Blossom Tales brings the nostalgia
© Castle Pixel
Games

How Switch hit Blossom Tales scratches the 2D Zelda itch

We chat with the developers of indie smash Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King about the game's influences and just why the Switch version doubled Steam sales in 24 hours.
Written by Jamie Stevenson
5 min readPublished on
For every generation of gamers, there are formative titles. Nineties kids can point to Final Fantasy VII as the one that really changed things, while look a little later and you'll find those who consider GTA: San Andreas as their most fondly-remembered game. Cast your gaze a little further back, though, and you'll find an entire generation of gamers whose love for the medium was nurtured through 2D Zelda adventures, with A Link to the Past often cited as that most brilliant of introductions.
While we're all still falling in love with Breath of the Wild, it's been a long time since we saw a 2D Zelda adventure. Thankfully, this itch is now being scratched by the brilliant Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King, courtesy of developers Castle Pixel.
The game – an old-school, dungeon-crawling adventure – was released on Steam last year to disappointing numbers, but things changed with its release on Nintendo Switch. We spoke with Rob Maher, one of the game's developers, who told us of the surprise he felt at its success on the hybrid console.
"It was pretty deflating when the Steam version got buried under the countless waves of daily releases," recalls Maher. "For the Switch version, we knew Blossom Tales would get more attention, but still we were anxious about how it would do. We're still amazed by the strong sales thanks to positive reviews and word of mouth on social media."
Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King screenshot.
Fight through the dungeon in Blossom Tales
In-fact, sales on Switch were so strong that they doubled the Steam numbers in 24 hours. So why did this happen? Maher explains, "One big reason is that despite how amazing Breath of the Wild was, it left many Nintendo gamers with a craving for traditional Zelda. We scratched that itch by creating a similar adventure in a time when an official 2D Zelda doesn't exist on the Switch— not even the old ones via a virtual console."
This game was ported using a game development framework called Monogame and its subsequent success, according to Maher, was not down to luck. "We figured that Blossom Tales would succeed with the Nintendo fans best so that was our first target after the initial Steam release," he says.
The game tells the story of Lily, Knight of the Rose, as she explores, collects and battles her way through a rich 2D world where she fights to save the Kingdom of Blossom. Filled with fiendish puzzles and monstrous boss battles, Blossom Tales is clearly influenced by the Zelda adventures of old. Yet Maher explains how Castle Pixel still wanted to make sure the game was their own.
"We knew some people would take one look and think it was just a cash grab or clone," he says. "But as development progressed we felt more confident that gamers who actually played Blossom Tales would see it as a fresh, unique adventure despite all the homages to Zelda."And while the game succeeds in being its own adventure, the love for Zelda is very much apparent throughout. "What SNES kid didn't spend hours exploring Hyrule (and the Dark World) while discovering its many secrets?" asks Maher. "With Blossom Tales we wanted to create our own world, with challenging dungeons, fun combat to master and the many other ingredients that make 2D Zelda titles like A Link to the Past and Link's Awakening a joy to play."
Still from Blossom Tales, the classic games-inspired 2D video game.
Do battle in classic style
There were other pop culture inspirations too, like The NeverEnding Story and The Princess Bride. The latter's influence is particularly apparent, with the game's story being narrated by Lily's grandfather as she sits by the fire and listens to the yarn unfold, occasionally interrupting and breaking the illusion.
These influences have clearly helped the game to strike a nerve, with Blossom Tales receiving strong reviews as well as those impressive Switch figures. However, development was far from straightforward.
"Work on Blossom Tales began immediately after our first title, Rex Rocket, released in August 2014," Maher explains. "We initially ran a Kickstarter campaign to get funding, but failed to reach our goal. That's when FDG Entertainment, King Orchid bless them, came in and agreed to fund development."
The team, according to Maher, was threadbare. "Blossom Tales was pretty much entirely made by two guys, me and Tyler Budd," he reports. "Miguel Vidaure (writer/narrative designer) joined us again after working on Rex Rocket, and eventually Josie Brechner (Visager) came onboard to create the music. Guys from FDG also helped out with development along the way."
There were challenges on the way to realising Blossom Tales, mainly in achieving the balancing act of drawing inspiration from the best that classic Zelda has to offer while infusing it with Castle Pixel's own charm. "It required a lot of planning and redos to make sure Blossom Tales evoked the nostalgia of playing games like LTTP for the first time, while also delivering a story and world that felt new and exciting," Maher says. "And with such a small team making the game, let's just say many Red Bulls were drunk during development."
With production frustrations now far behind them, Castle Pixels can afford to look to the future. While there are currently no other console releases planned, an iOS port is in the works for the near future. As for the possibility of the sequel, Maher teases, "Let's just say the better Blossom Tales does, the more likely we'll be able to wake up Grandpa for another story."