The One Hit Wonders of Game Design Part Four: Little King Story

Role-playing survival game is willing to take risks

I find it funny that some of my favorite Wii titles don’t make extensive use of the motion controls that the console is prided on. XenoBlade Chronicles, Super Mario Galaxy and today’s pick : Little King Story. A mix of Pikmin, city building and a lighthearted look at manifest destiny.

The story is that you play as a small boy named Corobo, who has no friends and not much going on. Until the day that he finds a magical crown that give him the power to make people follow his orders. With the crown and his new found council he sets off to create a kingdom that rules the world.

The flow of the game is that you have your kingdom which acts as your home base. From your throne you can instruct your people to build new structures, unlock upgrades, and advance the story. Money is earned by bringing back miscellaneous junk from the world and by taxing the buildings in your kingdom.

When it’s time to go exploring, you recruit townspeople from your city and instruct them to go into buildings that represent the various classes to transform them into that class. Going around and fighting in the world is done like in Pikmin, with your followers trailing the king and “launching” themselves at enemies or structures to interact with.

Your main goal is to expand your kingdom to cover the entire planet and to do so requires invading territories and conquering them. There are two kinds of territories: ones controlled by monsters, and ones controlled by rival kings. Monster controlled ones require the player to fight a mini boss to take control. While the king battles are unique boss fights that have to be seen to believe. For example one boss fight takes the form of a geography quiz and another is a pinball battle.

What I enjoyed about Little King Story was the combination of going out and exploring the world mixed with the feeling of turning your little village into a grand kingdom. The game is mostly open world, with the majority of the territories and side quests optional. The king battles represent the main quest and must be completed to progress. Very few titles attempt to combine different game genres and offer the player two ways of progressing through the gameplay.

Little King Story was not without its problems which unfortunately led it to not being a smash hit in the US. First is that the gameplay was definitely aimed at a younger audience with how the gameplay didn’t evolve over the course of the game. The city building elements are restricted to deciding what buildings go into which plots of land and the player never gets a chance to fully create their kingdom. The act of equipping characters with gear found is only used by finding set items in the world. Which means that you can’t just create new stuff or find a random item.

The game also had problems with controlling your followers similar to Pikmin. Since they follow directly behind the player, it can be a challenge to move them to avoid attacks. Annoyingly, followers can accidentally fall off of ledges and lose health in the process, which playing on the harder difficulty where everyone starts with only one health point, lead to some frustrating deaths.

One control problem unique to Little King Story was issuing orders to your followers. Unlike Pikmin, where every pikmin attacks the same, here some followers attack in close range, while others attack with arrows. The problem is that you can’t recall individual classes or like in Pikmin, selected characters. Instead you can only command everyone to return to the king, this makes setting up multiple attack groups needlessly obtuse

Little King Story was a game that was stuck between appealing to younger gamers and having the complexity to keep older gamers interested. If there was more to the gameplay such as a greater control of building the kingdom or the world being completely open world, the game may have done better . To be fair to Little King Story, the first Pikmin was even more basic in terms of content available, but it had the backing of Nintendo  and a more in depth sequel that even added randomize dungeons.

The Wii is chock full of third party titles with many of them sadly shovelware around the motion controls. This makes finding quality non Nintendo titles like finding a diamond in the rough. For those hungering for more Pikmin style gameplay before the third one is released, Little King Story should help tide things over somewhat.

Josh Bycer

Up Next: Feudal Pinball