Amidst the Elden Rings and Horizon: Forbidden Wests of game releases so far, lies the cutesy, fairytale-like JRPG, The Cruel King and the Great Hero. With its hand-drawn visuals and the fairytale-like world, to some, it may seem admissible, maybe even a hard pass. I admit, I also judged it too early when I was being walked through the basics of turn-based combat, thinking that this must be for children and that I’d breeze through this game with ease. What I was met with, however, was an experience that tugged at my heartstrings, but also at the hair on my head at times.
Yuu are the Hero
The protagonist of this game is Yuu (presumably derived from the Japanese word for hero, Yuusha), the adoptive daughter of the Dragon King. After Yuu’s parents died, the Dragon King took her under his wing. Ever since, Yuu’s been training to become a hero, just like her father. We find out pretty early on that the bedtime stories about the great hero who defeated the Demon King, was actually not the Dragon King, and the Demon King was the Dragon King all along, and that Yuu has no idea who her father really is.
On one fine day, the Dragon King tells Yuu she’s old enough to go off on her own and down the mountain. Ever the doting parent he is though, the Dragon King follows Yuu secretly, and we can see him in the background keeping an eye on her. In fact, one of the first special skills that Yuu learns, the flame slash, is not through her own power, but the Dragon King lighting her sword ablaze to deliver a deadly blow. When we do win the battle, you can even see him sporting a proud smile on his face. It’s little moments like this that will get you through the grueling combat of The Cruel King and the Great Hero.
The Cruel Combat
The turn-based combat of the game is pretty straightforward and not unlike what you’d expect from a standard JRPG. One slight curveball is that your mana, or energy in this game, is limited and 1 point of it will be restored after each turn. It’s a rather tricky system because not only do you have very little energy, you also learn new spells and abilities at a slow pace as you continue to level up. When you do get better abilities, however, you can attack rows of enemies with ease. The energy system definitely adds a certain degree of challenge, especially when it comes to the boss battles.
These encounters are, of course, my least favorite kind, random. Even worse, they’re frequent random encounters. Don’t get me wrong, some of my favorite JRPGs are from the era where random encounters were the standard, but as an adult, I no longer have the patience I once did. By far though, the most exhausting thing about these encounters is that you’d have to face the same group of enemies over and over again. As adorably designed as they are, it was pretty tiring to have to fight 2 Dragonalikes in the front row, and 2 Griffons in the back row, in that exact same orientation for 4 back-to-back encounters.
“Surely, there must be a way to bypass these enemies,” you might think. Why yes, there is. We’re introduced to it early on in fact, but it’s been useless for me for the most part, unless I’m doing a side quest. If you’re in an area where Yuu’s level is too high for the monsters there, you can run through the area, but you’ll still encounter stronger monsters, which is still a bummer. All the other areas though, you’ll have to walk through. There are items that you can buy to repel weaker enemies, so I’m not quite sure why there are two ways of avoiding weaker enemies when both of them don’t entirely get rid of them.
The Great Storytelling
Unlike most JRPGs though, you can only have up to 2 members in your party at a time, and most of them aren’t in it for the long run. Aiming to be the next hero, Yuu’s on a journey to help people solve their problems. Once you’ve helped them out, you’re moving on to the next character’s arc. While The Cruel King and the Great Hero’s gameplay seems a bit sluggish, what it oddly does a good job at is storytelling through its combat.
A great example of this is when you encounter Flora, a princess overlooking a human kingdom. You go to the fountain world to help her overcome her trial after the fountain spirit tells you she’s been overcome by fear and may die if she doesn’t get through the trial. When you do find Flora, she tells you she needs to finish this trial to save her kingdom from the Demon King. Yuu being the chipper protagonist she is, agrees to help her and Flora joins our party.
The catch is that she’s pretty under-leveled. Previously, when Yuu would party up another person, they’d be around the same level as her, but Flora’s still weak. The first skill she learns is ‘Hide’ something that makes it less probable for the enemy to attack her. But, she levels up pretty quickly, and soon enough her defense stats are even better than Yuu’s. She’s no longer the meek princess we met at the beginning and is determined to face her fears at the end and save her kingdom.
It’s the tiny little details like this that make The Cruel King and the Great Hero an absolute joy to play. I already mentioned how stinking cute the enemies are, but even the main cast themselves are too pure. I audibly squealed in delight when I saw Yuu’s yellow pot helmet that was mimicking the Dragon King’s crown. The pencil sketch-like visuals make it all the more charming, especially accompanied by the whimsical soundtrack. The game is narrated entirely in Japanese however, so those who like their English voiceovers may be a little let down by all the reading they have to do.
The Cruel King and the Great Hero | Final Thoughts
The Cruel King and the Great Hero is a great JRPG, which can be cruel at times. It can drag a little with its repetitive combat at times, especially if you’re not a fan of random encounters, but’s got an endearing story that has its dark twists and turns, and a great cast of characters. Overall, it’s got a lovingly crafted world and is a solid JRPG as long as you don’t mind the dated mechanics.
TechRaptor reviewed The Cruel King and the Great Hero on Nintendo Switch with a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PlayStation 4.
- Hand drawn visuals and beautiful soundtrack
- Compelling storytelling and adorable characters
- Combat has a slight edge of difficulty
- Random encounters galore
- Only Japanese narration and no English dub