It's Good To Be King
At first glance, it's probably easy for people to dismiss Little King's Story as a game for kids, with it's 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.
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 conquor 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 citizen. 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 your citizens with different jobs to accompany you to explore and fight. Once you've amassed an amount of treasure, you can return to your throne to cash it all in and buy more things for your kingdom, as well as taking sidequests 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.
The basics of the games controls are alot like the Pikmin series of 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 will toggle a targeting line that will snap to targets, and the C button on the nunchuk will zoom 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.
The combat in Little King's Story is alot like in Pikmin as well. Most of the encounters, be they boss or normal monster, usually come down to recognizing their attack animations and knowing when to attack, pull back, change formations or avoid their attacks. 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 alot, or in some cases instantly kill them. In the beginning, the simplest enemies will just need to you send forward and pull back your troops 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 break open 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 noteable boss, the town will hold a festival for your victory, the town decked out in streamers and confetti and your citizens dressed up in costume and dancing around the town square.
The boss fights in Little King's Story are one of its best features. The boss battle in the tutorial is a Guardian battle. Guardians own the land around your town, and must be defeated in order to expand your town. 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 philisophical 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 put out with a typical Japanese style of whimsical quirkiness, 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'll win the hand of the princess the King was holding prisoner. Each princess you save will unlock a sidequest, which include collections like monster data and location data, to treasure hunts for particular items or treasures in the world.
Other than the princess sidequests, there is also a collection sidequest that involves finding fanart that real kids entered into a contest for Little King's Story to have their monster design put into the game. For each landmark number of pictures you return to the art dealer, you'll 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 others. There are also mini-boss fights that you can access from your throne via the suggestion box. 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 sidequests 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 the mini-bosses can require particular citizen setups, alot of time, or have deadly one-hit-kill attacks than can massacre your citizens.
When citizens die, it usually isn't the end of the world. Most of the time, a citizen that has died will wash up on the shore of a nearby beach the next morning. In rare cases, the person won't wash up on the beach though, and will be gone forever. When you walk around town on the day of a citizens 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 sombre contrast to the festivals of your victories.
The citizens in your town are generally very lively when you're wandering around your town. Apart from the casual greetings they will 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 be 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).
Little King's Story's presentation is pretty top notch. The world is huge, vibrant and consistant, with nice little touches in the animations of both the King, his main retainers and your citizens. The cutscenes have a water-colour-like rough animation filter to them which suits the game well. There are cases when your citizens will get stuck or they'll fall off cliffs when getting into position to attack when you have alot 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 from you for too long. The soundtrack consists of alot of recognizable orchestreal scores from noteable 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 eachother (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 bossfights, a huge land to explore and secret treasures to find, tons of sidequests 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. It's basic gameplay and structure are 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 alot of Wii releases, any Wii owner hankering for a unique adventure that they can really sink their teeth into should do themselves a favour and pick up this game.