The Cruel King And The Great Hero launches soon, and we couldn’t wait to play this new storybook-style RPG from NIS America. Here’s our review of the PlayStation 4 version, while the game is also available for the Nintendo Switch.
When The Cruel King And The Great Hero was announced, it certainly sounded like it could be a sequel to The Liar Princess And The Blind Prince, which we enjoyed. The early screenshots and footage seemed to confirm as much, but when you look past the similarities in art style there’s a very different type of game here – one that follows RPG mechanics rather than a puzzle platforming template, like the previous game did.
In terms of visual storytelling though, you get the same kind of approach where cute visuals hide an otherwise often tragic story. Protagonist Yuu is the daughter to a great hero who sadly died young. Hoping to one day follow in his footsteps, you now work alongside a dragon and various other fantasy creatures to tackle quests and objectives around the kingdom, growing stronger and hopefully taking down the demon king at some point.
The narrative is told through an audiovisual style that’s just as unique in the RPG world as the previous game was in the domain of puzzle platformers. It’s incredibly charming, with a pleasant soundtrack to back up the storybook-like visuals. It’s very welcoming and instantly charming, which is why the early campaign beats feels like a bit of a rough awakening. Being an RPG, The Cruel King And The Great Hero is heavy on explaining its mechanics, and the story flow halts whenever there’s a combat encounter or you run into obstacles that you need help with.
Time mitigates this and the final two thirds of the (15 to 18 hour) story campaign flows much more nicely, letting you explore the rather sizeable game world and impressively large roster of characters to include in your party. Throughout all that, the game maintains its audiovisual charm effortlessly, though the early combat can feel a bit repetitive and too frequent.
This too gets better as time goes on and you start heading into combat with stronger characters and enemies, introducing battle tactics as an important mechanic and placing making pre-combat party management an integral part of the experience. The items you find while exploring also become more important at that point, making the otherwise fairly standard turn-based combat more interesting and challenging over time. Combat is definitely more multi-layered and fun when it’s party-based too, although for some reason there are instances where the game reverts to single character combat later on as well.
The Cruel King And The Great Hero is a fairly standard and maybe even unremarkable RPG underneath its surface, but that surface is a gorgeous and unique storybook-like presentation that makes this a game definitely worth playing even though it can be slow to get started.