Expand your empire by commanding a cute little king who only looks sweet and innocent.
I find it rare these days that any game captures my complete attention from the get go. Usually long plot introductions or excessive character development stands in the way of gameplay, let alone allowing me to get a feel for what I’m in for. With Little King’s Story, I was completely taken with the game within five minutes of play. Within that short span of time I was given a clear perspective of everything that would be expected of me throughout the rest of the game, along with a tour of by far the cutest kingdom ever created. Before I knew it I was seven hours deep into Little King’s Story with an expanded kingdom, a fabulous flower garden, and dozens of well trained minions at my disposal with absolutely no willpower to stop playing.
The best way to describe Little King’s Story is a perfect blend of Nintendo's Pikmin series and Square Enix's Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King. Players assume the role of a little king who must expand his kingdom by defeating enemies around the world and claiming their land for himself. To do this, the king must utilize the power of his people and their different job classes, such as soldiers, animal hunters, farmers, and many others that appear during later parts of the game. Each of these job classes has a specialty, whether it is ranged attacking during battle (hunters), or building bridges (carpenter) to reach new locations.
Similar to My Life as a King, players will also utilize the talents of their citizens in order to earn the means (in this case money) to build new structures. This in turn opens up the kingdom to new citizens as well as new jobs, which further expand the kingdom and bring the experience full-circle.
These different job classes and their roles in the field can be likened most closely to those in Pikmin. As in Pikmin,a player needs only toss a party member in order to get them to do something. Simply target an item or enemy with Z, line up with it, and start tossing away! For example, as the king and his party walk through an unknown part of the world, they encounter a large log in their path which must be cut down. Simply throw the right party members at it and it will be cut down in no time. If there is an enemy ahead, toss a soldier onto him and sit back while he grabs tightly to the little monster and whacks him senseless. As players progress they can upgrade their party in different ways; two prominent upgrades include a party expansion, and new battle formations to utilize while in the field.
Of course, what fun would the game be if defeating enemies was always as simple as charging them with a gigantic army? On the contrary, the most shocking aspect of Little King’s Story is its challenge level. Though the game starts off very relaxed, players will quickly be thrown into the fire. This challenge begins at the start of the second half of the game, when the kingdom's citizens begin sending in letters containing quests for the king to complete. The difficulty of a particular quest is rated from one to five stars and up to five quests can be accepted at once. If I learned one thing very quickly from these letters, it is that the star difficulty rankings lie…hard. I was waltzing arrogantly into one star challenges with my brutish force of sixteen citizens, fully expecting to annihilate whatever lie ahead. You can imagine my surprise when the little headlines began rolling across the bottom of my screen announcing the death of my soldiers, one-by-one.
For players who aren’t that interested in restarting their system each time they mess up a challenge, the good news is that most of the citizen's quests are entirely optional. Usually, these quests net players a prize worth a large sum of money, or in certain cases new buildings which add a much higher number of citizens to the population.
While the citizen’s quests can be a prescription for grey hairs and broken Wii Remotes, boss battles are surprisingly quite the opposite. Every boss battle within Little King’s Story is incredibly unique, and when I say unique, I really mean unconventional and insane. Although the first few boss encounters simply require players to try out multiple army combinations until they find success, others take the concept of a boss battle to whole new dimensions. I don’t want to give too much away, but let’s just say I hope that all of you stayed awake during Geography class, and that you’ve been brushing up on your pinball skills. The varying nature of each of these extreme battles provides for a sense of excitement, and most certainly accomplishment for bringing down such unique foes.
There are also numerous side quests which could keep any player busy for hours. There’s treasure hunting, a seemingly simple task which is actually a vital part of the game. Any items found sustain the economy and allow players to build new homes, job class buildings, and multiple other structures that serve many miscellaneous purposes. Another side quest has the king aiding Ginger Kyde, a wandering artist who has lost his paintings. Players must search the world in order to find the lost paintings and return them to poor Ginger (it is interesting to note that all the art pieces players will seek are real pieces of fan art). These pieces of art, once found, can also be used to decorate the king’s castle.
It is nearly impossible to avoid being completely enamored with everything in sight right from the game's introduction. The characters and animals are small and cartoonish, with an overloaded cuteness factor reminiscent of Harvest Moon. Every building, object, and character within the game is saturated with color and the little graphic subtleties - such as leaves being heart-shaped - makes the presentation appealing and unforgettable.
Besides the incredibly fun questing, interesting exploring, and satisfying kingdom expansions there are so many other wonderful subtleties to take in. One that I couldn’t get enough of was marrying my citizens. If you see hearts above two citizens’ heads, grab them and toss them into the church where they will be promptly married. Then two seconds later a bird will swoop down with a little child, rounding out their new little family. The characters inhabiting the world are silly and hilarious, with enough crazy - and often suggestive - things to say to keep players thoroughly entertained.
In the past I could've only dreamt about a game that was both cute and challenging, and yet here it is. Unfortunately, with the good comes the bad. Aiming can be an issue many times during battles, mainly thanks to awkward camera angles. Targeting an enemy doesn’t actually lock onto them; instead, it merely brings up a targeting system where a line depicts the path of any thrown party members. Players often wind up tossing their soldiers towards the wrong enemy, or into a wall, especially with multiple enemies present. This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem if the pathfinding of the characters was similar to that of Pikmin. However, instead of rushing the closest enemy, the troops will merely stand around confused until they rush back to the king on their own, or are called back. This problem is remedied later on with an expensive party upgrade , but for a game so based on strategy-based battles, this should have been a standard feature from the get-go.
Little King’s Story is a prime example of how a game can be cute and colorful, yet still challenging and fulfilling. With all that this game has to offer, there is sure to be something here for all types of gamers of any skill level. No Wii owner should overlook this fantastic and unique experience.