I’ve been wracking my brain over how to start this review for Little King’s Story. The blank page in Google Documents just sits here, mocking me, waiting for me to put something down. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because there’s not a whole lot to compare Little King’s Story to. Maybe it’s because every time I start talking about it, piles of positive things start spilling out until my writing is a jumbled mess of excited statements. I think I’ll start at the beginning.
Little King’s Story starts out when a sad, lonely boy named Corobo finds a magical crown that makes people do his bidding and worship him as the king. That doesn’t happen when I wear my paper crown from Burger King, but maybe I’m not wearing it right. Either way, this entails him gathering an army, clearing the land of monsters, and expanding his kingdom to fill the space while wooing princesses and crushing other kingdoms beneath his adorable heel.
So, what is it about Little King’s Story that works so well?
He who wishes to be obeyed must know how to command. – Niccolo Machiavelli
Little King’s Story plays like a mixture of Harvest Moon, Pikmin, and a standard action-RPG. Your ultimate goal is to defeat eight neighboring kingdoms and become the greatest king of the land. People in your kingdom will get married and have children (with a little encouraging from the king, of course), while you’ll meet and court various princesses along the way. You’ll need to keep your advisors happy and worry about your townspeople’s well-being as well.
You need those people on your side, since you’ll be assigning them jobs and leading them into combat. You’ll assign them a job, and townspeople can be farmers, soldiers, lumberjacks, chefs, miners, florists, or even just stay as children. You’ll want a balanced group, since you’ll need many different types of jobs in order to tackle your goals. For instance, farmers can open cracks in the earth which can lead to treasure or soothing hot springs that will heal your units. Miners can break up large rocks that will open the way to new areas. Soldiers will cling to enemies while dealing high damage. Each one has their own unique purpose.
You’ll also receive quests from your ministers or the town suggestion box. Your ministers may send you to defeat the king of a neighboring kingdom, and the townspeople may tell you of a monster blocking the entrance to an area or direct you to treasure maps. When you complete a quest, you’ll get spoils which can be converted into money, which enables you to build new buildings, unlock new units, or just add to your burgeoning population.
So that’s the concept, and it’s a good concept on its own. However, like most things, it’s not just the concept but the execution that makes Little King’s Story come alive. Let’s look at the presentation.
The ear is the avenue to the heart. – Voltaire
The music in Little King’s Story is mostly classical numbers that have been repurposed for use in the game. The game starts off with a version of Bolero which is unique and tells the story nicely. Little King’s Story then moves through other great numbers, like an excellent usage of The Nutcracker Suite and other tunes which will sound familiar. At times, I swear to God I heard the Super Mario theme tucked in the background too. Everything fits extremely well, and the various yelps and greetings of your underlings never get grating or repetitive. Excellent work all around.
On top of that, Little King’s Story looks good. Now, I hate the phrase “Looks good for a Wii game,” so I won’t use it here. However, Little King’s Story plays to the Wii’s strengths. Color is used exceptionally well, and every unit is distinguished from other units very easily. There’s a very useful minimap that shows you where enemies are in relation to you and your group, and everything looks great across the board.
Of special note are the cutscenes. Usually, an animated cutscene from a Japanese game about a lonely boy would have brooding characters and vapid, doe-eyed heroines staring off into the distance while J-pop plays in the background. Not so in Little King’s Story. They have the look of a chalk drawing, and pile on the charm. You get the feeling that a lot of love went into these, as if the designers just enjoyed everything about the concept and wanted you to enjoy it too.
Another great thing about Little King’s Story is that it doesn’t talk down to you. It discusses God, life, the anxieties of growing old, death, science and anything else it gets its hands on. In a rarity for a game on a Nintendo system, there’s a character who’s a drunk and they show him drinking alcohol. They don’t dumb it down by calling it soda or anything. It sounds weird, but it just shows that this is a game that looks like it was made for kids that is aimed squarely at your scabby, blackened adult heart.
After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. – Nelson Mandela
Unfortunately, there are a few flaws. One, the game can get unexpectedly difficult. There’s nothing worse than running around, gathering spoils and killing dudes and then running into a battle that was a little over your head, getting killed, and having to reload your game. There is an easy way to warp back to your castle, but I was usually so into Little King’s Story that I would forget about it until it was too late.
Two, the AI pathing is pretty bad. Your units can get hung up on the scenery and end up dying, or you’ll send your units to fight and they’ll all slam into a nearby mailbox and go back to their place in line. Here’s another problem with the pathing: Let’s say there are three targets: A hole that needs to be dug, a large, angry enemy, and a tiny little enemy. How would you prioritize those threats? I would say, kill the little enemy first, then the big one, and then dig the hole, right? In Little King’s Story, all three things are equally important, so you’ll have people trying to dig a hole while an angry cow is stepping all over their kibbles n’ bits.
Another flaw: Let’s say my group is comprised of fighters, archers, farmers and miners. I’m in a battle. Do I want all four groups to get sent into battle? Of course not! However, in Little King’s Story, whichever person ends up right behind you at that specific time ends up being sent next. You might end up getting some innocent people killed, or having to shuffle through your units until you find the right one for the situation. It’s a headache.