When a game has an interesting or unique art style, I often want to see more of it. Last year’s Sable was an example of a game that drew me in because of the way it looked. Another one is The Cruel King and the Great Hero, an RPG that incorporates the look of a child’s fairy tale book. Unfortunately, even with its incredible aesthetics, an overreliance on random battles and a bloated last third hurt the experience.

Yuu wandering through a forest area, early in the game

When I grow up I want to be a Hero!

The game revolves around a young girl, Yuu, and her foster father, the Dragon King. Yuu wishes to be a hero like her Papa and her father actively encourages her to do so. For her to become that hero, she’ll need to grow in strength and take down the evil Demon King who her Papa fought in battle before. What Yuu doesn’t know is that her father is in fact, the Demon King.

This isn’t a spoiler. In fact, the marketing material for the game makes this clear. But it’s Yuu who isn’t aware of this. Deep down, the Dragon King no longer wants to be known as the Demon King, and he wants a true hero to defeat him. He strongly believes that Yuu is like her Papa and can accomplish the goal of defeating him.

The plot is your standard, underdog coming-of-age tale. Yuu starts off weak, needing her father’s help (although she doesn’t realize he’s helping her). But as the game progresses, she gets stronger, obtains better weapons and armor, and eventually doesn’t need that assistance in battle.

Yuu and Flora celebrating victory in battle

A simple battle system that you’ll spend a lot of time with

As the story progresses, Yuu will have tasks that she needs to accomplish on her own, but she’ll also help others with theirs. When partnered with another character, the two will venture off into different environments, typically with the goal of reaching a specific area to find an item or a person. As you venture through each area, there are many random foes you’ll have to defeat.

The combat is very simple. Yuu and her partner can do a few different actions, including attacking, using a special skill, or guarding against the next attack. Additionally, Yuu has the ability to try to persuade weakened enemies to flee.

The best moves come from skills, which are unlocked as the characters level up. Skills also require stamina, which refill a bit after every turn. Using a skill at the right time can really sway a battle in Yuu’s favor.

Yuu striking an enemy in battle

Too many Random battles

While the combat is easy to grasp, there is too much of a reliance on randomness. Expect at least one or two battles per section of the map, with that number increasing as you get closer to the end of the game.

This wouldn’t be too much of a problem if there was some consistency with the battles. Late in the game, they throw at you every enemy type and will often mix it up to make things even more of a challenge. Obviously, you’d expect a challenge near the end but I often felt that I was always put at a disadvantage.

It didn’t help that I spent most of my time with Flora. She’s a great support character that comliments Yuu’s strength. Unfortunately, it almost always meant she would be the last to take her turn. Perhaps if I swapped her out for any of the other two characters battles would be different?

The problem there is that the game doesn’t make it easy for you to switch partners. You only get this opportunity late in the game and you must return to your den to make the swap. On top of that, those characters don’t level up when idle. So, while my Yuu and Flora were level 41 and 40 respectively, my Rocky was level 20. To get him to a more managable level, I’d have to venture back and spent the time to do so.

A sample of the map in The Cruel King and the Great Hero

Be Prepared to Walk…a lot

The constant random battles are even more pronounced when you realize how much walking Yuu does. In fact, there is no way to run unless she’s in an area with no combat or in sections where she’s significantly stronger than the foes in the area. Because of this, the game feels slow, especially when you’re just passing through.

You really see how bothersome the walking is when you get close to the end of the game. The last chapter of the game is by far the longest. Of my ~12 hour playtime, a good 3-4 hours of that were spent trekking through Demon King Mountain and its labyrinth of caves. This wouldn’t be a problem with there were things to do other than fighting many random battles.

These long sections also highlight how disappointing the in-game map is. It’s poorly designed. You don’t have a proper layout. Instead, as you find new areas you get these little bubbles that are connected by dots. You can try to zoom out to get a better view of everything but that’s not possible for the last part of the game.

Yuu and Cybat interacting with some Bees

I really wanted to like this more

Before that last chapter, I was ready to easily recommend The Cruel King and the Great Hero. I was enjoying Yuu and the other colorful characters, especially the Dragon King. Even the combat system was fun, and I was curious what other skills I would unlock. But that last chapter takes everything charming about the game and forces you to wander empty sections with a constant barrage of random battles.

It really feels that the developers got to the end of the game and realized that the story was wrapping up quicker than they anticipated. In a last-ditch effort to pad the game, they simply made it bigger but didn’t bother to add anything else. While I think people should check it out to bask in the game’s beautiful art style, I just hope they are ready for the many, many random battles along the way.