Gardening might not be the first thing you think of if ever you’re out to make your own tribute to the Legend of Zelda, but sometimes the greatest surprises or unique experiences come with a curve ball of a concept, and that’s where Legend of Kusakari gains its greatest strength.
I’ll make this rather clear from the outset. Despite its looks, this is not a clone of Nintendo’s great franchise. More importantly, Legend of Kusakari follows in its footsteps both in its presentation and storytelling, but completely goes in the opposite direction for its core gameplay concept as an entertaining puzzle game that wears its heart and its inspirations on its grass stained sleeves.
You play as a simple farming character, who’s sole task is to remove overgrown weeds and grass from various play fields whilst dodging the battles around him. There’s no involvement in these battles, your purpose as the gardener is to make it easier for the heroes to save the day. It might not sound appealing a job compared to swords and sorcery, but it’s still an important job and luckily Legend of Kusakari presents itself in a warm and fun manner.
Zelda is definitely the biggest reason why Kusakari exists, from the way our hero cuts the grass singularly or in a more powerful, circular attack, to the use of key art-styles, items and logos. It’s not riffing on any of these elements, nor is it using them just to sell itself on the back of another product. Kusakari is a ‘what if’ kind of game, where the real hero of the piece does the good deed in the background whilst the hero takes all the glory. It’s certainly not the first game to be inspired by another, but it’s great to see someone so lovingly follow in the footsteps of a game they cherish whilst creating something unique within that tribute.
It’s a short experience, as the puzzles seem to fly by as you clear one after another, but there’s something to be said about an experience that’s worth your time even if it’s but a moment compared to an hours on end RPG. There’s also a challenge mode, which I found myself in the top 10 worldwide (definitely a weird experience for someone like me) for reaching a high grass cutting score within a time limit. It’s the best part of the game, for me, given the need to really push your timing and accuracy with your grass cutting.
And then there’s the music. A combination of simple melodies and tongue-in-cheek humour, the band that pops up during the title sequence and subsequent opening/closing moments of each level put a smile on my face … though I do feel sorry for that one out of tuned trumpet player … or at least, I think it was a trumpet. It’s another sign that the developer’s were in no way aiming to take their little game seriously, and it plays well with the world they’ve developed.
There’s more that could be added over time, new levels or experiences, perhaps even boss battles, and I certainly hope that distributors Nnooo encourage the Japanese developers to keep them in mind going forward. But what’s here is a tight and well designed package, despite the visuals being a tad blurry at at times (that certainly didn’t take away from the experience).
For the price of lunch, you could do worse than download Legend of Kusakari to your Nintendo 3DS. It could just as easily find an audience on mobile, yet it seems rather fitting that it’s current home is a Nintendo console. It’s an enjoyable challenge despite its short length, one that I’m glad I had a chance to partake in given my love for quirky and colourful puzzle games, let alone its call-outs to a favourite franchise of mine. Definitely check it out and let me know what you think.
Mark Isaacson is the editor of PN2. Go say hi @Mark_D_Isaacson.