Song of Nunu: A League of Legends Story (Nintendo Switch) Review 

The Flute Is Not Mightier Than The Sword

Song of Nunu: A League of Legends Story (Nintendo Switch) Review 
Song of Nunu: A League of Legends Story (Nintendo Switch) Review 

Song of Nunu: A League Of Legends Story

The multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game League of Legends is one of the most-played PC titles in the world. Since its release in 2009, it has gone on to become one of the biggest esports ever, with the twelfth iteration of the World Championship, hosted in 2022, reaching an average viewership of over 980K and offering up a total prize pool of 2.25M$

In 2019, to celebrate League of Legends’ tenth anniversary, the studio behind the game, Riot, announced their plans to expand the property and create more games as well as other media based on the franchise. Since then, League of Legends has spawned an Emmy-award winning Netflix series in Arcane, an auto battler-type game in Teamfight Tactics and three “lore games”, each in a different genre, courtesy of Riot Forge, Riot’s publishing arm, partnering up with various studios from around the world. Currently in the works there is also Project L, a fighting game made in-house by Riot themselves and Bandle Tale: A League of Legends Story, which is a crafting RPG developed by Lithuania-based Lazy Bear Games. 

Song Of Nunu: A League Of Legends Story (Nintendo Switch) Review 
Photo Source: Tequila Works / Riot Forge

The fourth and latest League “lore game” to be released is Song of Nunu: A League of Legends Story, which marks a collaboration between Riot Forge and Tequila Works, the studio behind games such as RiME, The Sexy Brutale and more. 

Despite being a seasoned League player myself, having played on-and-off since the game’s open beta in late 2009, I only learned of Song of Nunu following a gamescom 2023 appointment with Tequila Works Co-Founder Raúl Rubio Munárriz and Rowan Parker, Creative Director at Riot Forge. 

“…Song of Nunu carries forward much of the DNA behind RiME as the former is also a story-rich puzzle-platformer…”

During the appointment, Rowan Parker told me that Riot Forge was interested in working with Tequila Works specifically because of the success of RiME, a story-rich puzzle-platformer in which you play as a young boy who has awakened on a mysterious island. It should be no surprise, then, that Song of Nunu carries forward much of the DNA behind RiME as the former is also a story-rich puzzle-platformer, this time following the antics of best friend duo Nunu and Willump. 

The story of Song of Nunu fills in the gaps present in Nunu and Willump’s League biography and chapter and sees the pair embark on a rescue mission for the former’s long-lost mother. However, Willump withholds the secret of why he is the last of his kind, a Yeti from the icy realm of Freljord, a secret which eventually pits the two against the formidable Ice Witch Lissandra.

Song Of Nunu: A League Of Legends Story (Nintendo Switch) Review 
Photo Source: Tequila Works / Riot Forge

Joining this cast of familiar characters are Braum, Ornn, and Volibear—all of them being part of League of Legends’ roster of more than 140 champions. What’s more, Song of Nunu also explores various League locales such as the Frejlord, which is the main area of interest, and others which League players will surely appreciate seeing from a different perspective. 

This being said, although Song of Nunu is successful in bringing all of these pieces to the table, it fails in reaching the emotional highs it is so clearly reaching for. Instead, the result is a tried-and-true, predictable narrative of a child and their familiar embarking on an adventure that will test the limits of their bond before coming back together to overcome unlikely odds. This would be more bearable, if, say, the League elements would make for a more unique tale. But that does not happen, either. Instead, the characters are one-dimensional and do not go beyond the realm of caricature.

“…Song of Nunu also explores various League locales such as the Frejlord, which is the main area of interest, and others which League players will surely appreciate seeing from a different perspective.”

Braum, to give just one example, is a hunk with an accent who insists on referring to himself in third person. Think Drax, from the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, if Drax never had a semblance of a character arc. This is fine for League, where, let’s be completely honest, few care about the lore and/or but for Song of Nunu, for which the story should be the bread and butter, this is a big swing and a miss and a huge missed opportunity. 

Sadly, this is not to mean that the gameplay aspects are much better, either. As aforementioned, Song of Nunu follows in the footsteps of RiME and puts players in the position of primarily overcoming puzzles and platforms alike. However, there are also combat sections, in which Willump takes centre stage, and stealth sections in which Nunu must evade enemies. The two are most often together, except for pre-determined circumstances in which the game forces Nunu to mount or dismount Willump. Nunu also has access to his magical flute, Svellsongur, which is an important tool in navigating the world.

Often, Nunu is required to play his flute one note at a time, Ocarina of Time style, so that he and Willump can proceed in their quest. Eventually, Nunu has to play songs of multiple notes at a time, in a myriad of ways, to unlock the path forward. In the meantime, Willump, under the guidance of AI, has to often place itself in the correct positions to solve puzzles. 

“I wish that Song of Nunu focused more on quality over quantity—on being a good, perhaps even great, puzzle-platformer instead of spreading itself thin trying to cover all bases.”

This led to frequent problems during my 10 hours with Song of Nunu, as Willump would just drift off from time to time. Making matters worse is that I already found some puzzles frustrating and irritating—especially ones involving a pendulum—as it is. It also did not help that a vast majority of puzzles are time puzzles, which I often found unnecessary and/or too harsh.

Song Of Nunu: A League Of Legends Story (Nintendo Switch) Review 
Photo Source: Tequila Works / Riot Forge

I really wish there was more leniency, given that some solutions are clunky and take multiple tries—one too many times, I understood what the game expected of me, but struggled to execute it nonetheless. It is only towards the end of the game that the puzzles got better, and that I was able to enjoy them, but that is a case of too little too late. 

Combat, on the other hand, is simply never good. Fortunately, there are only a handful of encounters to begin with, and even though they are repetitive and uninteresting, at least they never take too long to fight through. As for the moments of stealth, which are introduced, I’d like to add, as the story is about to wrap up, those…those are absolutely horrible. I’ve lost count of the times I was spotted through walls or other objects and of the times it was simply inconsistent.

Their inclusion feels tacked on, and they give me the impression that they developed the final level in the game before they decided that stealth would not be featured elsewhere after all. Ultimately, whereas I can understand the desire to spruce up gameplay, I wish that Song of Nunu focused more on quality over quantity—on being a good, perhaps even great, puzzle-platformer instead of spreading itself thin trying to cover all bases. 

Song Of Nunu: A League Of Legends Story (Nintendo Switch) Review 
Photo Source: Tequila Works / Riot Forge

To add to my already long list of issues with Song of Nunu, playing on my launch Switch I have encountered frequent and significant frame dips, moreso in graphically-intense situations, one complete crash and a puzzle which would not trigger until I restarted from the last checkpoint available. The Switch is the only version of the game I have played, and I have played docked exclusively, so I am not sure if these glitches are widespread and, if so, to what extent. 

In 2017, RiME was Tequila Works’ ICO: a game that put the studio on the map and that had newfound fans eager to see what’s next. With Song of Nunu, they try to deliver their The Last Guardian, but fail in that aim due to the bland story, trite gameplay and significant performance woes. All that is left to say is that I heard the song, but I did not like it nearly enough to dance.

Final Thoughts

REVIEW SCORE
Eduard Gafton
Eduard Gafton

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