4.0 out of 5


  • Unique storybook design
  • Wholesome story
  • Simple, classic turn-based
  • Soundtrack


  • Missing EXP status
  • Backtracking
  • Star Fragment bug

Switch, PlayStation 4
NIS America
Nippon Ichi Software
File Size (Minimum)
1.2 GB
Release Date (NA)
Mar 15, 2022
Release Date (JP)
Jun 24, 2021

The Cruel King and the Great Hero, developed by Nippon Ichi Software, is a wholesome story with simple role-playing game (RPG) mechanics. Its unique style stands out from many other games, but its repetitive gameplay and cumbersome backtracking hold it back from being a top-tier title.

Compared to the majority of RPGs such as Final Fantasy and Mass Effect, The Cruel King’s story is simplistic and short. Completing the game at 100% will take players about 40 hours, most of it being side quests.

How to Become a Hero

The Cruel King and the Great Hero - Screenshot

Yuu, the daughter of the late hero who took down the ferocious Demon King, looks to follow her father’s footsteps to become a great hero. The Dragon King, Yuu’s foster father, looks after her and raises her to fulfill her wish. However, the Dragon King’s dark past as the gruesome Demon King begins to unfold, disrupting the peace in the small monster kingdom. How will Yuu react to the discovery of her foster dad being the creature who created chaos across the land?

It’s a cute storyline about a little girl who looks up to both her late and foster dads. She journeys to become a hero, and it’s a comfortable game where you can sit back and relax.

Meet the Hero’s Team

The Cruel King and the Great Hero - Screenshot

On her path, Yuu will meet friends and encounter foes that’ll journey with her. These include Rocky the Sno Fox, Cybat the foolhardy servant of the Dragon King, and Flora the princess from the human kingdom. The game dips into each character’s story through both the main story and through side quests. Some of the stories are touching and amusing. For example, Cybat’s attitude gets him into trouble with monsters at the beginning, but he warms up to be a cheerful monster. Rocky has family troubles that include fending off the monster that took his father’s life and kidnapped his sister. Finally, Flora is a stubborn princess, but she warms up to Yuu quickly.

Each character has a set of special skills that’ll come in handy. Flora makes a pretty solid supporting character for raising stats and using attack spells. Cybat’s and Rocky’s elemental attacks are great, too. However, you can only bring one of them with you. For the majority of the game, this works out fine, since only one member becomes available. It’s not until the very end that you get to choose one of the three to join you.

While it would be great to have more than one member in the team at once, it does bring a different experience and set of challenges. When exploring, there’ll be times you’ll need each character to uncover new areas and items. Flora’s umbrella helps her and Yuu travel across gaps. Cybat’s throwing capabilities help bring down treasure chests from midair. Meanwhile, Rocky’s digging skills are great for finding secret items. Only having one of them makes it troublesome as players will have to swap characters and return to those areas to uncover new secrets.

An Interactive Story Book

The Cruel King and the Great Hero - Screenshot

The game’s design, which is based on a pop-up storybook, is very creative and fun. Taking notes from the developer’s previous game, The Liar Princess and the Blind King, The Cruel King and the Great Hero embraces the concept of a storybook RPG. When first playing the game, players will be blown away by the details and aesthetics. Battle transitions use page flips. Foregrounds and backgrounds use 2D shapes, but the environments have depth due to their placement on the z-axis. Even the menu interfaces are crafty and cute like a custom-made memory book. That said, the menus do miss one big thing: a gauge for experience points (EXP). How many points do you need for that next level? You won’t know until you’re prompted to level up after a battle.

The interface gives off a Paper Mario vibe but is different enough to call it its own work of art. The game’s details are clearly shown in the beginning when the Dragon King is constantly popping in and out in the background, following Yuu as she explores. Additionally, in battle, the Dragon King pops up in the beginning. His facial expression and eye locations change based on Yuu’s action. When she wins in battle, the Dragon King is happy. When she is unconscious for having zero health, his facial expression turns to fear. It’s cute and adorable.

The Dragon King isn’t just sitting idly by in the background. At the beginning of the game, Yuu has a special attack that requires fire on the tip of her weapon. Without Yuu realizing, the Dragon King will breathe fire on it before she lands the attack on her enemy. It’s amusing in how it plays out, and gives The Cruel King that special touch that makes it more unique than many games today.

However, the game’s linear paths and lack of teleporting make this storybook too simple. Players will travel from one side of the screen to the other in a straight line. Players can go up if the path allows it, but it just leads to another linear path. This continues throughout the game. These paths worked better for The Liar Princess and the Blind King because they were filled with puzzles that needed to be solved in order to continue. With The Cruel King being an RPG, there’s more exploration and action. Linear paths work to a certain extent, but they become repetitive the more you revisit them. It’s also a missed opportunity that players won’t get to visit the human kingdom. Going there would’ve added more places to go and brought more variety; otherwise, the Monster Village is your main stomping grounds.

On the first trip down a path, Yuu cannot run. Once her level is high enough, though, you’ll have the opportunity to do so. It’s an interesting way to see if your team is overqualified to fight monsters for the EXP. This is helpful because random battles get redundant and aggravating after only a few hours in. To get around that, you’ll want to stock up on a monster repellent item. However, it only works on weaker monsters and isn’t perfect. You’ll still have random encounters but not nearly as many without the repellent.

The soundtrack works rather well with the game’s unique style. The majority of the music is whimsical and harmonic. It’s pleasant, smooth, and interacts with the game’s story. The battle music isn’t intense, but it gives enough oomph to make it enjoyable to listen to in the game’s too-many random battles. The final battle theme is more powerful than the battle theme, but it’s not nearly as complex and energetic compared to those found in the Final Fantasy series. Overall, it’s an absolutely great soundtrack for the game that it is.

Classic Battles

The Cruel King and the Great Hero - Screenshot

The game’s combat mechanics are based on the classic turned-based model. Think of older RPGs such as Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. Players will go through a rotation of turns based on each party member’s and enemy’s speed stats. Players can choose the following: basic attack, defend, special skills, escape, and items. Special skills are unique abilities that are specific to that character. Some are used against enemies and some aid your team in battle. Many battles do become repetitive, but that’s common with turn-based RPGs.

Yuu’s special skill of “escape” is an action that’s rare to see in this context. It lets monsters who are exposed to their weaknesses during battle run away. For example, if a monster that doesn’t like fire is attacked by it, it’ll cause the enemy to panic and become confused. Initiating the escape action lets them leave the battlefield. Performing this action prevents the party from consuming energy points. Try it. If nothing else, PlayStation trophy hunters have a reason to use it.

Special skills use a point system called energy. The amount available to use is small, but it replenishes a tiny bit after each turn. You’ll have to calculate which skill to use based on how much energy you have available. Players can also use specific items to restore energy or equip an item to quickly gain it back. Like any video game that uses a health point system, stamina is another name for health.

Overall, the battle mechanics are straightforward and can easily be picked up for casual RPG goodness.

Functional but Limited Travel

The Cruel King and the Great Hero - Screenshot

Fast-travel in The Cruel King and the Great Hero is available, but it’s very limited. About a quarter way into the game’s story, it becomes available through the use of mysterious fountains. Unfortunately, these fountains are located in specific areas. If you have to travel to a particular area, put on your hiking boots and prepare for a long journey. Otherwise, the game offers a specific item to use to return Yuu to the Monster Village if a fountain isn’t available for healing and fast-traveling.

You’ll spend a lot of time looking at the game’s map while exploring. It’s pretty straightforward. Players can zoom in and out to see path details and look over other areas to explore. It also tells you more than just where these linear paths take you. It shows you areas that require your teammate’s skills. For example, Rocky has the ability to dig, and some question mark areas will need his digging expertise to uncover items. Some of the items you can dig up come in handy, such as higher quality equipment or rare healing items, so seek them out.

Bonus Pages

The Cruel King and the Great Hero - Screenshot

Like many RPGs, The Cruel King has side quests, and these have more content than the main story. Here, they’re referred to as Acts of Kindness. The more Yuu completes these requests from non-playable characters (NPCs), the more kindness she has to become a hero. While you don’t have to do everything to finish the game, it helps bring the story together.

Most of them are tied to a festival that takes place after the game’s main story. Some of these requests are downright painful to do. One of them requires you to travel between two small monster tribe areas at least four times before completing it. It wouldn’t be too bad if each one wasn’t located on opposite sides of the map. Also, as previously noted, the game doesn’t have a great fast-travel system. You’ll have to stock up on those weak monster repellent items and go by foot.

For each Act of Kindness you complete, you’re rewarded with at least Star Fragments. These fragments help unlock the game’s artwork collection. While it might not be a big deal for Switch players, PlayStation trophy hunters will need to unlock the collection to earn those trophies. Unlocking it all doesn’t change the game’s story; it’s only for those 100% achievers. It’s recommended to take on these quests to gain new equipment to make your explorations easier. Currently, the game is experiencing a Star Fragment count error after completing these quests, preventing players from unlocking every illustration in the game’s collection section. Unless you complete them in a specific order, which is difficult to know, you’ll have to wait until a patch is released.

The game also offers a section titled Monsterdex. It’s like a Pokedex, but this gives every little detail about each monster you battled, except for bosses. Weaknesses are explained here when Yuu scans the enemy during battle. Other info includes the number defeated, encountered, and escaped, their dropped items, and a synopsis of the beast. Again, for trophy hunters, this dex is very handy.

The Final Page

The Cruel and the Great Hero is a delightful RPG to play for those looking for a relaxing, wholesome story. The game feels more like a small adventure than a large-scale epic like Final Fantasy, but that’s totally fine. Grab your twig and venture forth, soon-to-be-great hero!

A review code was provided for this review and gameplay footage.

The Cruel King and the Great Hero - Gameplay Footage (Captured on PS5)
The Cruel King and the Great Hero - Boss Battle (Captured on PS5)

About Seth Hay - Editor-in-chief / Webmaster

When Seth is not designing or developing, he spends time with his family and his occasional dose of anime, sports and video games.

Leave a Reply

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x