Released on July 21, 2009 on the Nintendo Wii, Little King's Story is an interesting hybrid of several different game genres. There is real time strategy, some RPG elements, and best of all, parts that remind me of simulations, like the underrated Harvest Moon series. It has been said that this blending in this game was meant to serve as an introduction to these many different genres.
The story of the Little King begins with an imaginative boy named Corobo (though I don't remember this being stated in the intro) who finds a crown in the woods shortly after chasing some rats from his home. He finds that the crown allows him to charm and control anyone he wants. He suddenly finds himself with three advisors named Verde, Liam, and Howser. They all vow to help him rebuild the ruined kingdom of Alpoko. Then the game begins.
Little King's Story has quite interesting graphics. This is apparent for the intro movie, featuring puppets on strings. Even once the game begins, the graphics have a rather unique look to them, especially during the cinematics. The game uses an overworld presentation similar to Harvest Moon or Zelda; this makes sense due to the game having borrowed elements from both series.
The look of almost everything in this game is charming, from the people of the kingdom (especially their children), the structures you can build, and the enemies you fight. They aren't quite chibi, but still maintain a unique look. My favorite visuals are the job classes. You can train everything from soldiers to hunters to merchants, all with their own unique look. The hunters are my favorite due to the Final Fantasy white mage references of their bunny hoods. A cute visual easter egg.
The music is easy to recommend, but I should comment on the lack of original compositions. All the music that I've heard in Little King's Story is rearrangements of famous pieces of classical music. I recognized Ludwig Von Beethoven's 9th Symphony, Ravel's Bolero, Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance, and Rossini's William Tell Overture for boss encounters. This is a unique treat for this game because it seems so random for this type of music to be used for a tale of a sudden king's efforts to rebuild their kingdom. I was more surprised that anything, as classical music isn't used in that many video games. The only other famous example I can think of right now would be the Moonlight Sonata's use as a puzzle in Resident Evil.
Classical music fits well with almost anything (just look at movie trailers) so I definitely enjoy its presence in this game, but it should be said that others might find it unusual, even distracting. This game could have just as easily featured original compositions or perhaps no music at all, but it would hardly have been as memorable. The best way to sum up the music was that the first time I heard the title screen, a big grin appeared on my face, pleased at the choice. Let's hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Sound effects deserve a special mention, as while the game has speech and is voice-acted, most of it sounds like gibberish... with some elements of French (though that is probably a coincidence). I really like this audio, as it helps to make the game unique. My two favorites are Howzer's "Yes, SIRR!" and the cooing and cute noises of the citizens' children. Yes, I can be a softie...
Gameplay in Little King's Story is a mix of several different gameplay types, real time strategy RPG, even a bit of simulation, but it comes together in such a neat little package that it feels really natural and easy to understand. The developers must be commended for this, as multi-genre games are ambitious and often difficult to get right, just think way back to the NES title Magic of Scheherazade.
All decisions are made via the King's Throne. Howzer handles all construction and citizen requests. Verde saves the game and tells you how your kingdom and citizens are progressing. Liam offers tutorials on gameplay and different job classes (how to get them, what they cost, and how they can help you). This system is pretty intuitive and well organized, helping this game avoid a convoluted system in which the player often has to innately know what to do before bad things start to happen. The developers did say that their goal was to create a game in which beginners could have fun as well, and they accomplished this rather well.
As the King, you use the Wiimote and nunchaku to navigate your kingdom, recruiting followers with a tap of your wand and they proceed to follow you unquestionably. At the start, your subjects are merely carefree adults, you can command 4 of them, and they can't do much more than dig holes for basic treasure. Using this treasure, you can build a variety of structures from your throne, including places to train citizens with new jobs, allowing you to accomplish more throughout the world. Farmers are ideal for digging deeper holes. Soldiers are naturally for dealing with the enemies you will encounter (especially since you are a horrible fighter. I like the idea of a weakling king having his minions do all the fighting. Deliciously evil!)
Combat deserves a special mention, mostly because you can take commanding citizens for granted when they can't die. In combat, they can... Pay special attention to enemies near the king, if he dies, it's game over.
Anyway, when you see an enemy, you order each unit forward and they attack the enemy in different ways depending on their classes. Soldiers are also good fighters because they can jump on the enemies, slowing their movement. Even though they do all the fighting, you still have to watch what the enemies are doing, as the key to victory is the take as little damage as possible (no mages or medics to heal damage in this game!) The best strategy is to pull back your troops before the enemy attacks. This takes some getting used to, as all enemies choreograph their attacks differently. Study their movements and you'll defeat them easily. Combat spoils are another way to get resources for your burgeoning kingdom.
Boss battles work pretty much the same, but you need better timing, as bosses are quite capable of killing your troops very quickly. The treasure and land expansion rewards make these more strategic battles a real treat!
It has been said that Little King's Story challenge was designed so that gamers of all skill would be able to pick it up and play it. I agree with this to a point. The game's infrastructure system is very intuitive, but I don't see combat as something that people completely new to the genre could grasp without a lot of trial and error, especially the boss battles. Not a lot of this game is left to chance, but patience is often the key to overcome any obstacles you may find yourself in.
I found myself in situations when building certain things before others left me in a hole, from which tedious grinding for resources was the only solution. I found this oversight annoying, and was really wishing that plot centered structures received special notice so you knew to build them first. Resource grinding is about as fun as level grinding, and we all know how little fun that activity often is...
Replay is hard to gauge for this game, mostly because while there is variety in the way in play the game (which troops you use, what order of buildings and suchlike) doing this in random order can lead to the parts in which you must do resource grinding; that really grinds my gears. There are harder difficulties to unlock once you beat the game, so check those out.
Overall, Little King's Story being a more introductory multi-genre game, the player is encouraged to play it in only a certain way, thus limiting replay value. For instance, you could technically fight all your battles with hardworking farmers. It would not really be harder, it would just be more tedious. But still, it would be a different way of playing the game, a handicap run if you will. Such runs always have their place for the most devoted fans of a game, and I definitely see this game having such fans.
In summation, Little King's Story is a great game. This is not just because it accomplishes the difficult task of video game genre crossover, but it tells a fun little story, has amusing characters, great music, and interesting and fun gameplay. I urge all those who claim the Wii has no good exclusives to check this game out.
In fact, I order you to, because if sales numbers are any indication, this kind of fun experiment won't be getting a sequel. To me, this is proof that the Wii has potential: it is merely that shovelware designed to be sold to know-nothings are the majority of Wii games made because that is where the money is. Consequently, developers would much rather spend less money (and effort) making glorified mini-games that are much easier to sell rather than greenlight inspired creations such as Little King's Story.
- Ugly Bob