Note: I re-reviewed this game in 2016. Please disregard this original review.
There is nothing quite like digging up a title that you are certain will end up becoming a gem of sorts in the not too distant future, and getting into an awkward middle phase where your thoughts allow for neither full introspection or current awareness. Either way, I picked up Little King’s Story for $13 and feel like talking about an obscure Wii title by the now defunct developer Cing. Oh, and I’m not even going to talk about the remake/reimagining, because of how poorly it appeared to have been handled, and this would become a rant to the very idea of said remake.
Little King’s Story Review Release Date: 21/7/2009 Platform: Wii Developer: Cing Publisher: XSEED
The basic premise of Little King’s Story is something out of a fairy tale. You play as an eight year old named Corobo who wanders into the mysterious kingdom of Alpoko. Where he discovers a crown that gives him power over the twelve citizens of the fairly pitiful kingdom. Which quickly evolves into a very odd story about the world destroying due to earthquakes, and needing to bring down seven other kings in their own unique areas and boss battles, taking their princesses while you’re at it. While touching on subject matter that, while a bit underdeveloped and broad in terms of possible meanings of certain events and characters, does help give the game more of a mature feel, while still being quite childlike and whimsical with its grand adventure.
Although, the more mature instances somewhat frustrates me, because of how certain aspects in crafting depth within the plot are more than a bit vague. Not really helped substantially by an ending that doesn’t feel like a major resolution, as the plot more or less stops after dumping several chunks of complexities that while enjoyable to enhancing the overall experience, don’t come together as nicely as I think they should’ve been able to.
Not that it prevents the game from being enjoyable. Taking a playstyle most similar to a Pikmin with far fewer units, the core of Little King’s Story is walking around the world, bashing monsters, building structures to better traverse said world, and collecting goodies. Which are in the form of upgrades for your citizens along with the ability to access more while expanding your own kingdom and creating more jobs to assign them. Although, there are pretty much only two forms of class, fighters and gatherers. The later of which can feel a bit too one note in their function, with farmers being able to dig holes and find health replenishing hot springs while also breaking things faster than most, being offset by miners who break rocks and not much else. Reaching a bit of an extreme when you get three characters who are used to get through one type of obstacle that is isolated in one type of area. At least as far as I could tell.
Aside from that, the units at your disposal can often be a bit annoying to manage. With an eventual max of thirty men, women, and children at your beck and call at any given time, going through several areas and managing through the number of classes at hand with one button can get more than a bit annoying to need to navigate around smaller areas. Even with the ability to have them all walk in your footsteps you’re still a very large entity. And through a thirty-five hour game, pressing down on the d-pad of the Wii remote, that is oddly unused for any sort of motion control, and hearing a character say some jumbled form of “Yessir” got a bit irritating.
Yet, aside from my one major issue with the core gameplay, I must admit to it being good fun. Sending in soldiers to clobber UMAs and collecting the spoils is rewarding enough, and the daily baddie bashing suggestions left those in no short supply. And I did actually grow more than a bit attached to my units, growing nothing short of vengeful when I encountered an enemy that managed to one hit kill them. The first one of which happened to be a giant frog that was enough to make me cackle like a madman when I finally managed to avoid his fatal tongue and barrage of toxic globs long enough. Which is pretty admirable, because the jobless carefree citizens are essentially one of fifty, if that, faces with a different HP value and a nametag, yet I refused to have any of them die, even if it meant needing to reset the game for a second chance for some, but not all of the boss fights.
In fact, random variables like that really decremented my experience with the game near the end. Following my victory over the seventh king, I was met with the prospect of finishing the side quests for each of the seven princesses, and collecting all one hundred of the often low quality enemy designs art pieces hidden about the world. Which was not made better when I had to wander around my kingdom for two in game hours looking for singing citizens because a pop idol princess wanted to get tunes from them. As I began to grow less fond of the sizable plot of land I stapled to house 130+ people. While doing whatever quest came my way, because I was unable to trigger a certain chain of them for reasons I couldn’t figure out. Before needing to finally say screw it, and go to beat the game, which I did not.
After going through a five minute period where the game pulls a poorly foreshadowed twist that means next to nothing in the grand scheme of things, the game switches genres to a 2D shooter where you could not shoot, and just had to move a loose controlling object while trying to not get hit and lose men. Only to then be dragged into an area where I spent ten minutes before I realized I needed to talk to someone several times to progress, which lead to the five phase final boss that I was ill equipped to manage and had to do that shooter section for the fourth time. Leaving the actual ending being something I just looked up, due to how the only reward is a higher difficulty option, when I actually recall having a sweller time playing the game on easy back in 2011, thank you very much Skokie Public Library.
It was a pain that, along with a fairly slow start before the game really gets rolling, really does distract from how utterly enjoyable the middle of the game is. Going about adventuring through a very sizable world that avoids the tropes of elemental worlds, with the closest being a boss who you fight in a grassy area, the the furthest being a world of arts and crafts where you find men with lunch sized milk boxes for heads. It is a slightly less extreme case of what I felt with Jet Set Radio, or at least what I recall from it. Not so great gameplay with an underdeveloped story, having visuals and audio that left me salivating due to the lavish amounts of charm that the game oozes out.
While I must preface every review of a Wii game with my setup being weird and the picture of less rounded games looking very low in terms of resolution, Little King’s Story still managed to look sorta beautiful. With a very fond use of a wide spectrum of colors, going so far as to make a brown wasteland look visually appealing, as I assume that there is some sort of filter over the game to give it a more painterly look. While the models may be simple, and not that great if you do somehow manage to get a good look at them, the actual designs do come across well, especially in the bigger threats. Although, I do wish that the entire game was like its 2D cutscenes, where it uses something I can only think to describe it as painted animation.
Not that the audio falters much, despite how it is all, if not mostly, public domain classical music rearranged to create an atmosphere that is rich while being entirely its own. With songs I couldn’t name to save my life, nothing made me more excited to visit a new area quite as much as the music. With the audio aside from that being mostly a series of Banjo Kazooie-esc gables that manage to give character to the speaks. Aside from the response that I aforementioned as annoying me, the mere act of listening to the game puts a smile on my face. Now if only the soundtrack were purchasable as far as I am aware.
Despite some glaring blemishes, Little King’s Story is a game where I took a basic geography test from a man with a TV for a face, and beat a fire breathing drunkard in a valley of cherry blossoms. In terms of making a delightful game that I enjoyed wandering around through with a world that I was sad to fully explore because there was none of it left to see, the game succeeds tremendously. However, the points that got in the way of the experience were enough to make me not bother beating the last boss, or get 100% completion of side quests. And I suppose saying, “Little King’s Story is a glorious title with very bleh bookends”. Would be the best way I could sum up the game in terms of quality.
An impressive product, but won’t always astound due to a fair number of flaws that are difficult to ignore. Still worth your cash and a few hours of your time.