New Little King’s Story Review For PlayStation Vita
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation Vita
I think that I was in the minority of gamers back in 2009, due to the fact that I actually purchased the original Little King’s Story upon its release for the Nintendo Wii. Critically well-received but in no way commercially successful, Little King’s Story flew too far under many gamers’ radars for it to create much of a splash. Luckily for King Corobo and his loyal citizens, New Little King’s Story, an enhanced version of the Wii original, has recently been released on the PlayStation Vita via the PlayStation store. Is Sony’s handheld the perfect platform to give the kingdom of Alpoko a little more exposure?
In terms of enhancements for the Vita, perhaps the most obvious is the addition of a touchscreen. While this functionality isn’t used all that much, it does allow you to select citizens (either individually or as a group) into your royal guard. In terms of gameplay, citizens can now gain experience from defeating monsters, and they can also level up, which grants them extra lifepoints and a greater attack. The same bonuses can also be conferred from various clothing items that can be found in the form of treasure throughout the kingdom, and which can be used to personalise your royal guard’s appearance.
New Little King’s Story is a perfect example of a genre mash-up because it mixes elements of the strategy, role-playing and city-building genres, along with a large dose of exploration and a little bit of puzzle solving. As King Corobo, players have to assign their citizens specific jobs, recruit them into their royal guard and travel across the kingdom, regaining territory for the King and defeating the monsters that have made Alpoko their home. The story of New Little King’s Story isn’t really all that important in terms of how the game is approached, and all players really need to know is that a number of princesses have been caught in suspended animation and need to be rescued.
To recruit citizens, Corobo needs to call them to his side by using the circle button (the touchscreen can also be used to select groups of citizens with a lasso-type motion). Once a character is following the King, they can be ordered to ‘charge’ by using the square button. If a ‘carefree’ citizen (one with no assigned job) is charged into a job building, they are assigned that particular job. New Little King’s Story contains a decent selection of jobs for its citizens to undertake, each with a specific function or strength. You start with the basic selection of grunt soldiers and farmers but soon you can create carpenters, chefs, alchemists and miners, amongst others.
Each job has its own particular function but is also able to perform other jobs, just not to the same extent as someone who specialises in that task. For example, a grunt soldier’s primary purpose is to fight, but soldiers can also come in handy when destroying obstacles on a path. If you come across holes in the ground, a farmer is your primary choice to dig down and see what secrets it hides; a carpenter or miner is also able to perform the task, just not so quickly. This means that while you don’t have to have one of every job type in your royal guard all the time, it’s certainly handy having a healthy mixture of citizens to deal with a vast number of problems or obstacles you encounter.
It’s here that the most crippling problem with New Little King’s Story rears its ugly head. Early on in the game you are given the option to build a platform, from which you can summon your citizens to your character and recruit them into your royal guard. The issue is that you can only recruit a certain team at any one time, be they battle (soldiers and archers), build (carpenters) or something else. You can recruit members of these teams into your royal guard, but as soon as you then select another team to recruit from, all the citizens that are already a part of your guard will disperse. You can only select citizens from one particular team, and if you need other job types in your party, you have to wander through the various towns that you’ve unlocked and recruit them in person. This is time-consuming and inconvenient, and is further hindered by the fact that some citizens may be within buildings at any particular time and from here they can’t be recruited. It means that there is a lot of aimless wandering to be done each time before you set out on a quest, and if you’re eager to get going, this can be a huge pain.
Once you do finally manage to recruit a satisfactory party to begin your adventures, New Little King’s Story starts to come alive. The kingdom of Alpoko is well represented on the Vita with clear graphics and an enjoyably whimsical air to the animations and environments. The only real issue encountered with the visuals is that at certain points NPC characters and animals seem to shake back and forth, as if they’re stuck on an item of scenery and can’t move off of it. The graphics are complemented by some good music direction, the main theme of which is taken from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. The camera can be a little difficult to work with sometimes, particularly as it can refuse to move if there is scenery in the way, but most of the time you can clearly see where you and your troops are going.
This is where the next main problem with the game becomes apparent. Whether a deliberate design decision or a poor localisation job, quest details and instructions are often quite vague, and come across as eccentric and obtuse as opposed to helpful. The problem is exaggerated by a terrible map system, which doesn’t help to either show you where your objective is or even, once you’ve worked that out, how to get there. In a particularly infuriating design choice, quest objective markers (for secondary quests, main quests aren’t even marked) can’t be viewed while the map is zoomed in, so you can’t even create a mental path in your head.
So, let’s quickly recap. You’ve struggled through organising a team of royal guards, you’ve stumbled through the map system to get where you need to be, so what now? Combat and exploration are thankfully the more enjoyable parts of New Little King’s Story. In a similar manner to assigning jobs, players use the square button to direct citizens towards a task that needs performing. Whether it’s a monster to battle, a hole to dig or an obstacle to remove, the square button is the way to go about it. You can rotate through the various job types in your posse by pressing triangle and character icons at the bottom of the screen will tell you which job type is currently in primary position. These icons are the easiest way to tell the different jobs apart, as once you start dressing your citizens in different outfits, it becomes near impossible to tell one job from the other.
King Corobo is able to join his citizens in battle but since he is fragile, it’s best to let him hang back and direct the action. Whilst this may make combat sound a little boring, there’s often quite a lot going on at once with battles either consisting of a lot of moving parts and requiring a good deal of direction, or being over in a matter of seconds. The boss fights, though, give the player a chance to get a little more involved. Two particular examples stood out for me; one where the boss was like a pinball and you had to ‘bounce’ him around the table by directing citizens into his path. The other was against a boss named TV Dinnah, which takes on the guise of a 2D sidescroller and has players using the touchscreen to direct citizens around. The main boss fights are some of the more inspired parts of New Little King’s Story, and it’s a shame they’re so spaced apart.
Once the King and his followers return from their adventures, the time comes to weigh up their spoils and expand the kingdom. Various items can be collected through defeating monsters or searching environments, and these are appraised for a monetary value at the castle. This money can then be used to finance building through the kingdom or to buy upgrades for Corobo, such as being able to recruit more followers at once. The building aspect was one of the more disappointing features of the game as you don’t actually build the town yourself, you merely select what you want built and it pops up in its pre-assigned location. However, it is a nice sight to see your kingdom gradually grow and prosper.
New Little King’s Story can best be described as a game of love and hate. There are some enjoyable sections, but these mainly come when you’re not trying to do anything in particular and are exploring at your own leisure. Once you actually try and do what the game asks of you, the functionality of some of the mechanics comes into question, and these more often than not result in a great deal of frustration. Most of my experience with the game was therefore spent just wandering around the various landscapes and seeing what obstacles popped up. This did mean that I sometimes ran into areas I wasn’t prepared or equipped for, but in the whole, this was the most enjoyable way to play the game. It’s a shame that the game isn’t more user friendly because New Little King’s Story could otherwise be recommended without reservation, but instead, it can only really be enjoyed by those who can see past its fairly sizeable flaws.
New Little King’s Story scores a constitutional 3.75 out of 5.
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