REVIEWS -- Little King's Story -- Wii
It’s good to be King
by Rhys Sattler
Fun factor: Fun
Worth to: Buy
It might not look like much, but Little King’s Story has a golden heart and enough charm to win over even the staunchest of critics.
At first glance, it’s probably easy for people to dismiss Little King’s Story as a game for kids, with its whimsical presentation and simple premise. Further inspection, though, will lead you into a surprisingly deep and challenging adventure that, despite a few minor quirks, is one of the most lengthy and satisfying on the Wii to date.
Soldiers that can’t dig holes?
Little King’s Story begins with the young and timid boy Corobo finding a magical crown in the forest. Putting on the crown makes Corobo the King of all the land, and all people and animals bow to him as their sovereign ruler. Under your control, you must expand the tiny little hamlet of Alpoko and conquer all that surrounds it to unite the world under your banner. The story is very simple, and the narrative in no way complex, but it is laced with little hints and nods toward more deep and serious issues, presented with a quirkiness that befits the whimsical setting.
You start Little King’s Story with a small castle, a tiny little hamlet of a village and a handful of Carefree Adults, your basic citizens. Your job as ruler is to lead your people into the unknown to find treasures that will earn you money to expand your town, and thus your control over the known world. You do this by selecting a group of citizens with different jobs to accompany you to explore and fight. Once you’ve amassed some treasure, you can return to your throne to cash it all in and buy more things for your kingdom, as well as taking side-quests that can earn you even more money, all of which are steps for preparing to take on the games plentiful, challenging and often inventive boss fights.
Control basics are a lot like the Pikmin strategy games. Once you have a group of citizens following you, you press A to send them forward and B to recall them. Down on the D-Pad quickly cycles through the individual jobs of your citizens if you need a particular type in a pinch, and Up on the D-Pad will change the groups formation (which you unlock several of during the course of the game). Left and Right on the D-Pad rotate the camera, the Z button on the Nunchuk toggles a targeting line that snaps to targets, and the C button on the Nunchuk zooms the camera in and out.
The controls work fine, but in some cases the camera can cause little problems, as certain areas of the game only allow the camera to be rotated a very small amount or have it fixed in a spot. The targeting can also be a little finicky, as it will snap to the nearest target even if it is a rock or a hole, which can be a bit of a pain when a monster is sitting on the hole in question and your soldiers come back to you instead of attacking because soldiers can’t dig holes.
I can see a pattern here
The combat is again similar to Pikmin. Most encounters, be it a boss or normal monster, usually come down to recognizing their attack animations and knowing when to attack, pull back, change formations or avoid being hit. Since you can only send and pull back your troops, the combat comes down to using the right type of citizen at the right time and utilizing caution, positioning and proper timing, since keeping your citizens attacking too long can get them caught in a huge attack that will hurt them, or in some cases instantly kill them. In the beginning, the simplest enemies will have you send your troops forward and back when you see them about to attack, but in later fights, positioning your troops and attacking from the right angle or with particular jobs can make the difference between an easy win and outright massacre.
The games tutorial guides you through the basics of buying buildings that will give your Carefree Adults more useful jobs, like Farmers and Grunt Soldiers. Throughout the game, you will expand further and discover additional buildings to give your people even more specialized jobs, like Animal Hunters that can attack from range, Miners and Lumberjacks that can break large rocks and trees respectively, as well as some more unique and secret jobs later in the game. You can only bring a certain number of citizens with you at a time, and having a good mix of jobs for all occasions is a good choice when exploring, finding treasures, and building or breaking paths into new areas.
Once you’ve amassed enough treasure to buy buildings that will create Farmers (who can make holes in the ground and dig faster than your average citizen) and Grunt Soldiers (your basic ground infantry), the game throws you into a boss fight that will allow you to take over another patch of land and expand your town, allowing you to buy more buildings and upgrades. After defeating a notable boss, the town will hold a festival for your victory, with streamers and confetti and your citizens dressed up in costume and dancing around the town square.
Push the portly and outsmart the worrywart
The boss fights are one of the best features. A tutorial initially pits the player against a Guardian. Guardians own the land around your town and must be defeated in order to expand territory. These alone are varied and challenging enough, but they aren’t the only types of boss battle in the game. Your real challenge is to unite the world under Alpoko’s banner, and to do that you must defeat all the other Kings of the world. The King boss fights range from larger and more complex Guardian-like battles, to playing pinball with the portly body of the fattest King in the land, matching wits in a riddle-filled quiz with the philosophical worrywart King, to racing to the top of a deadly mountain obstacle course to beat the tallest King.
The cutscenes that accompany meeting each King are presented with a typical Japanese style, making each King a memorable character in their own right and can be funny or a little uncomfortable depending on the king in question. Beating an opposing King will clear its land of obstacles and barricades allowing further exploration, and you will win the hand of the princess the King was holding prisoner. Each princess you save will unlock a side-quest, which can offer rewards like data (monsters or locations), or treasure hunts for particular items and treasures in the world.
Other than the princess side-quests, there is also are side-quests that involve finding monster fan art that real kids submitted during a contest for Little King’s Story. For each landmark number of pictures you return to the art dealer, you get a rare item that you can equip onto your citizens to give them more attack power, more health, immunity to poison or fire, among other things. There are also mini-boss fights that you can access from your throne via the suggestion box.
The citizens are the real stars
Periodically, your citizens will send you letters about large, unique monsters or groups of monsters they saw in the wild, and you can accept their quests to go clear them out. These side-quests reward you with items that give you more money for upgrading your town, but sometimes they can be more trouble than they are worth, especially when most of the mini-bosses require particular citizen setups, or have deadly one-hit-kill attacks than can massacre your citizens.
Citizens dying have little impact on gameplay. Most of the time, a dead citizen will usually wash up on the shore of a nearby beach the next morning. In rare cases, the person won’t wash up on the beach, and will be gone forever. When you walk around town on the day of a citizen’s death, their family and friends will be dressed in funeral garb in mourning, and you can attend their funeral in the church, which is a somber contrast to the festivals of your victories.
Your people are generally very lively when you’re wandering around town. Apart from the casual greetings they give whenever you walk past them, grunts and soldiers will actually take up guard duty at the borders of your town and castle, farmers will be tilling the fields, carpenters will maintaining the houses, miners will be seen going into the mines to work, all of it making the town feel like a living, breathing place. The groups of citizens you bring with you on your adventures can become close friends, or even fall in love, and sending the two lovebirds into the church will cause them to get married and have a child (which consequently is one of the job classes in the game).
Nothing is little in Alpoko
Little King’s Story’s presentation is top notch. The world is huge, vibrant and consistent with nice little animation touches for the King, his main retainers and your citizens. The cutscenes have a water-color-like rough animation filter to them which suits the game well. There are cases when your citizens will get stuck or they will fall off cliffs when getting into position to attack when you have a lot of them following you, which can be a bit annoying, but they tend to snap back behind you if the game realizes they’re away for too long.
The soundtrack consists of a lot of recognizable orchestral scores from notable composers, and all of it fits the feel of the game perfectly. You might get annoyed after a while at the sound of your citizens talking amongst each other (which consists of a bunch of “yeah!”s and “yessir!”s) as you explore, but this is a minor thing.
Little King’s Story isn’t little when it comes to content and depth. The game can take you well over 20 hours to complete, with a ton of unique boss fights, a huge land to explore and secret treasures to find, tons of side-quests and collections, as well as three difficulty levels. Little King’s Story will keep you busy for a while.
Little King’s Story is a huge, deep and challenging game with truckloads of heart and charm. Its basic gameplay and structure is simple to learn but surprisingly challenging and addictive, and it throws enough content at you to keep you busy for ages, something that Wii games rarely do. Considering the quality of this game compared to a lot of Wii releases, any Wii owner hankering for a unique adventure that they can really sink their teeth into should do themselves a favor and pick up this game.
Publisher: Marvelous Entertainment / Xseed Games
Developer: Cing / Town Factory
Release Date: July 21, 2009
Review Date: 08-08-2009
Numbers of Players: 1
Players Online: No
Not the best the Wii can put out, but the style is vibrant and consistent with no performance issues to speak of. The environments and characters of Little King’s Story are quirky and memorable, and ooze with charm despite their low poly count.
Combat is simple to get grasp, but deceptively challenging and rewarding. Boss fights are numerous, varied and often frantic, and treasure hunting and exploring form a laid-back contrast. Citizen pathing and targeting can be a little finicky.
Little King’s Story oozes with charm and heart. The story is simple enough, but contains deeper issues and some unusual black humor underneath its simple premise, and its cutscenes are stylish and charming.
A large collection of jaunty public domain tunes that fit the whimsical setting perfectly. Some sound effects may become annoying after a while.
The main adventure alone can last you over 20 hours, and with a ton of optional side-quests and three difficulty settings, the game could last you a while.