Little King’s Story is, to the right people, one of the Wii’s most underappreciated gems. The game provided an eclectic take on tired game mechanics, all while honing a simplistic yet adorable art style and an endearing, if not shallow, story. When I say that it’s acclaimed to certain people, I merely mean that it was vastly underrated; while critics and players adored the game, it was lost on the general public.
The Wii has sold nearly one-hundred million systems as of this writing, and having a niche game lost in a sea of releases for the world’s current most popular system wasn’t altogether unusual during its heyday. It’s sort of ironic, then, that the game’s newest interpretation is on a fledgling platform with far less units in the wild. The question is, does New Little King’s Story exemplify the traits found in a true system-selling masterpiece, or does it fall short of it’s source of origin’s fundamental aspirations?
New Little King’s Story puts you in the royal boots of Corobo, the inexperienced ruler of a nation which was unfortunately usurped by evil forces right after he snagged the position. Corobo, now homeless, princess-less, and facing a demonic army that would make for a great Iron Maiden song, does what any valiant king would do: rebuild his kingdom in order to smite those ill-willed intruders. This proves to be fairly difficult, as it certainly sounds: Corobo is effectively in exiled lands, with a squadron of citizens that would make for a better group of psychiatric patients than a full-fledged, competent army.
Have you guessed the basic point of the game yet? That’s right—the legion of lazy buffoons must be honed into an honorable military, under the sole guise of Corobo; you, of course, are the interim leader, snuggled behind the scenes. This army is what the basis of New Little King’s Story is all about—amassing otherwise harmless townsfolk and giving them duties that are applicable in warring efforts. If that sounds crude and violent, please take a look at these screenshots scattered throughout the review and realize how cute everything is.
The jobs you can assign your makeshift army are at first rudimentary, but their development over the course of the game is both crucial and exciting. The forgettable beginning jobs, such as untalented infantrymen and menial laborers, soon blossom into extraordinary roles that let you micromanage what seems like the entire game world. While you’re clearing trees and building roads, you’ll soon find yourself in what feels very much like a “Sims” citybuilding environment, with your king acting as the placatory unit: he’ll direct his units towards a goal, and their mass will determine how (or if) an obstacle can be bested.
The melding of combat into what I’ve described above is rather brilliant, as well. The same rules apply; direct your men towards the target, and hope that the ensuing brutality suffices your needs. The strategy builds up nicely as the game goes along, allowing for different tactical positions and the aforementioned abilities to be utilized in truly decisive ways. The boss fights prove to be incredibly unique and strategic as well, in a tastefully different way: they often force the player to alternate their given tactic in order to best the foe at hand, and it’s often exhilarating to shake things up in such a way.
As you play, you’ll start to realize that the game is almost perfectly suited for portability: many missions can be bested in short chunks of time, while all the while able to flow into hour-long sessions on the fly. Perhaps the main reason the game is able to succeed as both a bite-sized experience and a profound adventure is the emphasis on multiple genres, which are subtly yet effectively mixing together. I’ve brought up the citybuilding perspective, and the RTS & RPG genres are overwhelmingly apparent; when combined together, it’s a deliciously viscous presentation that experiments in ways unique to my gaming memory.
I never once thought about breaking apart the genres represented until I was brainstorming my review; upon recollecting exactly what I was doing while playing, and how well it was implemented, I gained a new respect for such a seemingly “simple” game, on top of the fun I was already having. However, there were some nagging problems that hindered my experience, occasionally taking such a pure note and bending it out of tune.
My biggest problem has to be the interfaces the game shoddily presents. While they’re not game-breaking, they’re undeniably annoying, and as you’ll be using them throughout the game, they take a slight toll out of your patience after a while. For example, there are no menus for picking troops; you have to physically select townspeople, and then pick the ones suitable for battle. Also, the text is oddlysmall—I don’t think my eyesight is going, but squinting at the letters on the Vita hasn’t been a problem in other games.
There are some disappointing technical issues as well, which I don’t recall being in the Wii version. The most repeat offender is the insane frame rate dropping, which seemingly occurs out of nowhere. Playing with the camera sometimes oddly helps this, but that’s a negligible solution, especially as it grows worse over the course of your journey.I even had the game freeze once or twice on me– sure, it didn’t happen often, but some would say it shouldn’t freeze at all.
Bugs and some awful controls rear their ugly head across all of New Little King’s Story in a multitude of ways, as well. It’s pretty annoying when you direct your troops to enter a building, and instead they display the graphical equivalent of a violent seizure. The same happens in battle, when they choose to not follow simple orders or, perplexingly, perform duties that have nothing to do with combat directly in front of an enemy. The precision required for controlling your troops is perhaps at fault here, but if that’s the case, it’s a problem in of itself.
You might also question the translation and overall story, but I found it rather endearing, if not reminiscent of the translating efforts of the SNES-PS1 days. The music is also similarly enjoyable, and its classically-tinged roots complement the game quite nicely. As far as graphics go, there’s no doubt that New Little King’s Story is both graphically and stylistically way ahead of its Wii counterpart, and it could hold its own in a Vita graphics comparison.
It’s important to not lose sight of what Little King’s Story is. Sure, it’s got some problems the Wii edition didn’t exemplify, but this newest edition is by far the definitive version of the game, and I’d argue it’s worth experiencing the good with the bad. Some might question the $40 price tag for a solely digital title, and while I can agree with those sentiments, the price doesn’t have a place in the review of the quality of a game. Is it worth it? That’s up to you.
The overall idea, of course, is that I still enjoyed the game, despite any permeating faults. I know plenty of people that would stop playing a game and delete it from their HDD for lesser reasons than given above, yet they only managed to occasionally annoy me during my overall enjoyment of the game. Instead of being a road block that negated my experience, the problems of New Little King’s Story were little more than transient issues that are underwhelming when compared to the overall package. For that, it’s not only worth a try, but recommended it.
Final Grade: B
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