|Developer||Nippon Ichi Software|
|Platforms||Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 (Reviewed)|
|Release Date||March 15, 2022|
Back in 2018, Nippon Ichi released The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince. In that action-adventure title, players guide a young vision-impaired boy around. It was a fantastic, memorable experience. When NIS unveiled The Cruel King and the Great Hero, I took one look at the key art and immediately knew I was going to be in for another fantastic tale. What I got with Cruel King crushed my expectations with one of the most wholesome, emotionally rewarding RPG experiences I’ve ever had.
Spiritual Content: Yuu, our protagonist, is being raised by the Dragon King, king of the monsters. The Dragon King will often look up at the stars and express thoughts to Yuu’s human father, who’s passed on. At one point in the story, Yuu and the Dragon King pray to her mom and dad.
Violence: Cruel King has turn-based RPG violence in the sense that you’re issuing attacks and being hit by creatures. There is no blood or gore, though, and the enemies just vanish when they’re killed.
Sexual Content: There is no sexual content in The Cruel King and the Great Hero.
Drugs and Alcohol: There are no drugs or alcohol.
Language/Crude Humor: The game is largely family-friendly. The worst language I recall in my time with Cruel King was “Darn it.”
Positive Themes: Cruel King is sincerely one of the cutest, most wholesome RPGs I’ve ever played. The Dragon King watches over Yuu as she adventures, smiling proudly from the background when she wins a battle and helping her with tasks. The game’s side-missions are even called Acts of Kindness.
Yuu lives a unique life. The young girl’s father passed when she was a baby, but the Dragon King, ruler of all monsters, took her under his wing. The king has raised Yuu as his own, telling her the stories of her father, a hero who once slew the Demon King, as bedtime stories each night. As she grew, she decided she wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a great hero.
When she finally decided it was time to pursue her dream, the Dragon King let her go. Unsure she could care for herself in a dangerous world, he followed behind in the background, monitoring her progress and helping along. Each night, after she finishes her rounds, they lay down together, cuddle up, and the king continues to lull Yuu to sleep with more tales of her father.
The Cruel King and the Great Hero is written like an incredible children’s book. The characters are well thought out, her tasks each day are concise and straightforward, and everything is heartwarming and wholesome. The strength of the narrative lies in its intimate nature: you aren’t trying to save the world, but exploring a tale of love and a little girl. In a time when the world at large can present so much stress, Cruel King‘s story is like a warm blanket near the fireplace. I’d personally recommend having a box of tissues nearby as there are some particularly poignant heartfelt moments.
Ultimately, Cruel King is a fairly straightforward JRPG. Yuu, the monsters she fights, and occasionally a companion, will take turns attacking and using special abilities and items. As you level up, characters will grow and unlock new abilities. Yuu can take on side-quests, referred to as “Acts of Kindness,” where she’ll assist monsters will various tasks.
The overworld is a series of interconnected 2-D areas connected with lines to fill out the map. You’ll have to make your way through each area, filling out the map as you go. My only real complaint with Cruel King is that you can only occasionally run when the game decides to let you. You’ll spend a lot of time walking through zones triggering random encounters. That can become a little tedious at times but really isn’t overbearing. While the game isn’t crushingly difficult, I would recommend keeping a full stock of healing items and using them liberally, especially late in the game.
Cruel King is an easily consumable RPG, clocking in around 15 hours when I saw credits roll. While you can take your time and do all the Acts of Kindness, explore the world looking for items, and more, I made a beeline for story points, planning to go back and finish everything I missed from my end-game save point.
While The Cruel King and the Great Hero probably won’t win any awards for technical graphics, its aesthetic is adorable. The whole game feels like it was illustrated for a children’s book. From the world to the characters and everything in-between, Cruel King screams “endearing.” It has a soundtrack to match, too.
“I fell in love with Yuu and the Dragon King. It wasn’t just a fun game. It was an enriching, therapeutic experience.”
NIS really surprised me with what they’ve delivered in The Cruel King and the Great Hero. The game is a solid, fun JRPG, but the game really shines in its moments of storytelling. I fell in love with Yuu and the Dragon King. It wasn’t just a fun game. It was an enriching, therapeutic experience. I wholeheartedly recommend every JRPG fan give The Cruel King and the Great Hero a look and bring a tender heart to the experience.
Review copy generously provided by NIS America.
The Bottom Line
The Cruel King and the Great Hero is a wholesome, endearing JRPG fans of all ages will find both fun and meaningful.