encounter rate, it’s still high. Even with Yuu being able to buy items to decrease the encounter rate, it’s still high as the only thing that it does is prevent the weaker enemies from attacking, not the strong ones.
So with that in mind, you’ll be spending a lot of time within the combat screen which in and of itself is simple enough. Yuu and one ally can attack, defend, use skills or items. Once your commands are input, the actions play out based on the speed attributes of Yuu and her partner against the often numerous enemies in front. The tricky element to combat comes with the skills as these require only a few points to be used, but they have to be accumulated first and cannot be spammed to quickly win battle.
Skill points also carry over from one battle to the next so you could stock up in one fight and quickly end the next. It’s simple, it’s never more complicated than it needs to be, but I would have wanted maybe a few more area of effect abilities as they are limited and often not that useful depending on how the enemies spawned as they are almost all based off straight lines and the enemies will often just be out of range.
But it’s simple, and it’s cute especially in the beginning when Yuu’s dad needs to breathe fire onto Yuu’s weapon for her Fire Slash which is her special hero ability that she can totally do all by herself! Just don’t tell her to break the magic… but it’s these small things that wrap back into this being a cute adventure. Sure Yuu can eventually light her own sword on fire but it’ll take some time and the “?” that pops up beside her head is super adorable as she wonders why it’s not working anymore when it was working just five minutes ago.
Is The Cruel King and the Great Hero perfect? No, but it is adorable, heartwarming, and you’ll want a box of tissues on hand to cry into at a few places. It’s a lighthearted JRPG and I for one am very happy to have been able to sit down to it and look forward to the next fairy tale-like adventure from Nippon Ichi Software as they between this and the Liar Princess and the Blind Prince have a really good thing going.Score: 7 / 10