Indie Game of the Month – Little Town Hero

This month’s Indie Game of the Month is Little Town Hero. “Wait a minute” I hear your furiously typing in the comments. “Little Town Hero is made by Game Freak. Game Freak makes Pokémon! How on earth could this be an indie game?”

That’s a good question, and it comes down to what we define as an indie game. Is it budget? Is it studio? Is it feel? Because Little Town Hero absolutely feels like an indie game. It has the budget price and the dodgy production quality of an indie production. Hell, I would hazard a guess that Little Town Hero was even made on an indie comparable budget. And it’s not like we haven’t seen first party or console exclusive indie titles. Just look at games like Concrete Genie.

So yes, Little Town Hero is an indie game and you should check it now. Now that we have gone over why it counts as indie, let’s go over why you should check it out.

Little Town Hero is advertised as an RPG and, frankly, that couldn’t be further from the truth. It is much closer to a card or board game than it is an RPG. You won’t find levels here and, heck, every character, enemy or ally, only has three hit points. Your attacks are drawn from a random pool, kind of like drawing from a random deck. Heck, there’s even a part of the game that literally involves rolling dice and moving around a map. You could recreate this entire production in cardboard and no one would think it was out of place.

Little Town Hero takes place in the titular Little Town. In fact, little might even be stretching it since the original Japanese name was just “Town.” The entire game takes place in this one town. Everyone you have to talk to is here. Everything you end up fighting is here. This is the setting for better or worse.

While you might think that would get repetitive and at times it does, it’s also a very interesting experiment. We have one room movies and plays, so why not one town video games? You can do a lot with a single setting that changes over time, and that’s basically the case with Little Town Hero. The context changes as the game goes on. The mines are just the place you go to work at the beginning of the game but mean something very different at the end. The streets are both passages between major locales and battlegrounds that you may have to exploit to protect the town’s citizens.

Much of Little Town Hero is spent in battle and this is where you realize that its designation as an RPG is tenuous at best. Battle is done with “Izzits” and “Dazzits” …. You heard me. Izzits are ideas. You have to spend power, a resource you get every turn, to turn them into dazzits, which are actions. Your opponent will face you with a number of dazzits and your goal is to “break” all of them.

So how do you break dazzits? Well each dazzit has an attack value and a defense value. When two dazzits are compared, each deals damage equal to its attack value to its defense value… and that’s about it. Break all the enemy dazzits and one of two things happen. If you have an attack dazzit left over, you can use it to damage the enemy’s hit points. If you don’t, then you gain a battle point which will allow you to do cool things later in the battle.

This might seem simple but it’s the intricacies of the system that make it fun. For example, you never know what izzits you’ll have access to. They are drawn from your “headspace” which is essentially your deck. You can spend “eureka” points, earned after battle, to upgrade and change your izzits, much like building a deck in a collectible card game.

Some izzits give you special effects. Some will buff other dazzits when turned into dazzits. Some, like defense dazzits, can be used multiple times in one turn. Some do damage to the opponent’s dazzits or health directly. Some create a special effect when they break an opponent’s dazzit or when they are broken themselves. Once again, these really act more like cards in a card game and you’ll want to use them in ways that give you the greatest synergistic effects.

Another similarity between Little Town Hero and other card games is the power system. Every turn your power raises, similar to mana in games like Hearthstone. As you get deeper into each battle you can turn more izzits into dazzits each turn, giving you more ammo against your opponent. Unfortunately, your opponent’s dazzits will get stronger as well.

Your eventual goal is to break the opponent’s dazzits without breaking your own. This slow increase in momentum will allow you to eventually hold on to more dazzits than your opponent and that’s what lets you do damage to their health.

Aside from this system there’s a secondary system in boss battles. After every turn you’ll roll a die and move throughout town. You’ll get different bonuses (or penalties) depending on where you land. Land on a space with an ally and they can do a free attack for you. Land in a space with an item and you can use it to your advantage. Some attacks even give you “free movement” which lets you choose where to go rather than rolling a die. Thankfully, the die only goes from 1-4 so you never end up with Mario Party levels of randomness.

Since battle is most of the game, I’d say it’s the reason to check out Little Town Hero. It’s a really interesting system that is held up by a serviceable mystery about why monsters are attacking this little town. It’s also kind of an unfolding game as more and more elements to the battle system are added as you play. It’s a short 10-12 hour adventure, easy to play for short spurts on bus rides.

But it’s not perfect. As fun as Little Town Hero is, there are some pretty hefty coding issues here. The game slows to a crawl when you look at the town from certain vantage points, well lower than 30FPS. It goes through short loading spurts at the end of each turn, which cuts off the brilliant music done by Undertale composer Toby Fox. Heck, even just moving from place to place in town causes the game to sputter, freeze, and cut off the music. It’s not a particularly graphically intense game, so one has to wonder why this is happening when games like The Witcher 3 run on the Switch with relatively few problems. I hope that Game Freak doesn’t have the same coding issues with the upcoming Pokémon release.

If you can get past these technical issues (and there is a lot of them) Little Town Hero is a very interesting experimental “RPG” that can be played by just about anyone. It’s a fantastic “baby’s first RPG” for young children. It’s a fun distraction for fans of card games and tabletop gaming in general. It’s a budget priced RPG that you can play while you wait for Pokémon Sword and Shield to come out. What’s not to love?