With the overabundance of cutesy-but-mediocre schlock shoveled out frequently for the Wii, it’s possibly tempting to take a peek at Little King’s Story and peg it as yet another shallow attempt to dress up a weak, RPG-lite façade with a glossy sheen of bubbly kid-friendliness. That would be a horrible mistake. Beneath the surface of this playful look into the world of building, maintaining, and expanding a fantasy kingdom from a young boy’s perspective is a highly addictive one-two punch of real-time strategy and RPG gameplay. With the keys to the kingdom in hand, it’s time to dominate… err… “unite” the land.
As the story opens, you’re introduced to Corobo – a timid lad who seems hardly fit to manage the task of cleaning his own room much less presiding over villagers and the needs of an entire kingdom. Chasing rats out of his meager abode and winding up lost deep in the forest, the young boy stumbles upon a magical crown that gives him the power to command others. Finding himself suddenly named ruler of his own small civilization, Corobo is given the daunting task of reviving the failing kingdom of Alpoko with help from his three new advisors. Some of the motives behind their desire to push outward and expand Alpoko’s boundaries may be less than altruistic. Nevertheless, unifying abutting kingdoms into one big happy nation – a task that suspiciously resembles stamping them out beneath your boot heel – and expanding your circle of royal influence seems the natural course of action to take. It’s a hell of a lot of fun too.
At the heart of Little King’s Story lies a deeply enticing kingdom simulation element that lets you add layer upon layer of cool expansions to your budding empire. Between enhancing your conquering capabilities, beefing up your command prowess, diversifying career roles for your peasants, and generally improving the quality of life for those under your command, there are a lot of different angles to tackle as you grow. Fortunately, the management aspect of the game is easily handled through a few simple menus accessed in and around your throne room. As satisfying as it is to carefully decide on the construction of new buildings and other improvements, nothing will ever get done if you simply sit around on your kingly backside all day. Alpoko starts out as a tiny village with few inhabitants and meager resources. That gradually changes as you venture out beyond your borders to explore, kick butt, and amass sizeable quantities of booty.
Corobo himself – the only character you’ll have direct control over throughout the game – is a total weakling who will die very quickly if not accompanied by a horde of warriors. But his newfound ability to rule through magical persuasion lets you send any followers at your side running forward to accomplish any desired tasks with a simple wave of your scepter. Though you’ll initially only be able to bring a few basic peasants along with you on your travels, the number of followers you can induct into your royal guard and the different roles you can assign to them greatly increases over time. Depending on your particular short-term goals at any given time, you’ll often want to bring along a mixture of combat-ready troops and skilled workers uniquely capable of tackling the many obstacles you’ll encounter. Having the right tools (or workers) for the job is all part of the strategizing required to progress in-game.
Wherever you move Corobo with the Nunchuk thumbstick all of your accompanying minions will follow. It’s actually rather funny further along in the game when you have a large mob trailing your every move. Tapping the A button will send the first follower in your queue charging forward in whatever direction your facing, and it’s possible to rapidly hammer on the button to make your entire force charge forward en-masse. They can all be called back to your side with a simple tap of the B button. It’s easy to sort through specific unit types with the D-pad, and you can eventually send your followers into different formations. Managing individual unit types and navigating though compact terrain is a challenge with a large force. It eventually becomes second-nature with enough practice.
The citizens in your entourage will react differently to the different objects and creatures they run into, depending on their job class. For example, farmers will dig into holes they find to uncover treasure; grunts will battle any enemies in their in their immediate vicinity; and miners will break large rocks down to size with ease. There are a broad range of different foes, rival kings, and boss battles to tackle through creatively orchestrated combat. Little King’s Story features some wildly creative and very challenging boss encounters. Additionally, numerous other physical obstacles to puzzle through crop up with regularity. Beyond battling and building, there are other activities to engage in. You’ll save numerous princesses whom you can court, take on smaller side tasks for money or expansion purposes, scour the land for special items to collect, and find other things to occupy your time.
There are a total of 14 different job classes in the game that are unlocked over time as new land comes under your control and special buildings are constructed. Early classes are free, but more powerful jobs cost money. Followers who die will sometimes wash up on the shore to battle again. Other times they won’t be revived and must be replaced. It’s a solid system that’s appropriately complex and enjoyable to play around with.
The unexpectedly deep and enthralling gameplay is wrapped in a superb presentation that’s bursting with colorful design and audio effects that add personality to the characters. Each animated story scene has an impressive hand-scrawled look that enhances the fairytale vibe of the adventure. The soundtrack is a perfectly fitting mash-up of well-known classical songs that lend some humor to the mix – an element that’s applied liberally throughout the game.
It’s difficult to resist the urge to pour hours and hours into Little King’s Story without stopping. This lengthy, challenge, and utterly adorable title has great potential to bridge the gap between different audiences on the Wii. It’s easily one of the best games on the system so far this year and one you absolutely won’t want to miss.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.5 Graphics
Literally drenched in vibrant color, charm, and gooey delightfulness. 4.0 Control
It’s surprisingly easy to control an entire mob – most of the time. 4.3 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Classical music works well with funny gibberish speak and silly sound effects. 5.0
Don’t forget to eat, sleep, drink, and go to the bathroom. This massive game is absurdly addictive.
4.8 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.