Some games are so neat, succinct, and tidy. Everything is laid out in front of the player. You know what they’re getting into when you start playing. It’s a treat. Little Noah: Scion of Paradise, Granblue Fantasy creator Cygames’ roguelike, is a delightful adventure that can be enjoyed in large or small doses, gradually filling someone up. It’s a fantastic surprise.
Little Noah might look familiar, at least in terms of its appearance. That’s because The original version of the game, which people might know as Battle Champs, was a Clash of Clans sort of game with Akihiko Yoshida and Hitoshi Sakimoto involved. LIttle Noah: Scion of Paradise features the same alchemist protagonist Noah, as well as her airship and Lilliput champions. However, in this adventure she happens upon ruins, an amnesiac cat, and a power-hungry villain named Greigh while searching for her lost father. In the process, it hints she’ll be pulled into a world-changing adventure.
Alchemy, the flow of mana, and otherworldly magic centered in mystic ruins serves as the background for this roguelike. Why is the dungeon different each time you enter? Magic! Why is Noah going into it? Magic! (Specifically, mana to fix her airship and answers regarding her dad and new cat-friend Zipper.) Why are so many enemies strong? Magic! It’s a good excuse to fall back on, really. Also, it conveniently offers a reasonable explanation for why Noah is even able to summon Lilliputs to fight for her.
Because Noah isn’t technically the one fighting in Little Noah. When you leap down from the airship into the ruins, you’ll start with three Lilliputs after landing. So she’ll set off with Huey, Ratty, and Thump. As she happens across chests, alchemy pots, and shops in the ruins, she’ll be able to acquire new Lilliputs. She’ll also find crystals that can increase her attack prowess in different ways and accessories that offer bonus effects. All of these increase her overall power level, which starts out at D when first jumping down. By getting duplicates of Lilliputs, their strength increases and they eventually get a passive ability. The first five Lilliputs placed create a combo of attacks against enemies. The other two on A and X will use a skill with a cooldown period.
This means there are many factors that determine the success of a run. After going through the ruins, which feels like platforming segments with lots of foes to beat up and occasionally bonus challenges, you’ll face branching points and bosses. Falling in battle turns all of your earned accessories and Lilliputs into mana for repairs. Said repairs actually go toward investing in skill trees that boost stats, grant Noah abilities like a mid-air Aether Thrust dash or option to guzzle HP-restoring potions, and add stations on the airship to let you prepare more for a run. So after each excursion, you’re spending time rebuilding and regrouping.
But the nature of the combo systems means that a lot also relies on working with what you are given in Little Noah. You can let the game automatically choose a lineup. But each Lilliput has its own strength rating, type of attack, and element. So in one of my better runs, I had the wind-type Chuck and the fire-type Flame Dragon. Chuck performs a wind uppercut in a combo that launches an enemy (and Noah) into the air. The Flame Dragon uses a fiery dive bomb attack. So if you place them one after another, Chuck knocks them up and Flame Dragon knocks them down. Since you don’t know who you’ll get, the opportunity to experiment means seeing how certain sorts of moves interact. And, since most moves are quite accommodating and Lilliputs are plentiful, it’s pretty easy to find formulas that work.
I also found that it is sort of possible to “game” the system. Even if you aren’t technically strong enough for an area, Little Noah is good about telegraphing attacks. This is especially true for bosses. You’ll sometimes get a shadow showing the range of an attack before it hits, so you can Aerial Thrust away or use Noah’s burst for extra damage and temporary invisibility. Even ordinary foes follow certain patterns that are easy to remember. (Especially when they are ones who are already in your party as Lilliputs, so you know how they work.) Considering how responsive it is, with tight controls, customizable combos, and options to dash out of danger, it feels like it is always pushing you forward instead of holding you back.
Another perk is that Little Noah is a roguelike that lays everything out well. The only sense of confusion I experienced was wondering if something was wrong upon loading up the Switch version’s save files. (There will be about 30 or so seconds of a black screen, sometimes with audio and no visuals, before it finishes and brings you back to the action.) All of the information is clearly laid in front of you when exploring. You can see hints about what features are in surrounding rooms. In the main menu, the Lilliputs’ attacks are clearly defined. There are even images showing the range of attacks, to help when preparing possible combos. The doors to the next areas will hint at things you might find in that part of the ruins. Upgrade trees are clear about what to expect from them. Whenever you make a choice, you’re fully aware of the consequences.
I’m shocked at how enjoyable and well-executed LIttle Noah: Scion of Paradise is. Its a roguelike that ticks all the right boxes. It is approachable, but still challenging. You can go in knowing you’ll grow slightly stronger, but the unpredictability of which Lilliputs you’ll and randomization keeps things fresh. The enemies can be quite strong, but it is possible to learn patterns and survive through proper planning and insight. It is a fantastic game and one of 2022’s better surprises.
Little Noah: Scion of Paradise is available for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PC.