We've all dreamed of being King or Queen of our own miniature Kingdom: sat upon our thrones, dishing out orders from on high, pleasing our loyal subjects and amassing loads and loads of money. Sadly, for anyone other than the bosses of Nintendo Life, this is destined never to come true, but don't despair, regal wannabes! Little King's Story is here to ease your pain.
The game opens with a thoroughly charming introduction showing the main character, Corobo, as he plays with his puppets and eventually finds a mysterious gold crown. As soon as the crown touches his head, he becomes the true King of the land of Alpoko and is met by his new advisors, who lead him to survey his new Kingdom. Sadly for Corobo, the “Kingdom” is just a ramshackle castle and a few pitiful houses, but chief advisor Howser has a plan – by leading his carefree subjects out into the field, Corobo can find enough treasure to start improving his Kingdom, starting with a farm.
It might seem surprising for a cartoon-styled game, but one of the main problems in Alpoko is unemployment. Its lazy citizens will happily idle all their time away, so it’s up to King Corobo to find jobs for them, a simple matter of building a training school and sending the subjects inside with a quick press of . Once graduated, you can use their new farming skills to dig up cracks to find more treasure, which you then spend on building a guard hut. It’s a classic progression – each new skill gives you more treasure to buy more skills – but it’s beautifully paced, and means that each new day will always give you somewhere new to explore or a new skill to utilise. Once your grunts are trained, you can start to take on the UMA, a race of evil monsters who obstruct your Kingdom’s expansion.
A lot like Pikmin, your time is spent between exploration and combat, and the controls for both are very similar. You recruit citizens to follow you with , send them straight ahead using and recall them to you with another tap of . Unlike Pikmin, however, it’s much more difficult to set-up individual teams to tackle tasks simultaneously – if you leave your carpenters building a bridge, for example, walking too far away makes them abandon their work and return to you, resetting the bridge back to square one. Even if you’re careful not to wander too far away, pressing to recruit more followers also recalls any workers, meaning you can only really focus on one job at a time. However, this isn’t Pikmin, so it’s not such a problem – as a much smaller scale game with only eight or twelve followers to begin with, it’s much less necessary to split your squad between tasks.
Once you’ve explored a few regions of the Kingdom you’ll be able to afford a town square with a suggestion box, which is where you receive feedback from your citizens at the end of each day. It’s a great feature that’s one of many striking similarities to classic Gamecube launch title Doshin the Giant, as your subjects tell you what they like about you and your rule, and often send in rumours of quests for you to embark on. Clearing each quest is usually a matter of defeating a boss, which then allows you to expand your lands and explore the game further. With combat playing such an important part in your progression, it’s a relief it’s so enjoyable and intense. Using the same controls as in the field, you send your subjects out to swarm all over skull-headed cows, giants frogs and other bizarre enemies, learning their attack patterns and co-ordinating your squad accordingly. The first few bosses are a simple matter of sending your men out with , recalling them with at the right moment and repeating until the enemy is defeated, but they quickly become more difficult with multiple enemies to take care of and projectiles battering the ground.
One of the game’s features that lifts it above Pikmin is extremely simple – the use of people instead of plant-creatures. Each citizen has a name, will greet you with a cheery hello or fearful scowl depending on their views of you, and keeping the same members in your Royal Guard can even result in them falling in love! Above their little heads floats a group of blue orbs, which represents their HP, so when little Lily’s health is getting low you can send her to the back of the pack with a tap of Down on the D-pad. Sometimes battles get so frantic that this isn’t easy though, and if one of your party members runs out of HP a little ticker scrolls across informing you they croaked or kicked the bucket, which can be genuinely disappointing when they’ve been a loyal servant for a long time.
Although it would be an exaggeration to say that each of your followers is a strong character in their own right, they do certainly lend a lot of charm to the game as the guards strut around, farmers till the fields and even the cows and chickens nod reverentially as you pass. The animation and graphics, although a little fuzzy sometimes, are fantastic, with a rich and charming storybook feel that many people will misconstrue as childish. From its adorable introductory movie, fantastic colour palette and brilliant touches of animation, Little King’s Story oozes class and it’s a real treat to watch.
Musically the game excels too, using famous pieces of classical music to match the tone of each scene. The introductory movie uses a vocal arrangement of Ravel’s Bolero and the title screen calls you to stand proud at Pomp and Circumstance. There’s also some fantastic original pieces, particularly the tune that accompanies you in the fields surrounding Alpoko Castle, and the sound effects are every bit as sweet, particularly the strange gobbledegook your advisors speak, a strange mix of backwards Japanese and Animal Crossing-style Bebese.
Waking up to Morning from Peer Gynt, each day greets you with something new crawling across on the Alpoko News ticker, usually a new building finished or a new area available to expand. Like Harvest Moon and Pikmin before it, Little King’s Story masterfully convinces you to play just one more day, as there’s always something new to accomplish or see before you head back to the castle and save your game. The game has drawn criticism in some quarters for not allowing you to record your progress in the field, but then this is no different from the two games referenced earlier, and means you always start your new day in the middle of your Kingdom, greeted by your loyal subjects. What could be better?
Little King’s Story is a gem in the Wii’s catalogue; full of charm, style and addictive gameplay, it deserves to sell much more than New Play Control! Pikmin 2, coincidentally released on the same day. With a fantastic script and localisation, greater variety in the tasks involved and dozens of moments that will bring a beaming smile to your face, Little King’s Story outdoes Miyamoto’s garden game on every level. The King is dead – long live the King!
Excellent review! I'd pretty much forgotten about this. Let's hope it sells well!
looks bad but good review
Forgotten about it? I've been hassling you about it non-stop this week!
I really hope it sells well because it really deserves to. It's miles better than most of Rising Star's recent output on Wii and is a great game in its own right. Get buying!
Nice review and on the day of release too!
Great review!!! I'm buyin'!
After this and IGN's positive reviews, I'm really looking forward to this game. I've been curious about it since it popped up on the radar last year but it's good to see that it's actually living up to the anticipation. Looking forward to playing this game in June!
Why must we have to wait so long! =(
Excellent review, and another excellent feedback for LKS. Anything that has something in common with Pikmin is OK in my book.
Lovely review for a lovely game, thanks James.
I only played through to building a farming workshop yesterday; trying to divide my time between this and Fire Emblem will be tough!
Great revw. I've read the one in ONM too. Sounds a real banging game but unfortuneatly not ,my kind of game
Thanks for the kind comments. At first I toyed with the idea of giving this a 10, but its very small problems were enough to knock off a point - particularly the lack of proper 60Hz compatibility, which is a shame in this day and age.
It's a great game and well worth a look out of curiosity from anyone who thinks it looks interesting. I find myself itching to play it whenever I think of it!
Nice review. This only further confirms my already confirmed decision to get this game. The one niggling point is the longevity. Is it really as much of a marathon as I've heard? I'm afraid I'm a little time poor at the moment...
I must admit I haven't completed it yet but judging from the size of the game map, it could be a bit of a long one!
Pass - I'll be getting Punch Out!! and Excitebots.
See my problem with this game is that I don't really like the art style or HUD or look of the game in general and I do like Pikmin's art style ans stuff, and at least I already know Pikmin plays well and that I will enjoy it, so what would I choose...
It's a sim style game though. I don't see why it couldn't be played in 30min - 1hr. chunks and interspersed with playing other games. The lack of an autosave feature just means you need to remember to return to your castle to save, but that's easily done with a press of the 2 button.
Whose brilliant idea was it to put this out the same day as Pikmin 2? These corporate decisions just baffle me on sooooo many levels...
This has gone from a 90% chance of purchase to 100%, I have been looking forward to this game and will be getting this and Pikmin 2.
Infact this is the first time since i bought my Wii that the games have been coming out faster than i can buy them what with this, Pikmin 2, Punchout!!, Boom Blox 2 and The Conduit - along with any VC/Wiiware releases
Who said there were not enough good releases for the Wii???
Spot on Sean - I just found the 2 Button earlier and it made things a lot easier.
Personally I think it's miles better than Pikmin, both in terms of its gameplay and its presentation, but on the other hand I can see it's probably quite an acquired taste. It's not like there's only room for one, though - Stevie's leading by example and buying them both!
ive been waiting for this game to release ever since i read about it.i was going to buy this anyway but this review was very helpful. now all i have to do is sit by the calender and wait.
Aw sweet, I wanted this game, this confirms my purchase
Wow, I knew this game was going to be good but better than Pikmin?! AWESOME! I have been following this game since I first saw it in Nintendo Power magazine and I'm glad it will be worth the wait! I pre-ordered my copy from GameStop so I can get my Onii stress doll! More people should give this game a chance instead of just judging it on the unique art-style. You may be missing out on a great game!
Great review, James! I wasn't that interested in this game initially, but it's getting a lot of good press, so I'll definitely check it out sometime. We'll see if it's better than Pikmin.
It seems as if every member here these days is joining the review/news crew. I'd love to sign up as a reviewer, but I never have enough time on my hands...
June 23rd can't come soon enough!
Unrealated, but you guys working on an Exitebots review?
Brill review James. Got this today based on your review and the multitude of other high scores it's gotten, and it really is fantastic. Granted, I'm only an hour or so in but it's just so charming and full of life.
That's great to hear, Shortay! I'm glad you found the review useful and I totally agree - it's such a vibrant game and it gets better as it goes along too.
Bahamut - it's in the works, but the reviewer has not long ago had a baby so it's all fitting around that. It'll hopefully be up soon!
@Prosody: Who? Tell them congrats for me.
I managed to get in more time on this and Fire Emblem as well tonight.
It really is very nice; I now have a town square. I have to say I do agree with Ellie Gibson at Eurogamer that Howser saying the Onii should be "obliterated" is a bit off-putting, but they are Japanese demons, so I guess that's not unreasonable...
Awesome review! I'm definitely picking this one up when it hits the US of A.
Sean - personally I see it as a scathing satire on the nature of war, particularly in view of some of Howser's statements a few hours in. It's the Wii's "Apocalypse Now"
True, true, humour with a dark heart I've heard it described as. It's definitely not a kiddie game; there's a decent amount of ironic undertones in it.
Still not sure.
Saying that even if I was I am out of cash anyway
The game is nowhere to be found in the Netherlands, what the hell....
So I found a site that import games from the UK and doesn't require a creditcard.
Hopefully I will be able to play this (most likely) awesome game this week!
@ Bahamut ZERO
I believe it would be Dazza.
Major props on getting this review out so fast!
Beautiful use of the little Wii button images.
I don't think I know or have every met anybody that could possibly have this many points though. Oh wait, I am in the USA where club nintendo just bloody started.
Is there no IR functionality in this game? I'd imagine that the IR pointer would be tremendously useful. That and the lack of save features are a bummer. Excited about the game though.
Nope, no IR functionality and I agree that seems odd, but I guess it keeps the controls simple -- after all you don't fling the people like Pikmin! The save thing isn't a huge deal, though it would have been cool to set up a base camp in the field to bed down for the night instead of going all the way back to the castle (I haven't got a big enough kingdom to have this come up yet, though).
The game world is massive though. I just crossed the river and can see this will go on for quite some time!
I thought the pointer would have been useful to hover over your subjects in the field and see a little more information about them, but it's not a big deal.
I popped it on for another few hours the other night and can see how big it's going to be. I haven't even explored 60% of the world map yet as I'm saving up to buy an arcade for the merchants, but I'm too busy arranging marriages and ordering my citizens to do exercises at night! What a brilliant, brilliant, brilliant game.
This games looks amazing, and truly original! I am going to order it now
I'm definitely buying it!
I cant wait til this comes out! Definetly at the top of my list after reading the review.
We have to wait 6+ months for games like Muramasa and Layton... So we know how you feel =]
I picked this up for £18 today, new from Zavvi - get it while they still sell it for that ridicilous price.
Sales for this have been abysmal, it deserves so much better =/
If any of you Americans are interested, Gamefly is currently slated to have Little King's Story in stock on 7/23/2009. Assuming that the date doesn't change in the near future (I doubt it will), you can probably expect to see it at retail two days prior to the aforementioned date.
I just wish I could bring myself to finish it!
Do it dude! Btw, I can't believe I bought the game having read your review, but completed it before you. Is it a paradox, or where you just being naughty?
I received a review copy a few days before the game's release, so was able to fit in some solid gameplay before I wrote the review. I've reviewed a fair few games since then but none has sparkled quite like this one. I'm still very tempted to give it a 10...
Good thing it's coming out soon here...can't wait sounds like a fun game!
I wish this was available in America. I've got some store credit burning a hole in my pocket.
On 24th April I went down to Blockbuster and bought.....Pikmin 2!
I guess the trusted Nintendo franchise approach won me over, rather than take a risk on something new! Don't hate me!
This sounds pretty good. Is it worth $50 though?
I have actually bought this game a few months ago...brilliant. One of the top 10 games on the Wii imho
It sounds sort like crystl barriaers. And a little bit like sims. Both are not my first picks, but some of the other elements of the game really instrest me. I'll have to check it out. Oh, and Prosody, very nice review.
Considering getting this!
Great Game one of the few games ever that I can play even after I die
I love Metroid, Zelda, Pikmin, and Mario but I always stop playing after I die more than 5 times in a row
Man, I don't know about this one, it's gotten great reviews. I have all three systems and a ton of games though, so I might not end up ever buying this gem ...
A wonderful game, a lot of strategy and adorable characters. Howser is a advisor with some big conquering plan in mind. Really 9/10 or maybe a little more...buy it if you like of strategy games or if you like light hearted games or if you like pretty graphics or of you like ... just get it.
Got it today for £5. Bargain!
Just found this new for $19.99. Still a bargain!
Very intrigued and itching to jump in. I liked Pikmin 1 okay, but the concept of LKS seems much more compelling to me than the whole Alien/Pod-people thing, charming as it was...
I hope you're enjoying it, LittleIrves!
I bought this a while back and still haven't tried it, but this review makes me want to play it very soon. Great review!
This game is really fun and addicting, but honestly, I prefer the Pikmin games. But I agree with the score, this is an outstanding game.
Also, just out of curiosity, why is it rated 7+ in EU and T in US?
I see nothing in this game worthy of a T rating besides a small amount of dark humor, lol.
I love this game so much, the art style is cute and the gameplay is awesome. The only thing is, the camera sometimes drives me insane.
I think I'm a bad ruler because my people are always dying, good thing they have no choice but to do my bidding lol.
Definitely a must-have for anyone going back to the Wii. It had a great story, lovable characters, silly (and occasionally dark) humour, the best boss fights I have ever seen, and of course, beautiful renditions of classical pieces.
Perhaps the one major problem I have with this game is any and every set of stairs. Those are literally the worst part of the game. (So hard to walk on without any guys falling off the edges or getting caught behind the stairs)
Music: Phenomenal (96%)
Story: Quite Enjoyable, very fitting (90%)
Characters/humour: Hilarious, yet charming (95%)
Gameplay and controls: Pretty much what you would expect (85%)
Art/Design: Childish, in the best way possible (95%)
Fun: You bet. I had a blast (100%)
Final ranking : Hidden Masterpiece (A+)
Seriously, buy this game (This review is for the Wii version, as I do not currently own the steam version).
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