It’s a story with a little King. And it’s new. Sort of.
The original Little King’s Story was a well received hit in 2009 on the Wii, gaining general acclaim across the board. Labelled as a real time strategy life simulation game, we find ourselves with a sequel here, exclusive to the Vita. Well, a sequel of sorts as it is pretty much the same game as the original with slightly tweaked characters and a love system. I didn’t get round to playing the Wii version so I cannot make any accurate comparisons to it from experience, but it will give me the opportunity to explain the game from a fresh neutral viewpoint. And a strategy game is a welcome one in a genre which is lacking somewhat in numbers on the Vita.
The game starts off with a midnight escape from the castle as the kingdom becomes ravished by evil beasties, and the seven princesses have been kidnapped. There isn’t much of a kingdom left, but you still have your advisors and a few villagers. With these loyal followers you then venture out and defeat your first enemies and over the first five days (which basically serve as an introductory tutorial to the game) you will learn that you set out, kill monsters and complete objectives before returning to your throne to complete your business – not that kind of throne business of course, but relating to your kingdom – as you can then convert your collected spoils into currency which will then expand your kingdom. These expansions start off small, with additional houses (to gain more villagers) and the growth of the number of soliders you can control to new buildings capable of creating new types of units.
These units are quite different and vary from your typical soldier grunt, farmers, carpenters, animal hunters, chefs, lumberjacks, miners and many more and all serving a different purposes. Your grunts are your typical brawlers, farmers can dig holes that you find, carpenters can build bridges, stairs and general linking features to the next part of the world. Animal hunters are skilled archers and can attack enemies from range, chefs are able to defeat some enemy types in one hit (such as giant chickens) whilst lumberjacks and miners can destroy the large trees/boulders that block your path. Every unit has its own level, and they all level up individually of each other, and you can also equip them with weapons and armour to increase these stats further.
Controlling these soldiers, who form the royal guard is very simple. You control King Corobo, and anyone currently follows along behind you, Pikmin style. Aim towards whatever you are targeting and use the square button to throw your soliders at it. By using the triangle you can cycle through your tropps – and you can eventually have thirty of them – to ensure that the right ones are doing what they need to. The circle will call all of your troops back to you whilst a press of the x will swipe your own sword. Corobo will only sustain three hits before dying though, so I don’t recommend storming into battle, Richard the Third style. If any of your team become incapacitated though, they will end up at the local hospital and you’ll have to wait a few game days for them to recover, or you can pay to speed the process up. Their NHS is not too good either, it seems. The touch screen is used a little, you can target enemies directly and Corobo will throw then next available unit at that monster, but I found myself using the buttons more. The second stick is used to manoeuvre the camera around and the rear touch is not used at all.
It’s not all about attacking creatures though, you are also trying to rebuild your kingdom and almost everything drops treasure once smashed, and as you conquer more territories and your kingdom expands, more structures can be built increasing both the types and amount of soldiers available. But this in turn also increases the strain on the Vita, and with all of this happening in real time you will start noticing bouts of severe slowdown. It doesn’t happen often, but when there are multiple enemies on screen and/or you have a lot on screen and a full entourage then be prepared to see it. Which is a shame as it is one of the only bad things in the game, the game itself looks very nice with a cross between the nicely detailed sprites and themed buildings and some nice anime styled character interactions. These pieces show up when portions of the story are relayed at the end of every day, or when you have rescued one of the pricesses. Which is handy because most of it is just nonsense.
An element of the game which is slightly annoying is the way it attempts to drag it out somewhat. I’m all for games with a great deal to keep you occupied but by the time I had rescued all of the princesses and was ready to face the devil king – which was around 23 hours – the game them basically gave a big two fingers up and told me that I had to go and rescue the crystals, representing the girls’ life force again from where I originally found them. With the benefit of a much larger team and the ability to fast travel via the jump cannons that you probably wouldn’t have had the first time around it isn’t that big a deal, but it was a very unwelcome addition to my progress. On the flip side though are the exploration quests, one for each lady which have a nice amount of variety from collecting the tunes of choice that your villagers are singing and the variety of food within the land to to the more extreme end which is rescuing the animals from UFOs that have crashed around the land. And with 15 major boss quests (although 7 are optional) there is plenty here to keep you occupied, even if at later difficulties you just spam soldiers at them.
There is also some sort of alchemy mini game which is mainly used for the creation of three new types of units, which is essential for those of you that are looking for a platinum, but it is extremely fiddly and very frustrating.
Which leaves you with a bit of a mixed bag, and it left me struggling as to what to score it. I’ve very much enjoyed playing New Little Kings Story, and I couldn’t put it down during my whole playthrough, and as rubbish as the overall plot is I felt compelled to complete the story. But it really is hindered a bit by the poor mechanics and the way that the city not only evolves but the way it impacts the performance of the game. For that – and the minor other frustrations – it’s only a good game, and not a great one. But it’s definitely worth a look.