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Little King's Story (Wii) artwork

Little King's Story (Wii) review

"Your royal guard has a tendency to get caught up on fences, on the edge of buildings and so forth. By the time youíre commanding a group of 17 soldiers, itís all but impossible to make everyone climb a simple staircase without cautious preparation. Such issues also cropped up in games like Pikmin and Overlord, but here their impact on moment-to-moment gameplay is more severe."

Released in North America in 2009, Little Kingís Story has since been recommended to me more often than any other Wii title I can recall. As a general rule, I forget to purchase games (even the ones that people tell me Iím bound to love) if I donít pick them up near launch. There are occasional exceptions to that rule, however. Cingís fantasy RTS title was one such exception.

If youíve played Overlord on PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, or even just one of Nintendoís Pikmin titles, you have a fair idea what to expect from Little Kingís Story without even needing to pick up the Wii Remote and Nunchuk. The setup is nearly identical, except that here youíre a young boy from another dimension instead of a rotund astronaut. The game also features light simulation elements that seem like they should set it apart from its peers, but those differences are mostly illusory. Your empire expands at the pace you dictate, but your input is otherwise limited. The game automatically places any new architecture at a set location on your behalf once you pay for its construction. Your real job as the king is to claim land and find wealth so that you can finance everything. Youíll do so by leading your troops into battle as you explore your realm.

Little King's Story asset

Although you have a tiny life meter (youíre dead if you take three hits without making a visit to a hot spring or your bed back at the castle), monster brawling isnít in your personal job description. Instead, youíll gather troops that then fall in behind you and venture forth when you direct them to do so. Initially, you can bring along only a few helpers, but your crewís maximum size grows as the game progresses. Donít worry about gimmicky controls, either; the analog stick on the Nunchuk directs the king and you can issue commands--Attack and Retreat, mostly--using the Wii Remote. On the face of things, the setup is simple and works just like it might on a more standard controller. The devil is in the details, though.

My main gripe with the game is that troops have trouble following the king through the numerous environments that quickly become cluttered as your empire expands. Your royal guard (the gameís term for the group that follows you everywhere) has a tendency to get caught up on fences, on the edge of buildings and so forth. By the time youíre commanding a group of 17 soldiers, itís all but impossible to make everyone climb a simple staircase without cautious preparation. Such issues also cropped up in games like Pikmin and Overlord, but here their impact on moment-to-moment gameplay is more severe. If youíre running along a narrow ledge with a shallow drop-off, for instance, several of your units may take the plunge and then you either have to advance without them or circle back and take another stab at walking along the ledge. In another instance, you may head along a screenís worth of terrain before realizing that three of your helpers are huddling against a wall rather than joining the action. Moments like those serve as a needlessly frustrating reminder that youíre not actually an eight-year-old king with a fantastic kingdom of adoring citizens at your disposal.

Control issues donít suddenly disappear once you engage in combat, either. Assume that you come across a group of monsters while all of your soldiers are actually following along like they should. Youíll then need to order them forward so that they attack the target you specify. A dashed line appears ahead of your character if you press the appropriate button, so that you donít have to guess where everyone might go. Once your troops charge, theyíll then attack an enemy or object until they die or until you direct them differently (either with a button press or by moving the king out of their limited range). You need to be careful not to wander too far away at any given moment, however, since enemies can and usually will re-spawn if you step outside of an arbitrary range. If youíre too far away when you issue the order to retreat, or if youíre not aiming perfectly, your troops might also take awhile to respond. In later battles, any delay could cost you more than youíre prepared to lose.

Little King's Story asset

For the most part, Little Kingís Story is a delight to play if youíre not dealing with those control issues. I can see why people are so quick to recommend it. While you may not directly control how your kingdom grows, watching it develop is still a thrill. Grassy plains sprout blacksmith shops, fields and windmills, plus youíll occasionally get to construct staircases (theyíre not nearly as difficult to build as they are to climb) and bridges that connect regions to one another. Thatís kind of cool. The world really comes to life, and visually itís all presented in soft tones that lend each environment a suitably ethereal quality. The amount of activity on-screen is genuinely surprising at times, and the sound effects and music suit things perfectly.

Once you get used to the gameís quirks, youíll settle into a lengthy experience that consists of two basic activities: quests and exploration. The resulting lack of variety can get old quickly if you play for several hours at once, but thereís plenty to keep you engaged when you opt for shorter sessions. Your kingdomís residents will write to you periodically, and you can accept side quests that yield significant rewards. Typically, someone will ask you to hunt down a beast that is making a nuisance of itself in one of the available regions. Youíll be provided with a time limit (in terms of in-game days) and with any luck, youíll vanquish the foul critter and earn the gratitude of your people. If quests arenít quite what you want, you can simply wander the world and look for treasure or new regions. There also are a few ongoing missions that ask you to find signs at various places of note, plus you can collect 100 pieces of in-game fan art for various rewards.

Though the kingdom you will come to rule isnít especially large, you wonít have access to much of it as your adventure begins. Youíll have to train helpers first. Early on, you can make Grunts (basic soldiers) and Farmers. Later, your citizens can learn skills such as carpentry (good for building bridges and stairs), archery (excellent for hunting monsters that are lethal at close quarters), mining and so forth. Youíll quickly learn that unless you want to spend a lot of time backtracking, you need to bring along a few characters from each class when you embark on an excursion. However, thereís risk involved in dragging a fragile character such as a merchant with you to a dangerous area, since any of your loyal subjects can die if things get too rough. Fallen characters donít return, either. Thereís a never-ending supply of new citizens, but losing some characters still stings. If you find yourself fighting a patch of savage radishes and the few soldiers you brought along donít quickly eliminate the threat, things can go south in a hurry, especially since itís difficult to control which units go where in the middle of a lively battle.

Little King's Story asset

Unfortunately, despite featuring some excellent ideas, the Little Kingís Story experience is defined more by its weaknesses than its strengths. I appreciate most of what the developers attempted here, but managing troops shouldnít be so difficult when troop management is the primary activity. If you donít mind grappling with the interface and youíre okay with the generally repetitive core design, I still recommend giving the game a shot. Otherwise, steer clear.


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Staff review by Jason Venter (March 31, 2012)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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