Little Noah: Scion of Paradise Special Edition Review (Switch)
Release Date: June 22, 2022
File Size: 1.9GB
Developer: Cygames, Grounding Inc.
Click here to view on the Nintendo eShop.
“Hey. You know what game really piqued my interest? That gacha mobile title published by Nintendo- you know, Dragalia Lost? Yeah. I wonder what those developers over at Cygames have been cooking up. That game had some good ideas about monetization and a number of cute character designs, so it feels like a port to consoles wouldn’t be a terrible thing. Why, I bet the fanbase they garnered from that title would probably pick up any new intellectual property they released on the Nintendo Switch! I’m sure I’d hear some buzz about whatever they ended up releasing.”
That’s stuff I probably would have said in the months leading up to the release of Little Noah: Scion of Paradise in June of 2022. Months later, here we are, reviewing a game I picked up at a discount on the Nintendo eShop. A roguelite action platformer, Little Noah has a few charms worth noting, but does it deliver a substantially novel experience? Does it rise above other games in the genre with its sheer uniqueness?
Honestly, it kinda reminds me of a very cute Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights. So, take that as you will.
Little Noah is, as stated before, an action platforming RPG that uses roguelite elements for progression, so you should expect some particular elements right off the bat: You are going to be running and slashing through a number of randomized rooms in the hope of reaching a portal to the next stage, taking on bosses of varying shape and size, and you will likely die a few times before seeing the end of the experience. Each collectible that you gather, however, will be converted to mana, which can be used to upgrade your “ship” in the hub that acts as an area for customization before each run. The upgrades here vary from increases in your stats to certain powerups and higher grade accessories, but they will vastly improve your survivability in a number of respects.
The first page on the upgrade list is arguably the most essential, as it unlocks some substantial gameplay elements that will improve your dungeon runs. This includes potions you’ll be able to use during levels to maintain your health, a homing, linear attack that will also recharge your skills, boosts to your overall health, and even access to powerful Lilliputs, which are the main mode of attack in the game. There are other stations here that will enable other bonuses, such as a starting pot of gold, an accessory, and even supply drops from your traveling compatriot in between new areas.
While traversing the ruined dungeons of the game, you will mostly forego attacking yourself, save for when you use the aforementioned homing attack move, which is activated using the ZL Trigger. You can dash using the ZR Trigger, but unless you receive a modifier, it acts strictly as a movement option and not immunity from damage. You’ll also perform a magical transformation into a taller form of Noah by pressing the Right control stick when your Burst gauge has been filled, followed by a devastatingly strong attack combo and brief period of invulnerability. But as mentioned before, you’ll need to focus on collecting Lilliputs, which are essentially attack avatars that comprise your attack combo and skill attacks. A Lilliput features a basic attack, a skill attack, and a special ability, which activates once the player collects three of the same type during a single run. It’s a simple system that allows for a great deal of customization, as certain attack animations will cause Noah to jump skyward, thrust forward, or simply hang back as she commands the Lilliputs.
Similarly, Lilliputs are an extension of Noah’s will and therefore not tangible objects, which means they won’t take damage from enemy attacks, but this does leave Noah as vulnerable as her quick step move. There are very few Lilliputs that offer defensive or support capabilities, and when they do, you’ll have to equip them as skill options, rather than basic attacks. This causes the Lilliput to use a more powerful, alternative attack, but the cooldown for these inputs is far greater than normal attacks. Essentially, there is a constant revisionist element to your attack loadout during runs, wherein you can attempt to craft a string of overwhelmingly powerful options in order to grind your enemies into dirt before they can react.
There are a number of different room layouts, though for the most part, their design is rather simplistic and symmetrical. You’ll sometimes enter a room with a unique challenge or trait, which often amounts to “defeat enemies within the time limit,” “reach a certain hit/damage amount,” or “clear the room without taking damage.” There are also treasure-exclusive rooms that will offer Noah one of the game’s various run-based progression items, and another variant of the challenge room concept, which exist in the form of platforming, target-breaking, or extra-intense combat scenarios. Lastly, you’ll find a shop that will offer healing and treasure chest items in addition to randomized accessory and Lilliput purchases.
Narrative and Aesthetics
Little Noah is all about Noah Little, an alchemist and explorer who is searching for powerful alchemic artifacts and following the trail of her mysterious father. When she accidentally crash-lands on a floating island, she meets a little cat whom she lovingly names Zipper, and the two set out to uncover the truth behind the creature’s relationship to the ruins. Along the way, Noah meets the mysterious Griegh, who wishes to use the island’s secrets for his own gain, and operates as the main antagonist. Each time you plumb the depths of the ruins further, you’ll see new vignettes in which these three characters banter about love, friendship, identity, and destruction.
In contrast to many roguelites, the game indulges in these dialogue sessions thoroughly, explaining the backgrounds of its three central characters in detail through a series of character portraits and illustrated tableaus. The voice acting is minimal, but the text can be a bit over-long. Considering you’ll only see these interactions a single time, however, you only need to worry about being bogged down by them once, and instead will get to focus on gameplay during subsequent runs. In any case, Noah is a plucky and sometimes ditzy protagonist, while Zipper is sharp tongued and tortured. Griegh plays a fine, single-minded antagonist, and there are occasional plot twists that are strong enough to forego revealing here. The story is hardly revolutionary, and treads familiar ground for each of its three character archetypes. This might be a mercy for a roguelite, but I will say that a little effort goes a long way. I won’t be raving about Little Noah’s story anytime soon, but I think it does enough to add some stakes to the affair.
The game’s visual components are a mixed bag. Its character portraits are lovingly crafted, and Noah herself is an adorable little character model that grows and becomes all the more impressive upon entering burst mode. The Lilliputs, who also operate as the enemies throughout the game worlds, are an extremely varied collection of creatures, with some lacking a sense of fantastic familiarity and others being cute depictions of classic creature types. The more colorful, unique Lilliputs are certainly more of a visual feast, even if not all of their abilities are useful. I found the more generic creatures, such as the strange ape, robot, and drakes to be lacking in detail in comparison with the stronger Lilliputs, though that might be a deliberate choice. Either way, the animations are all smooth and clearly telegraph where their hitboxes will connect, but the mayhem that can fill the screen when stringing together a chain of your own design plus the various enemy attacks and environmental hazards can be a visual overload.
The game’s audio design is very punchy, matching Lilliput attacks with specific visual cues that work for the player and against them, as the enemies they face will use these sounds to telegraph their own offense. However, as stated before, the compounding visual and audio effects happening simultaneously will become a bit much. It’s kind of the intended effect, but that doesn’t always make it pleasant. One of the game’s weakest elements is its soundtrack, which is repetitive to a maddening point in some instances, particularly the second biome theme. The themes that bookend this are fine, mixing a nice arrangement of instruments for a unique sound that is evocative of another JRPG I can’t quite put my finger on. The victory, title, and hub themes are all very short, however, and will cause the player to want to rush through these screens as fast as possible in order to avoid them.
Impressions and Conclusion
In terms of the differences between this Special Edition and the base content, this version of the game comes with the first and second DLC packs included in the experience. These add some powerful Lilliputs, Accessories, and Avatar options to the player’s repertoire right out of the gate, which is a nice benefit, though not completely game-breaking. The Avatar options do boost the power of Lilliputs placed into specific spots, but they don’t confer any other substantial powers and are mostly cosmetic options. Though having powerful Lilliputs might seem like a huge edge, the player still needs to obtain them during runs and be able to use them effectively in combat. Overall, there are worse additions that could have been added to the game, and these DLC packs do round out what was, on release, a somewhat light experience.
Little Noah uses an in-game achievement system to mark player progression and even grant them certain run-oriented rewards, and scrolling through the list reveals the developers’ own idea of how much of a time investment the game can be. The last of the “number of runs” achievements caps at 30, which is not a particularly high amount, but I was able to see the narrative and all of the game’s roguelite content in less than half the amount of runs. I had hardly invested mana in the wide number of ship upgrades before this, and although I can imagine sinking a few more runs into the game, I’m not necessarily chomping at the bit to jump back into it. The game’s map of roguelite content is a bit misleading, as it looks like there’s a section where a hypothetical fourth area could have been explored, but Little Noah is designed with three biomes and a surprisingly low variety of alternate boss battles, total.
Completing the roguelite and narrative content does unlock some substantial post-game content in the form of a Hell Mode, where one hit equals death, and a combat-focused challenge mode, which revises the map system and uses a more straightforward “battle and shop” formula to test the player’s efficiency in combat and their allocation of resources. Only some of the game’s roguelite progression unlocks apply to this mode, but it’s still essential for the player to grind out another progression element of the game: Lilliput relationships. Upon obtaining a Lilliput for the first time in the roguelite mode, the player can foster their relationships with the character back in the hub by feeding it treasures.
This is a much more limited meta-currency that comes in five different flavors, gifting more experience for the Lilliput relationship gauge with each greater magnitude of rarity. Considering the amount of Lilliputs in the game and that each possesses five levels of relationship progression, this is the main grind element of Little Noah, though I was surprised and disappointed that I only needed to raise the majority to the first or second relationship level, with a rare one or two being raised to the third. I am certain that the post-game combat mode further demands greater investment in these relationships, but honestly, after around eight-to-ten hours of playing Little Noah, I don’t really find myself needing more.
This isn’t to say that the game lacks depth. I do believe that it can provide a decent challenge for players of varying skill levels, and of course, I do think I could get many more hours of mileage out of it, if it were my only roguelite on the Switch. But of course, it isn’t, and if I’m stacking Little Noah up against its contemporaries, I find myself itching to return to others much more readily. This statement isn’t meant to imply that Little Noah is a bad roguelite, either- the length of a total run clocks in at around an hour and some change with extremely efficient play, which is pretty reasonable in comparison with other titles that can push beyond ninety minutes and into two hours.
However, Little Noah does have a bit of an issue regarding its roguelite design, which is that the game tosses the same Lilliputs at the player far too frequently. With continued investment in the meta-progression, the player can reliably generate a substantial collection of Lilliputs every run, and as the game doesn’t have a particularly impressive roster of different kinds, it instead gives multiple acquisitions of the same type of Lilliput a power boost, activating their special abilities once the player has gathered three of the same kind.
Some of these abilities are only active if a Lilliput is consigned to the player’s inventory, which is a unique and novel idea, but it rarely feels as if this is a mechanic of particular consequence. If there was perhaps an inventory management element to the game, where holding on to multiple Lilliputs limited the opportunity to pick up new ones, or accessories didn’t stack with such great intensity so quickly and forced much more considered builds to be viable, this unique system might feel a bit more meaningful. Things tend to snowball far too quickly on the game’s base difficulty, however, and yes, I know that I could and probably should bump up the game’s difficulty if I feel this way. But outside of some slight variations in builds and the kind of distance I wanted to keep between myself and the enemy before going all in with offensive strikes, I didn’t find my strategy changing all that much during my multiple runs in Little Noah. A number of bosses feel exploitable more due to their attack patterns than the clever usage of build strategy, with all of them having a crucial platforming element that, once fully observed, is easily and consistently bypassed.
I did mention that I felt Little Noah evokes echoes of Ender Lilies, but that’s only in regards to how both player characters aren’t the ones actively participating in combat. Little Noah lacks dedicated world design and enthralling enough aesthetics to be placed in anywhere near the same echelon as that game, however. Yet, all of this aside, I can’t say that the game was unpleasant to play, or that it wasn’t addictive. When crafting the perfect, mayhem-inducing combination of skills and abilities, I found it extremely cathartic to mow down enemies, barely giving them a chance to react.
However, I do know that the reaction time and the mental focus needed to quiet this game’s particular brand of insanity and focus carefully enough on Hell Mode is likely beyond me, so while there’s a chance I could bump up a new file’s difficulty and dive back in, I don’t see myself coming back to the game to unlock its secrets or optimize its systems. As an entry-level roguelite, Little Noah is a perfectly serviceable and forgiving game. However, just as the game itself teases a continuation to Noah’s journey, my hope would be to see its ideas more fully-fleshed and iterated upon in a sequel, as it lacks the discovery and novel hook that many of its contemporaries possess.