Cute graphics hide mature themes
Good strategy games are few and far between on the Wii, and with Nintendo remaining stubbornly tight-lipped about its upcoming Pikmin 3, thereís a rather large void in the systemís library. Luckily, developer Cing is filling that niche with Little Kingís Story. Looks are definitely deceiving with this one; the story-book graphics make it look like itís targeted to a younger audience, but this probably isnít one for the kiddies. Beneath its adorable presentation, youíre going to find a game about the abuse of power, the effect of religion on society, conquest, genocide, and polygamy. If that fails to surprise you, wait until you see what else Little Kingís Story has in store: itís the most deceptively deep and mature game on the system.
At the start of the game, the titular king has just a derelict castle and a single ambition: total global domination. But he can hardly be expected to tackle other kingdoms without one of his own, and this is where the first half of the gameplay comes in. All the treasure you find is converted into the gameís currency, Bol, which can be used to buy new buildings in your kingdom. At first the expansion is a little limited, but as the kingdom starts to grow so do your options.
There are loads of upgrades to buy - you can train your subjects to make them more proficient in combat or to perform specific tasks, attract more citizens to your kingdom, or purchase various options to streamline gameplay. Many of the buildings are purely cosmetic, and since there seems to be a large emphasis on player preference when it comes to your kingdomís expansion, itís confusing that you canít choose where to put your buildings. All locations are preset, and it would have been so much more fun to decide what the kingdom looked like for yourself. It would have provided a stronger emotional attachment to the world, and itís a disappointing exclusion.
Citizens for all purposes
Buildings aside, I certainly felt attached to my kingdomís many citizens. Cing has put a great effort into making your subjects endearing and fun. The way they scramble to see you as you pass and shout ĎHail!í in their adorably squeaky voices is guaranteed to make you smile. They will send letters of praise or mild complaint via the kingdomís suggestion box, attend church services, and occasionally fall in love and get married. Theyíre surprisingly well-crafted and, much like the rest of the game, treated with more attention to detail and TLC than anyone ever would have expected. I loved my little minions so much that I would go as far as restarting the game after leading too many of them to their untimely deaths.
And they will die, all for the good of their great kingdom. In order to expand, you must venture out into the world and do battle with the different Guardian bosses, some of which are truly formidable foes who will give even the most seasoned gamers a run for their money. This is the second half of the gameplay cycle. Once an area is pacified, it can be built on, allowing for new job centers. After teaching your subjects new trades, you can use them to access new areas, which can be conquered and so on. Itís a simple cycle, but one that works.
Not only kingdom building
Thereís much, much more to the game, though. There are too many sidequests and distractions to count; you can record locations for your first wife, find the lost fan-art carried by a bumbling courier, or treasure-hunt to continue expanding your kingdom. The Suggestion Box also allows your subjects to drop lines about hidden treasures or Guardian rumors. I can easily see a person spending a good forty hours with the game; thereís just so much to do, and all of it worthwhile. It sometimes feels like the world isnít big enough for all this content. Backtracking is frequent, especially since the only way to save or heal is by returning to your castle. Iíve often had to abandon a quest halfway through to go back to home base and rest.
Deep, challenging adventure with lots of replay value; beautiful art style; surprisingly mature sense of humour.
Lots of backtracking and grinding; sound effects annoying.