Charming graphical styles, cute characters that look like they jumped straight out of the excellent Ni no Kuni, what looked like turn-based RPG combat, and a soundtrack composed by Undertale’s Toby Fox? There was so much to be excited about.
Sadly, it doesn’t exactly look like Little Town Hero is set to be the next hit RPG that Switch owners absolutely must check out.
The game itself looks good enough, and the graphical style is really gorgeous. But when you really dig into it, you start to notice little flaws that add up and make this experience feel less polished than it should.
It’s the little things that get to you, like the d-pad being completely useless and being able unable to use it to navigate basic menus, or the camera controls being inconsistent in that you can have full control over it in some areas but not others.
These issues pale in comparison to the much larger problem in Little Town Hero, though. And that’s the battle system.
Your first hour with the game is a full-on tutorial about how combat works, complete with your first boss battle and all that. And it’s a lot to take in.
The basic system revolves around cards you get at the start of each turn. Every card has an attack and defense value, and the goal is to use cards that can break your opponent’s cards. Break all of them, and you’ll be able to use one of the existing cards in your hand to deal heart damage to your opponent. Deal three points of heart damage, and you win.
Of course, that’s not all there is to it. Only red cards can be used to deal heart damage when you break all your opponent’s cards, and yellow cards are more defensive in nature. There are also blue ability cards to give you an edge in combat, but those can’t deal heart damage either.
Finally, it’s also possible to run out of cards if a battle goes on for too long (and it will), and the only way to replenish your deck is by spending BP, which is gained from dealing heart damage to an opponent, or receiving heart damage yourself.
If that sounds like a lot to grapple with, there’s more.
Each turn ends with a roll of a dice of sorts, which determines how many spaces you’ll move on the town map. This means that each turn of a battle takes place in a different location on the map, and some locations can come with side effects to help you out.
We’re not quite done yet. Bosses can also become irritated or angry in the middle of a fight, enhancing their own cards in some way or another.
There is quite a bit to keep track of in Little Town Hero, and the first couple hours are going to overwhelm you with information. There’s also a meter in the bottom center of the screen that ticks up after each turn, and I’m not even sure what that does. I’m sure I’ll figure it out at some point.
There are a few early issues that I’ve encountered with this combat system, the main one being that it can feel like there’s a lot left up to chance in terms of which cards you and your opponent get each turn. This is something that I’m sure can be alleviated as the game progresses and you get better ability cards that help to give you some control over your cards, but in the early game, it’s rather annoying.
All of these complaints wouldn’t be so pronounced if it wasn’t for the fact that boss battles are long as hell. The very first boss fight took well over half an hour because the right cards just weren’t lined up for me properly.
Not to mention the fact that there’s also a guts system in play. Guts are essentially like a shield mechanic for your hearts. So in each battle, you’ll first need to break your opponent’s guts, then you’ll be able to deal heart damage the following turn.
This is how the general flow of battle goes: get cards -> break all your opponent’s cards -> deal guts damage with a red card -> start a new turn and get cards -> break all your opponent’s cards -> deal heart damage with a red card.
Oh, and guts are replenished each time you deal heart damage. You also have to deal heart damage three times to win the battle. This means that you need a bare minimum of six turns to win a battle, and that’s assuming that you did everything perfectly in those six turns, and got the right cards every turn to be able to deal guts or heart damage.
This makes the battles feel like a massive drag, and it’s awful especially when it feels like your card draws are largely left up to luck. It’s even more frustrating when battles play out pretty slowly as well, with animations for every move you make, which, by the way, cannot be sped up or skipped.
It’s still early days with Little Town Hero, and my opinion might very well change after a few more hours. That said, the combat system itself does already feel bloated and needlessly complicated that I can’t really imagine it suddenly getting compelling as the game goes on.
There are things to appreciate about the game, though, such as the cute character moments and a pretty decent and catchy soundtrack. I’m just not quite sure charm alone is enough to carry this game.