Little King's Story
What with the likes of Madworld, The Conduit, and House
of the Dead currently spearheading something of a
hardcore Wii takeover, it's easy to forget that the house
of Nintendo was not built on guts and gore like its
competitors, but on cute and cuddly. Super Mario Bros,
Donkey Kong, Kirby, Animal Crossing, Pikmin... there's a
time and a place for more adult-oriented action, but
these are the games that a true Nintendo fan holds dear
above any others.
So what with the Wii taking a turn for the bleak and
bloody, it's great to see a game like Little King's Story
come along and remind us exactly why we picked
Nintendo over the rest. Beautiful character design,
charming narratives, eccentric dialogue, giant and
magical worlds to explore, inventive and accessible
gameplay, and a hefty challenge that belies a game's
cute stylings. It's rare that a game ticks all those boxes
this day and age, and even rarer that the game is not
actually made by Nintendo themselves. But I'm happy to
report that Little King's Story has come out of nowhere
and blown my (and thousands of other fans') socks off. A
real surprise package, there's a good chance that you
won't play a finer videogame this year, first party or
A huge assortment of characters is just part of LKS's charm.
A gorgeous, bizarre hand-drawn intro sets the scene. A
lonely young lad kicks around his bedroom, when a
family of rats dash across his floor. He follows them out
of the house and into the woods where they lead him to
a golden crown hidden in the trees. He pits it on, at
which point four mysterious subjects materialise and
pronounce him as their long awaited king. It's here that
the gameplay kicks in.
Little King's Story is essentially a clever mix of Pikmin,
Animal Crossing and Command and Conquer. You start
off in a modest little shack with just a handful of
followers. Venture outside and toss some of your citizens
, Pikmin-style, into any holes in the ground that you may
come across and they'll dig up some treasure. Take this
treasure to your right-hand-man in the 'castle' and he
will convert it into cash where you can buy buildings or
facilities like a farm house. Direct a citizen inside and
they will become a farmer, capable of both farming and
digging for small cracks in the soil, perhaps uncovering
more bounty. Using this loot, you may buy a Guard
House, where you can train your subjects up as soldiers
and then lead them to expand your kingdom.
Even the map looks fun.
As your realm expands, citizens will start dropping
'quests' into a Suggestion Box, asking you for favours
such as throwing out trouble makers or take on
'guardians' causing chaos in a peripheral region of your
domain. To gain control of their territory, you'll obviously
have to give these guardians a pasting.The combat
works exactly the same as it does in Pikmin. Toss your
soldiers at your foe and let them get on with it, while you
watch for signs of a counterattack.
Defeat a guardian and you'll be rewarded with the more
cash which you can use to develop their turf. As you
continue to expand your kingdom, you'll find various
geographical obstructions in your way. You'll have to
save your money to construct the necessary building in
which to train your subjects as carpenters (to build
bridges or staircases), miners (to remove boulders), or
lumberjacks (to remove trees or stumps). You can also
construct buildings to train a different variety of soldiers,
such as archers wizards or veteran grunts to take on
bigger, badder foes.
This picture doesn't even need a caption.
Once you've completed a number of quests, recruited the
necessary citizen types and opened up the right area
you'll go up against one of a number of kings -
essentially huge boss fights that form the backbone of
the plot. Defeating these kings will start your quest for
That's the game in a nutshell, but I've barely scratched
the surface of the wider experience on offer. From its
simple, approachable beginnings, Little King's Story
builds and builds, adding ever more complex elements.
It's perfectly paced - you're always on the verge of
feeling overwhelmed by everything that's going on. But
just as you start to panic, a new element is brought into
play that brings everything back together.
Each mission requires a wisely custom-tailored team of citizens.
As well as the main plot (which should take the average
gamer around 30 hours to complete), there's also a
lovely Animal Crossing-like experience going on, which is
like a game in itself. There's a huge cast of characters in
your town to interact with, including a terrifying
evangelist monkey-priest who worships ramen noodles.
These characters, such as a dotty art gallery owner who
demands new pieces, provide engaging sub-quests and
plenty of things to do. There are festivals to celebrate,
flowers to plant, matchmaking to be mastered, weddings
to attend and citizens to customise.
There are a few downers, though. There is a LOT of
backtracking between the frontlines and the castle to
continually save your progress, trade your spoils and
bring in different team members. The Kaboom Jump
Cannons that blast you around your kingdom settle this a
little bit, but the process can still be frustrating. The
combat becomes repetitive - victory always comes down
to just deploying and recalling troops at the right
moment - although the boss fights are to be relished.
Even Zelda: Wind Waker's Valoo makes an appearance. (:
For the most part, it's bewitching, magical stuff. The
enemy design is absolutely gorgeous - giant snakes,
killer toadstools, flying cows, psychotic sheep,
cake-addicted aristocrats, fire-breathing dragons,
murderous turnips, pac-men on pogo sticks, obese
cockerels, ravenous toads... they're all a joy to meet and
you'll almost be reluctant to put in the sword. Your
subjects are delightfully nuanced too, from your
moustachioed , Machiavellian right hand man Howser, to
th sheer unadulterated awesomeness of Pancho the
barking cow. These touches are thanks to the likes of
Kazuyuki Kurashima, also responsible for such classics as
Super Mario RPG and Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga.
I could go on for hours talking about all the genius
touches that Marvelous Studios have crammed into the
game. There is just so much to enjoy here. It's so
refreshing to see a game that's not afraid to offer gamers
a whopping Zelda-length quest wrapped in the sort of
charm, wit and inventiveness rarely seen outside of a
first-party title. Little King's Story is a game that
reminds you why you fell in love with Nintendo gaming.