Who, as a child, didn’t dream of becoming a great hero? Of venturing forth, doing great deeds, battling mythical creatures and making an indelible mark on history. That’s the story behind The Cruel King and the Great Hero, with Yuu – an adventurous young child – setting out into a mythical world to become, well… a great hero!
This is a truly gorgeous game, with a wondrous hand drawn art style that evokes the drawings found in children’s story books. It’s given life by the way that the background layers sway back and forth, and really leans into the book-like aesthetic with transitions that have pages flipping across the screen.
On the surface level there’s a more innocent tone compared to The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince – a game in which the princess hid her true shape-shifting nature from the blinded prince – as Yuu happily heads off on her own adventures, simply being keen to help those in trouble. However, there’s a dark past that’s sure to be uncovered through the game’s story.
Yuu herself is waif-like in her appearance, looking fragile despite her aspirations to become a great hero, while her cooking pot helmet, plain grey dress and blanket tied around her neck like a cloak brings to mind the kinds of play that children get up to as their imaginations run wild.
For the excerpt from the game that we saw, Yuu is searching for a missing girl, wandering through the woods finding her lost shoe near to a fountain. Did she fall in by mistake? Thankfully not, but she has become trapped within a magical realm. The Fountain Spirit cautiously reveals to Yuu that the girl, Flora, willingly entered the fountain, taking on a trial within the Fountain World to try and make her wishes come true. Unfortunately, she’s now paralysed by fear.
As Yuu heads in after her, hoping to help, she finds herself within a Fountain World that isn’t as wet and watery as you might expect. No, it’s actually a magical realm that is made up of unending clouds and sky, populated by little cloud-like fairies.
Eventually finding Flora, you can see that she’s become paralysed by fear of the monsters she must face, but Yuu snaps her out of it and offers to help. Where Yuu wants to be a hero, Flora is dressed up as a traditional princess and clearly comes from a life of privilege, justifying Yuu’s help as her ‘servant’.
Combat in this RPG is a fairly traditional turn-based affair, with random encounters flipping pages as you enter each battle. In the Fountain World, you’ll face off against mythical creations like a unicorn rabbit or a fluffy looking Cotton Bug.
Yuu can either attack with her sword or user her limited energy to perform skill attacks like Flame Slash, Gale Slash and Jump Slash. Joined in battle by Flora, you might have been hoping that this princess would be useful in a fight, but… she’s really not. Her health is less than a quarter of Yuu’s at this point in the game, and her one special ability to to hide, concealing herself from enemies and raising her evasion. It looks like Yuu’s basically going to have to overcome the Fountain World trial on her behalf, but other parts of the game will give Yuu different companions that might be a tad more helpful.
But what of the cruel king mentioned in the game’s title? Yuu’s adventure will at certain points feature the dragon king, her father figure who is literally a fearsome dragon. While he might be helpful to some of Yuu’s adventures, stepping in at times to protect her from true danger, he’s a character with a past that will certainly rear its ugly head and come with some realisations for Yuu.
With its wonderful visual style and familiar RPG combat, The Cruel King and the Great Hero has a canvas on which is can paint an engaging tale. It’s certainly a game that is on my radar for its early 2022 release on Nintendo Switch and PlayStation.