Modern homages to classic video games often go one of two ways: They either stick close to the gameplay conventions to which they are paying tribute, or they expand the original games’ styles in meaningful and innovative ways. Blossom Tales II: The Minotaur Prince, like its 2017 predecessor, is more the former than the latter, adhering closely to the classic Legend of Zelda blueprint, most notably that of A Link to the Past. Despite this lack of innovation, Blossom Tales II still manages to capture many of the acclaimed elements of what many consider to be one of the greatest video games of all time, and in the process, delivers a fun, retro-facing adventure worth embarking on.
After player-character Lily accidentally unleashes the Minotaur King, who swiftly kidnaps her brother, a new dark age looms unless she can put a stop to the monstrous mythological monarch. To do so, she must leave the comfort of Blossomdale to trek through pirate-infested swamplands, ghost-haunted mansions, and a monster-filled desert. I love how each biome presents different challenges and enemies to overcome, and the exploration often feels natural and intuitive, leading you from one screen to the next. I rarely felt lost during my playthrough, which is a testament to the design of the open world and the dungeons therein.
Unfortunately, despite my enjoyment of the exploration, I rarely felt adequately rewarded for poking around each nook and cranny. Treasure offered for completing even the most difficult caverns is often gold coins, of which I already had more than I could spend. On rare occasions, I received a heart piece to help me earn more health, but those were so rare (and you need four of them to add to your max health) that it was minimally exciting. Still, that didn’t stop me from bombing every cracked wall, collecting every item, and fishing every pond.
Blossom Tales II carries on the series’ hallmark of well-crafted dungeon experiences. Much like the world, the game’s dungeons flow well from room to room, and give you the right number of clues to progress without much frustration. While a late labyrinth is perhaps my favorite thanks to its strong mix of challenging combat and head-scratching puzzles, the dungeons feature terrific design involving minecart tracks, changing water levels, and more.
Blossom Tales II’s simple combat lacks the sophistication and smoothness of other top-down action games, but it makes up for it by giving you a wealth of items and powerups. Genre mainstays like a bow, boomerang, and bombs appear in your inventory early on, while a yo-yo that acts like a hookshot and a guitar on which you play spell-inducing songs do more than nod at the Zelda series. These items are used in interesting and satisfying ways, though I was less excited about how often I needed to pause the action and map a different item to the face buttons.
The story uses an unreliable narrator convention as it’s told to children Lily and Chrys, who also serve as the two main characters of the adventure. On occasion, the kids will fight over what they want to happen, and it’s up to you to decide what to do. Though I enjoy being able to choose what kind of enemies I needed to fight or puzzle I needed to solve on occasion, the unique storytelling model is underutilized and relegated to only minor decisions.
Blossom Tales II does little to hide its Zelda inspiration from the player. While it doesn’t reach the heights of Nintendo’s legendary franchise, it does smooth over many of the early-‘90s design conventions present in games like A Link to the Past to deliver an adventure able to be enjoyed by players of all ages and experience levels. Blossom Tales II is a better game than its predecessor, and I hope we continue to get more adventures from Lily, Chrys, and their grandpa in the future.