“A story within a story” is how the Blossom Tales series is described. Just like in the first game, the story in Blossom Tales 2: The Minotaur Prince is actually narrated by Lily (the main character) and her brother Chrys’ Grandpa. It tells the tale of the aforementioned Lily, on a journey to rescue her brother from the Minotaur King. He is influencing young Chrys in the hope that he will become the Minotaur Prince, and he is naively following along, thinking his sister is the bad guy in all of this. It is a simple premise that does a decent job in setting you up for the adventure ahead. The story and the way it’s presented are one of the few unique elements to the game.
If you played the original Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King, you would know right from the off that it took a lot of inspiration from The Legend of Zelda series. More so A Link to the Past and handheld titles such as the Oracle games or The Minish Cap. The Minotaur Prince is no different and it feels right at home on Nintendo’s current handheld system. If you haven’t played the first game, fret not, you don’t need to have played it before this one. There are moments where the events of the first game are referenced and talked about, but it is so minor that it makes absolutely no difference to the experience.
Once you take control, you find yourself in the midst of a carnival in Blossomdale, competing in various fun carnival games that act as tutorials. You then enter a tournament that teaches you how to use your sword and shield. It’s during this section that you will realise – if you hadn’t already – just how similar this is to Link’s top-down adventures.
Throughout the course of the game, Grandpa, Chrys and Lily often interject to discuss current happenings in the game. Chrys and Lily sometimes want two separate things to occur, for example when encountering enemies (not all the time, just in very specific cases) and one wants it to be wolves and the other wants it to be slugs, so Grandpa gives the player a choice between those two things, and it then changes in front of your eyes. In rarer cases, you get the option between two things that last for the entire game, the main example of this being the instrument you carry with you, it can either be a guitar or an accordion. You can also choose between different sword techniques to learn. Essentially, there are no changes that will affect anything drastically, but it is a great mechanic that makes the player feel as if they have a direct say in the way some parts of the story should play out.
The equipment and items you gain during the adventure are lifted straight from a Zelda title. We have the bow and arrow, lantern, hookshot and bombs to name just a few. There is only one single item here that isn’t from Link’s adventures – I won’t mention what it is, as it was a nice surprise. Each of them works in the exact same way, too. For example, you will see many walls that have cracks that can be destroyed with bombs and you can shoot through fire to light far away torches. They are mechanics that are fun and that clearly work – they have for 30 years – there’s just very little originality and you feel like you know what’s coming before it has happened.
Items in Blossom Tales 2: The Minotaur Prince require energy in order to use them – think of the magic meter in A Link to the Past, but one that automatically regenerates itself. Therefore, you don’t have to be gathering supplies such as arrows for the bow as you are making your way around. This can be a good and bad thing, depending on your preferences. On one hand, it means you never run out of anything, so you are always equipped for anything in your path. On the other hand, it can make some fights very easy as you have overpowered items such as bombs to hit large crowds of enemies, and you can use them over and over again with only a small break after a few bombs.
If you are somebody who likes a lot of collectables in your games, then you’ll be thrilled to know that there are plenty in Blossom Tales 2: The Minotaur Prince. First of all, you have common pickups that you use for crafting new potions, or trade-in to get other useful things, such as heart containers and energy pieces. These come in a whole raft of varieties such as flowers, fruit, and fish. When I finished my playthrough, I had a total of 45 different types in my items list. As mentioned above, there are also potions for you to make – 10 of them to be exact – ranging from health potions to those that act like fairies in Zelda which regenerate your health after you fall in battle. You first have to learn the recipes in order to be able to craft them, only one is essential for beating the game, however.
Next you have sidequest collectables, such as Honeycomb pieces and Old Bones. As one would imagine, once you collect all of these and take them to the relevant person, you will receive a non-essential item that will help you out on your adventure, but one that completionists will want to have for sure. Lastly, there are 24 statues littered around the map that you need to offer fruit to in order to activate them.
The dungeon designs here are one of the strong points and you could easily envision some of these in an actual Zelda game and it wouldn’t make the experience any weaker – they really are that good. They aren’t the longest dungeons, but I think this helps them in some ways. It would have been easy for the developer to increase the size and duration of the dungeons and to repeat some of the ideas and puzzles to do this. This means that when you tackle the puzzles, for example, they all feel genuinely satisfying once you work out the solution and do not feel like you are just repeating the same thing over and over again.
The difficulty feels well-balanced on the whole but can veer more on the easier side on occasions. I only died once during the entire game and that was early on when I had very few hearts. Once you start gaining heart containers, it gets harder and harder to perish. Boss battles are usually tense affairs at first but can sometimes be beaten purely by slashing at it without worrying about your health. The main difficulty that I found during my time with the game was actually due to the map and remembering where everything is. The map doesn’t update itself other than filling in the square / tile as you get to it and there isn’t any kind of stamp system. Often you will come across something in the overworld which you know you need a certain item for, so you know you need to come back later for it. If you don’t write that down on a piece of paper or keep a record somewhere, you are going to have a hard time finding it again.
The worst thing I can say about Blossom Tales 2: The Minotaur Prince, is that there are very few of the developer’s own ideas in the entire game. On the flip side of that, you could argue that because it is taking its inspiration from one of the greatest franchises of all time – and does a good job of replicating it – the quality of the game is very high. At no point during my entire playthrough, did I want to stop playing or feel like I wanted the game to end. The adventure was fun from beginning to end.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Playtonic Friends