Game Review: New Little King’s Story

Jonathan Szafran delivers his verdict on the new enhanced version of the  genre-blending  strategy title, out now to download for the PlayStation Vita.

Debuting on the Nintendo Wii back in 2009, Little King’s Story was met with critical acclaim but not embraced by the gaming public, and proceeded to become lost in the bargain bins. Now, three year’s on, Little King’s Story is back on the PlayStation Vita, bringing with it an updated story and revamped controls – giving handheld gamers everywhere a chance to play this amalgamation of real-time strategy, land management and match making a la Harvest Moon.

It’s a charming and adorable genre-bending mash-up. But unfortunately it is also bogged down by many noticeable gameplay issues – and a lofty price tag that will almost certainly have many Vita owners turning a blind eye to a title that otherwise holds much potential.

New Little King’s Story opens with your castle under attack by a mysterious foe, and has you taking on the role of the king and fleeing with the remains of your court. Escaping to the outskirts of your kingdom you are met by a few of your trusted advisers,who train you in the basic tutorials of the game. Over the course of many hours of gameplay your objective is to restore the kingdom to its previous glory by earning enough money to build guilds, hospitals, churches, schools and more. But the only way you can do that is to explore the countryside, killing monsters and finding treasure along the way, but you are not alone in this journey and that’s where things get interesting.

Much like Pikmin, the King can recruit local citizens, lead them around and give them certain jobs to do. You have the choice of which jobs you want to assign to the villagers; farmers can help you dig holes that may reveal treasure, carpenters will aid you in building bridges to cross over into new territories, and soldiers, naturally, help you fight the monsters that roam the world. Half of the fun is trying to find the right combination before you head out to explore the game’s environment, but be warned: you will lose plenty of trained citizens if you’re not prepared in battle.

Death comes often in New Little King’s Story, and with a steep incline in difficulty the game frequently amps up the amount of enemies on-screen as well as strengthening their defenses. A wide variety of adversaries ranging from bizarrely-winged bovines to enormous chickens will befall you at every turn, and finding a good mix of short and long-ranged attacks will keep you from meeting an untimely death. Losing in battle will send you back to your throne room, and your troop of citizens to the hospital to recover.

The occasionally frustrating difficulty is exacerbated by infuriating controls. It is easy to line up your group according to how you want them to attack or other tasks, but sending them to the correct destination is another thing entirely. Neither using the analog stick or touch screen controls make it easy for the King to point his followers the right way, and a lot of the time you end up sending them crashing into a wall or even the wrong enemy. Only a couple of hours into the campaign the amount of enemies increases drastically, and sending your soldiers head on into the unknown because of poorly-designed controls is extremely annoying.

From the get-go you are given tutorial after tutorial on everything from creating new buildings to assigning roles for your citizens, but after those couple of hours are out of the way you’re left to learn things for yourself – and with no training on battle formations or tactics things can get pretty hazy from there on out. This, coupled with a poorly explained use of alchemy to help you enchant your weapons, as well as vague descriptions on side quests, leaves you puzzled as to why the developers didn’t put more into what could have been a well-crafted world, and possibly a continuing franchise.

Graphically it looks fine for a handheld game, and the game’s cutscenes have benefited from some redesign since the original. The Wii title featured a child-like King, but here in the Vita version he is made to look much older. Every character has been given an anime look to them during cutscenes, while in gameplay they have a more chibi design to them. The overall look is pretty, but it does rather fail in comparison to others on the Vita’s downloadable roster, like the visuals of Escape Plan for instance.

Even though the difficulty and the controls in New Little King’s Story may have you gripping your Vita a little too tightly at times, its undeniable charm and deep campaign are capable of reeling you back in. It’s far from perfect, and with its price tag of $40 in the U.S. it may turn off many who comes across it on the Vita’s PSN store – but it still offers a neat experience, and is worth checking out if you enjoy a decent strategy title.

 

FMV Magazine: **½

 



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