The Cruel King and the Great Hero – Review
Follow Genre: RPG
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Publisher: NIS America
Platform: Switch, PS4
Tested on: Switch

The Cruel King and the Great Hero – Review

Site Score
Good: Beautiful hand-drawn art style
Bad: Gameplay doesn't bring anything new to the table
User Score
(1 votes)
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VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)

A couple of years ago, NIS brought us the incredibly charming The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince, a puzzle platformer with a gorgeous art style. The game’s spiritual successor, The Cruel King and the Great Hero, brings us the same atmosphere, but comes to us in the form of a completely different gameplay genre. Does the lovely storybook presentation here mesh well with side-scrolling RPG gameplay or should NIS have stuck with puzzle platforming?


In this charming fairy tale, we meet the feisty Yuu, a young human girl who has been adopted by the Dragon King, who rules over the monster realm. Many years prior, the Dragon King, then known as the Demon King, terrorized the entire world rather than just reign over the monsters, but after a long battle, he was defeated by the great hero of the humans. The hero spared the Dragon King’s life, instead just cutting off his horn, and the two enemies became friends. When the great hero suffered a fatal wound, his dying wish was for his daughter to be raised by the Dragon King. Seeing this as an opportunity to redeem himself for his previous atrocities, the Dragon King agrees and decides to train Yuu to become a great hero in her own right.

What follows is an incredibly cute and low-stakes adventure that sees the player take control of Yuu as she grows into the hero of the monster realm. Monster Village, which serves as the game’s main hub, is inhabited by a cast of charming and quirky characters, many of whom seek Yuu’s help in performing seemingly mundane tasks that translate into great acts of heroism in the mind of the young girl. As she befriends more monsters, she’ll discover more about the history of her heroic father and the realm of the humans as well. Of note is that the Dragon King might not always actively participate in the story itself, but he can be spotted in the background of the various environments, keeping an eye on his adoptive daughter and ensuring she is safe without interfering.


The hand-drawn art style is probably The Cruel King and the Great Hero’s biggest selling point, as the game looks incredibly charming. The game is presented as a storybook, with narrative scenes typically shown as static illustrations and the transition to a battle depicted as pages being flipped. The art style is deliberately rough, with pencil strokes visible. Character designs are brilliant in their simplicity: nothing about the various creatures you encounter feels overdesigned. Many of the monster designs feel like they could’ve stepped out of a Studio Ghibli film. The only gripe we had about the visuals was that character animation felt very limited, but overall, it’s hard not to fall in love with the gorgeous aesthetics presented here.


In order to further drive the storybook atmosphere home, there is no voice acting present in The Cruel King and the Great Hero. Instead, the game relies on a narrator to deliver the story, as if it is being read to you. We should probably point out that there is no English voice present here, and you’ll only be able to listen to Yuu’s story in Japanese. While it doesn’t necessarily bother us that a game is only audible in its original language, we did feel like there is a difference between single narration or full voice acting, as a lot of the emotional nuance felt lost here, which is a shame. On the upside, the game’s cheerful soundtrack makes up for a lot and really befits the overall mood that The Cruel King and the Great Hero tries to evoke.


We didn’t quite expect The Cruel King and the Great Hero to be a cross between a standard RPG and a Metroidvania-esque adventure, but not only is this exactly what the game serves up, but it gets away with it as well. Yuu takes on simple objectives as she navigates an ever-expanding open world, which is presented through a series of interconnected side-scrolling areas. The main objective is to play through the main story of course, but the villagers of Monster Village will present Yuu with sidequests known as Acts of Kindness. These are completely optional, but they are typically simple enough and the rewards gained are definitely worth it that you shouldn’t skip any of them.

There are various obstacles dotted around the world that Yuu will need to overcome to progress through the main story, ranging from chasms that need to be crossed to treasure chests that are suspended in the air and that she can’t reach. Yuu will gradually befriend monsters that will aid her in clearing these obstacles, which adds to the Metroidvania feel of having to backtrack with a new ability. One thing to keep in mind here is that only one of these monsters can accompany Yuu at the same time, so if there are different types of obstacles in the same area, you’ll have to revisit it several times with different companions to fully explore it.

The game’s combat system doesn’t bring anything new to the table and feels very simple compared to some other RPGs that we’ve seen before. Given the overall low-stakes nature of The Cruel King and the Great Hero, this didn’t bother us as much as it would have if this had been a more advanced title in terms of narrative scope. Battles are turn-based, and players take control of Yuu (and later on, any companions that join her party) as they use basic attacks, items, or special attacks that consume energy. One thing we found interesting regarding the game’s random encounters is that Yuu will only battle enemies that are of the same level as her or higher. In areas where all enemies are of a lower level, random encounters simply won’t appear. This is shown by having Yuu move faster through areas where enemies won’t attack her. Despite the relatively simplistic nature of the combat system and the cutesy presentation, The Cruel King and the Great Hero isn’t necessarily an easy game. You’re often outnumbered in combat and if you’re not paying attention, then seeing the Game Over screen happens fairly often.

The casual nature of the adventure may perhaps give the impression that The Cruel King and the Great Hero is a short game, but there is a lot to do here. Completionists in particular have their work cut out for them, as there is a monsterdex to complete, artwork to unlock, and badges to collect. Ultimately, you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck here, as completing everything will take you approximately 60 hours. Fortunately, the utterly delightful nature of The Cruel King and the Great Hero makes it so that you’ll be doing so with a smile on your face throughout your entire time with the game.


The Cruel King and the Great Hero is a joy to play through from beginning to end. While the gameplay doesn’t really bring anything new to the table, and there is a lot of backtracking involved, especially if you’re a completionist, any of the game’s downsides are more than compensated by the fantastic writing and the visual charm that is present throughout. This is a game that prioritizes style over substance, but it gets away with it because the minimalistic gameplay feels very streamlined. If you’re looking for a charming little adventure that provides just enough challenge to keep you entertained but doesn’t feel stressful, then The Cruel King and the Great Hero will be right up your alley.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)
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The Cruel King and the Great Hero - Review, 10.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

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