Why is Obama always complaining about creating jobs? It’s so EASY in New Little King’s Story! Though, I’m a pretty great king. All of my subjects love me, even if I constantly lead them into dangerous situations for my own personal gain. I also get my pick of seven princesses, all bidding for my heart. I’ve even got my own big, fancy throne! It’s good to be the king. Even a little one.
It has been branded as a remake of Little King’s Story published in 2009 by XSEED for the Wii, but NLKS really isn’t. It plays very similarly to the first LKS, but quickly opens up much more than the first game, and the story obviously takes place later. In New Little King’s Story, king Corobo must reclaim his kingdom after his castle and land have been burned and taken over by the oniis. After building a new castle, which is more like a shack in the beginning of the game, the king starts to recruit carefree citizens for his army. As you build new structures in your town, like training facilities for the different jobs, a hospital and a church, your numbers grow. Subjects will learn from trades such as carpenter, soldier and chef, which allows you to customize your team for any situation. Some jobs are strictly offense, like the close combat warrior or ranged bow-hunters, and others are specialties like the farmer who will grow crops and dig holes to find gold and items.
The king’s team follow directly behind him to be directed, or “charged,” at enemies or anything with which you can interact. Charging subjects at something will cause them to interact with it. If it’s a build site and you’ve thrown a carpenter, he’ll build stairs, a bridge or something else useful. If they can’t do anything with the object the unit will just file back into line. Combat can get a little boring at times as you plow tons of soldiers into every enemy in your path, but NLKS keeps things fresh. The capacity for soldiers you can have in your squad at once will grow, allowing different combinations of jobs on your team.
With enough subjects you can feel invincible, but the game finds ways to pick them off. The king is strong, but can take very few hits before being knocked out. So relying on your team and learning how to properly utilize them in battle is a very important part of the game. Each boss must be dealt with in a unique way. For instance, one is fought on a giant pinball table and the paddle is made up of a few of your squadmates. Bouncing the boss back into the table will cause damage to your subjects, making the fight stressful but challenging. Another turns the perspective into a sidescroller. Using only your finger, you charge citizens into enemies while the fight auto-scrolls. Defeating bosses in new areas will conquer the surrounding region and add it to the new kingdom. Exploration is a heavy factor in New Little King’s Story and is what primarily drives the story. As you defeat a few bosses, the king and his advisors find out the real villain behind the original kingdom’s takeover and his plan involving the princesses. Each boss has a princess in captivity, once she’s been saved the princess can join the king on expeditions. Each princess has a special ability, such as healing or buffs, to aide the king in battle. At the end, once they’ve all been saved, the king has his choice of princess for marriage which will change the ending of the game.
The map is huge and getting to a new area can be annoying sometimes. Making your way all the way across the board only to die and return to the castle can be very frustrating. Eventually your carpenters will build canons across the land that can propel the king and his crew to previously visited areas. A lot of things get simpler and less tiresome as the game moves along. At first your team can only follow directly behind the king like a tail that is always sticking straight out behind him no matter how quickly he turns. This will lead you to whip your subjects into fires, enemies, off ledges and into any number of dangerous situations. Later on your group will learn new formations to keep this from happening. Solving issues that are annoying early on give the game a good sense of progression. It not only makes sense because a society would naturally learn how to build bigger and better things, but it’s just good game design. Things should feel better as I learn how to be better at the game, both in my own personal skill and by building up my toolset within the game.
The game stays fun and engaging the entire way through, but the real treat is in the presentation. New Little King’s Story is a beautiful game, both aurally and visually. No two areas feel alike and the lush environments breathe back as your townsfolk start to seem like real people going about their lives. Citizens will build houses, grow crops, get married and have children to add to the population. Everyone has a name and I grew attached to my crew. I’d continuously recruit the same people because it really felt like they were a part of my team. Just as any loot-based item economy in a game, your group can look pretty silly at times. Equipped items actually show up on your subjects and they keep them on even when not recruited. Some people will be wearing Santa hats, a few will be wearing revealing samba dancer costumes and one will be dressed like a bear.
Each character is entirely unique and delightful. The king is silent, but everyone surrounding him is consistently funny and charming from the straight-laced advisor to Verde, the records minister with a secret crush on the king. Each princess, drawing personality quirks from Japanese tropes and fiction stereotypes, is wildly different, which will affect your decision at the end of the game. One is a pop singer who briefly turns the game into a Hatsune Miku video, another is a visitor from a parallel dimension and the first princess fills the classic damsel role. It may be the cutsey anime look, but I get the same feeling playing New Little King's Story as I do watching some of Hayao Miyazaki's best films like My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away.
The adorable, colorful aesthetic is offset by a bit of darkness. The fact that you’re traveling to new areas to conquer them by eradicating hundreds of helpless creatures is pointed out and the princesses have some pretty... suggestive things to say to the king. The in-game models are super deformed, but NLKS uses the popular method of dialogue boxes with anime-style character portraits that are a bit more detailed. The men go from adorable to cute and the women shift from squat to thing and shapely. It’s tough sometimes to tell to whom the game is focused, but I think it’s safe to classify it as ‘all ages.’
New Little King’s Story moves along briskly and is a delight to play. A game like this should be required for your playing diet. It’s much more healthy to throw a light, cute game into the mix of murder simulators. The only real issues I had with the game are a few minor technical issues. Up close some of the models can seem simple and washed out, and occasionally your troops will just plain ignore orders. It can be tough to reorder your squad individually and make sure you’re sending off the right guy. These are all tiny issues that won’t get in the way of your enjoyment.
New Little King’s Story is fun, adorable and will keep you going for hours after finishing the story. It plays a bit like Pikmin, but is different enough to feel all it’s own. If you’re looking for something light on the strategy, inventive and super cute, definitely give New Little King’s Story a shot on your Vita right away.