I’ll fess up; my gaming ego has been bruised. The culprit? Little King’s Story (LKS), a game with such cutesy art and simplistic battle mechanics, that it seemed it would be anything but a challenge. But here I sit–pained, ashamed, and in disbelief over how hard I had to work to get through parts of this game.
I suppose you’d expect me to sit here and write a menacing review about a game I had to think about so hard strategically it gave me more headaches than I can count. However, LKS is not a bad game by a long shot. In fact, it is one of the most innovative games I have played on my Wii thus far. If you’re up for constantly thinking on your toes and always having a solid strategy at hand, you’ll find LKS worth the frustration it can cause. The decision is yours; I will warn you not to expect LKS to be a walk in the park. You’ll have to fight hard for every victory, but you will savor them.
I Just Can’t Wait To Be King!
The premise of the story is so simple, yet so delicious. One day, a young boy comes across a golden crown in a forest. Unable to resist the urge not to touch it, he decides to put the crown on. From that moment forward he is named king and must deal with the responsibilities of helping a small kingdom flourish into greatness. Since you will be in control of the young king, the power is in your hands. Therefore, you will be calling the shots, bossing people around, and ultimately have full reign to do as you please with your kingdom. Your journey is filled with interactions with rival kings, ranging from drunken slobs to TV-obsessed geography nuts, kooky princesses, and off-beat, imbecilic peasants.
Could the premise for a story be any more tempting? After all, most of us won’t have the opportunity of knowing what it would be like to be the head honcho. LKS is probably as close as any of us will get to living out that fantasy. The good news is that LKS does an adequate job presenting itself and portrays that lifestyle in quite a humorous and entertaining manner. The game is quite quirky, and I admire the fact that the developers weren’t afraid to include some offbeat humor. It’s these little touches to the story that no doubt make the game worthwhile. Additionally, the game has a cast of characters that also follow the offbeat trend, most of which are quite charming. I do wish, however, that some of these characters took a more central role in the game.
Not everything in LKS’s presentation is perfect; the story is very predictable and is quite thin throughout. Regrettably, like most simulation games, that is the price we most often pay. The droughts in the narrative can be brutal, but it does make you appreciate what you do get when you gain access to new story bits. What I liked about LKS was as soon as I knocked out a new boss I was immediately awarded with a cutscene. I always felt I had something to look forward to when taking down one of the big boys. Honestly, though, I wasn’t too disappointed by the lack of story. After all, in any sort of simulation game, the main draw is the gameplay, and if that’s entertaining and worthwhile, then the story is just an extra bonus. Luckily, LKS has a few tricks up its sleeves in the gameplay department.
Attack! Retreat! Rinse and Repeat!
The gist of LKS is to build a productive army, which will enable you to win boss fights and expand your kingdom. You’ll assign various jobs to citizens to enhance your productivity, mainly on the fronts of power and financial gain. There are a glut of different job classes to assign your citizens and you’ll have to really decide which jobs you want to put the most emphasis on and how many citizens you want working in each class. Gaining access to certain new jobs cost money, so it’s up to you to determine what is worth the investment. Each class has its own specialties, such as farmers’ ability to dig holes, and animal hunters’ ranged attacks.
Once you assign citizens jobs, you’ll want to recruit them into your party and explore the world. When exploring, you will discover not only new lands, but also enemies to fight and hidden treasures to acquire. It is almost mandatory to treasure hunt, as money is the key to not only gaining new classes, but also financing various buildings you need to succeed in the game. You’ll also need a strong army because enemies not only appear quite frequently, they can be very troublesome on top of their numbers.
Thankfully, LKS features quite a straightforward battle system. The battle system revolves around you issuing two commands: attack or retreat. With the click of the A button you send your troops at the enemy, if you see that the enemy is about to attack (usually indicted by steam forming over the enemy’s head), you press the B button to call your troops back. This is quite an easy system to grasp; however, it does present some challenges. You’ll have to retreat your troops at exactly the right time to avoid taking damage. Your troops will never have an abundance of health, so this is especially vital. If your citizens do perish, they usually will come back to life the next day by washing ashore at the beach.
There’s more to consider than just the very basics of the RTS genre that LKS culls some of its battle systems from. Not only will you have to avoid attacks from enemies, but there will also be unexpected forces affecting you from the outside. For example, during battles enemies above you may throw items at you, and you must dodge them to avoid damage in addition to worrying about the enemies in front of you. As you advance more in the game, you’ll also gain access to different formations that you can organize your army into to best strategize for different situations you will be placed in.
It’s important to keep an effective strategy in mind at all times, especially when it comes to boss battles. Expanding your kingdom is the only way to advance in the game, and the only way to do this is to knock out rival kingdoms. These kingdoms all feature distinct bosses with their own characteristics and flair, and each kingdom also features a princess with similar traits for you to save. One thing that sets LKS apart from most games is the constant effort it makes to provide new and unique boss battles. The developers obviously knew that having such a simplistic battle system could make things humdrum after awhile; therefore, they changed up the way bosses worked, so the same strategies over and over won’t take the player to victory. It is a welcome innovation to the game, but also not without its faults.
Boss battles are crucial and they are where you will employ your most strategic thinking. For example, there’s a boss battle that is set up like a pinball machine–it requires not only a solid strategy, but also quite a bit of luck. Another boss is based on how well you know your geography. In this battle, you will be given clues along with a number of flags to determine which country is the answer. You then send your men to the correct country on an expansive map–and no, none of these countries are labeled. There’s even a boss set up like a quiz bowl, where you are given riddles and brain teasers to solve.
All of these are great ideas, but some of them work better than others. At times, it seemed that the desire to change things up in boss battles made them more frustrating than entertaining. For instance, when a boss battle relies too heavily on luck, it is bound to cause the player quite a bit aggravation. Not to mention, some boss battles are extremely intense, and if I was a little bit off with my strategy or its execution, the game was very unforgiving and I found my way to a Game Over screen in a hurry.
There are various elements that you need to strategize, and a lot of things you need to keep track of, especially in boss battles. For example, you can bring in a larger army, but you have to worry about more deaths, your formation, and having a superior army makes you more susceptible to random elements killing your troops. Not only will random items be thrown at you in these boss battles, but bosses also have abilities that can hit you. If you don’t use your environment to your advantage you will also be punished. Unfortunately, you are extremely limited by your surroundings; there are only so many places you can place your army safely. Also, not only are you unsafe fighting up close, at times, you can also get hit in various directions by ranged attacks. To succeed, you always need to be one step ahead of your enemy, and you will, at times, feel like you need to have to eyes all over the place.
None of the difficulties you face during the game will be put at ease with the controls in LKS. My main gripe with the controls is the targeting system. You can use “Z” to target where you want to send your army to, whether you want to attack an enemy or dig a hole for treasure. However, this does not always go as planned, and can be especially frustrating in the middle of an intense boss battle. I can’t even count how many times I set the target at the boss, only to have my army not go in the direction I was directing them. Even more frustrating is when this caused my men to get hit by objects or slowed my progress in a long, hard-fought battle. There were also times where just to get my farmers to dig a hole, it took three or four times due them walking right by the hole even though I had set the target directly in their line of movement. Even moving around with my troops could be troublesome, due to the fact that despite me going in one direction, they would sometimes get stuck in the environment. I wish the developers had worked a little bit more on the pathfinding AI, as it just plain doesn’t work sometimes. I often had to change my formation just to get my army to do simple actions like go up the stairs.
Although boss battles and exploring are bound to take up a good chunk of your time, LKS also provides quests to keep you busy. Citizens will write quests in the suggestion box, and it’s up to the King to make his kingdom happy. Some quests are required to advance the game’s story, while others are optional for those who are up for the challenge and rewards. I enjoyed the quests because it always gave you something to do, especially for the days when I just wanted to explore or drum up some extra money. I found the majority of the quests to be worth the effort, and they made my exploring fun rather than routine.
A Standing Ovation From Eyes and Ears
First off, I just want to say LKS is a beautiful title to look at, especially during cutscenes. All the cutscenes are executed in a unique art style–it looks like watercolors spread across your screen and they are incredibly vibrant. Quite a bit of creative shading was used to emphasize these detailed cutscenes, which I really appreciated. At times, it felt as though I was looking at a storybook come to life on my screen. The environments are detailed and lively and there’s quite a bit of variation between parts of the world. The character models complement the environments well, and there are no major flaws anywhere, graphically.
The music also was right on cue. The score of the game is basically all classical mixes, and they work wonderfully to bring out the atmosphere of the game, and also enhance that this is, in fact, your kingdom. Players won’t be listening to pieces that they’re entirely unfamiliar with, either, as the game features rearrangements of famous scores that were done by some of the greats of classical music, such as Beethoven. Some may complain that some of the melodies aren’t varied enough during the game’s day to day events; however, the rival king battles feature unique tracks that will put you right in the mood for the fight. So many times the melodies matched the chaos I was feeling in the battle, as well as the boss’ personality. At the end of the day, none of these tracks are anything short of pleasing to the ears, and I’m impressed that there’s not one track I can sit here and honestly complain about.
This King’s Final Ruling
Little King’s Story is a great addition to the Wii’s library. It’s one of the more groundbreaking games to come out this year, especially considering many of the uninspired titles making their way to the Wii. Will Little King’s Story be everyone’s cup of tea? Probably not. I’d be wary to recommend this to casual gamers, not only because of the difficulty, but because of the amount of time that goes into the game. Also, if you’re used to running head first into something without much strategy, this probably won’t be a game you’ll take to. However, if you are up for a novel game that will give you a challenge, packed with plenty of hours of playtime, and will bring you a few laughs along the way, Little King’s Story will be a game you will enjoy.