The Cruel King and the Great Hero is a new game by Nippon Ichi Software and the sequel to the game The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince. Both games have a trait that immediately captures the sight of any onlooker, and that is its unique visual aesthetic. While that drew me to the game, its unique story premise was locked in my attention.
The Young Hero
The game centers on a young girl named Yuu who lives in the kingdom of monsters with her adoptive father, the dragon king, who took her in after the death of her father who was renowned as a great hero. Much like her birth father, Yuu has the soul of a hero and wishes to help people. In support of this goal, the dragon king decides it’s time for Yuu to have her own adventures, so with a stick in hand and a pot on her head, she sets out to the world to help people however she can.
While the story isn’t a narrative masterpiece, it is heartwarming, cute, and often entertaining, thanks to its endearing characters. The game also offers some twists and turns that’ll keep players, especially those who appreciate a simple story, engaged throughout.
Other aspects of the game I loved are its intricately designed environments that can be traversed in various ways, its adorable and highly unique character designs, beautiful aesthetic, and calming soundtrack. The striking visuals and distinct color palette alone make The Cruel King and the Great Hero one of the best-looking games I’ve played this year.
Like Nippon Ichi’s other works, The Cruel King and the Great Hero is a JRPG through and through, albeit one with significant design drawbacks. Players take on the role of Yuu as she moves from one area of the monster kingdom to the next, fighting turn-based, random encounter battles with all manner of monsters in the area. Like most JRPGs, players can choose to attack, block, use items, and eventually, special skills.
While I found the combat in the first hour or so rudimentary and monotonous, it thankfully evolves as you progress through the game when you get stronger skills, access to good items to use in battles, and especially when more party members are added. Additionally, battles get more intense as you progress through the story, so players will need to pay attention to the constant spam of formidable enemies, which frankly takes away the otherwise cute and relaxing aesthetic the game has.
While I understand that the random encounter mechanic results from limitations, the encounters quickly get irritating and monotonous, especially with their frequency. Thankfully, there are some items in the game that reduce these encounters, but sadly, they don’t help as much as you’d expect. Though I will give credit where it’s due and highlight the game’s mechanic allowing players to run through areas with enemies lesser than them. However, this feature still doesn’t remove all enemies in the area, which I found irritating.
Outside combat, players also can buy a variety of items and accessories to help during battles, as well as solve traversal based puzzles. Finally, players bored with the main quests can also undertake subquests named “good deeds.” These deeds, unfortunately, primarily consist of fetch quests that I skipped after doing the first few upon discovering they were all more or less structured the same. In terms of performance, the game ran smoothly on PS4 with no frame rate dips or lags while traversing dungeons or executing attacks.
Overall, at its core, The Cruel King and the Great Hero is a beautiful, well-crafted game with a touching story to tell with great narration. It’s just too bad the experience is bogged down by repetitive combat and bland side quests.