King of the castle?

As part of our Game of the Year Awards, Nintendo Life is inviting you to choose one game as your Reader’s Game of the Year. You can vote for anything released on a Nintendo platform in 2009, be it WiiWare, DSiWare, Wii or DS, but you only get one vote, so use it wisely!

To remind you of some of the stellar titles we’ve seen in 2009, we’ll be writing a series of articles recommending some games that you may have forgotten about in the traditional Christmas rush. Here, James Newton (who else?) returns to Alpoko to put forward Little King’s Story for your consideration.

One of the highest-rated Wii games of the year, Little King's Story combines the best aspects of Pikmin and Harvest Moon into a real-time strategy game where you command troops into battle against giant mushrooms, dragons and enormous pinball gourmands. The ultimate aim is to lead the kingdom of Alpoko from a humble little shack with some layabout citizens into the greatest and largest kingdom the world has ever known. What this boils down to, as the game doesn’t mind pointing out from time to time, is a huge amount of genocide.

Howser is a tribute to Bowser. FACT!

It’s very rare for a game to walk the line between childish and adult, but Little King’s Story does so brilliantly, peppering its storybook graphics and tales of dragon-slaying with taxes, unemployment and funerals. You can play as conscionably as you like – let your citizens roam free and keep them happy or turn them all into mega carpenters and treasure hunters and work them to an early death. Usually if one of your citizens dies in battle they’re resurrected, but the first time you play and one doesn’t return is a gaming moment that sticks with you for a long time. It’s never truly revealed why your right-hand man Howser hates the Onii so much, but then in how many games do you ever really care why you’re being asked to obliterate enemies? The fact that a game inspired by classical children’s literature – producer Yoshirou Kimura was influenced by The Little Prince – can raise questions about mortality and ethnic cleansing is a testament to not only the game’s development team but the fantastic translation work done to bring it to the Western world.

Little King’s Story isn’t all funerals and racism, though: it’s a wonderfully imaginative game, with rival monarchs ranging from the ever-inebriated Duvroc to the mess of glue-and-pencils Jumbo Champloon. Whilst uniting – read: dominating – the world you won’t come across the stereotypical ice world, the lava world and so on: instead there’s a kingdom of cakes and sweets, an island of deadly household implements and a land where the inhabitants always party. It’s a tired cliché that there’s always something new to see, but Alpoko becomes a land of constant surprises throughout the game.

And what a big game it is too. A single streamlined playthrough would probably take no more than twenty hours, but that would miss out the reams and reams of sidequests – collecting the paintings, obtaining all the special items, finding the Wonder Spots, recipes, songs and completing the requests of your villagers as left in your suggestion box. The feeling of waking up (to Peer Gynt’s “Morning”, of course) to tackle each new day is as addictive as Harvest Moon, only with a lot more killing.

With a brilliant soundtrack comprising new compositions as well as famous classical pieces, a fantastic script touching on everything from God to noodles and some hugely creative and imaginative design there’s really very, very little to rival Little King’s Story. Our only regret is depriving it of a much-deserved 10/10 rating in our review, but rest assured – Little King’s Story is every bit as enjoyable as any game on the system, with a huge heart and production values to match. If you haven’t bought it yet, you owe it yourself and your Wii to try it out. If you do own it already, go back and play it again: Alpoko has missed you.

If you think Little King's Story deserves your vote as Game of the Year, make sure we know about it! Use the Contact Us form, message it to us on Twitter or leave a voicemail on our Skype line at the username NintendoLife. We'll have more games lined up for your consideration in the near future, so keep coming back to see which games we think deserve your vote as Nintendo Life Reader's Game of the Year!