Released for the Nintendo Wii in 2009, Little King’s Story was not your typical RPG. Although it featured the usual levelling up, experience points and questing, it also borrowed heavily from the real-time strategy genre. The game revolved around the titular King and his ability to recruit people to serve him in various capacities, as he strategised and battled enemies in real-time on his path to create his own kingdom. Developed by Cing (known for Hotel Dusk and the Another Code series), the game was well received by critics, but no sequel was ever announced. That is, until recently. With Cing having filed for bankruptcy in 2010, the duty of developing a sequel was handed to Marvelous Entertainment, with Konami taking on publishing duties. Simply titled New Little King’s Story, the sequel picks up exactly where the original title left off. The new kingdom has suddenly been overrun by demons. The King needs to take back the kingdom of Alpoko (which he developed in the first game), and rescue the seven captured princesses.
The basic gameplay has strong similarities to Pikmin and another Vita game, Square-Enix’s Army Corps Of Hell. Players recruit citizens to the player-named King’s Royal Guard, the name for the group of people who follow the King around everywhere as his loyal servants. You can only employ a handfulof people in the beginning, but the capacity greatly expands as the story progresses. The people you recruit start out being useless, but the game’s job system quickly comes into play. By making use of special buildings, you can change the jobs that the Royal Guard members have at will, and this will affect their proficiency in turn. For example, if you turn a citizen into a soldier, then they’ll be more powerful fighters. If you turn them into a farmer, they’ll be able to dig holes in order to obtain valuable buried items. However, each job has weaknesses too. Soldiers may be great fighters, but they can’t dig holes. Farmers can dig holes, but they’re not very good in combat. As such, you’ll need to plan out your Royal Guard carefully in order to balance their strengths and weaknesses, aiming for a solid variety of skills. Pressing the square button executes the charge command, and you’ll use it to do many things, such as making your Royal Guard attack, and changing their jobs by making them enter buildings. After making your Guard members charge, you can call them back at any time by pressing the triangle button, or reorganise them by pressing it when they’re all gathered together. You can arrange them by job, or into various formations, and this really helps to keep you feeling in control of them – even when you have a large number milling around at once.
The Vita’s touch screen is used a little, you can recruit citizens by tapping on them, and can also make them charge by tapping on an enemy. This works well enough, but using the face buttons ultimately proves to be more comfortable. Still, it’s good to have some options. New Little King’s Story explains everything very well, with an in-depth tutorial which lasts for about an hour, while also setting up the story. As such, if you’re new to the series, you have no need to worry. Every important part of the game is covered, so you’ll always feel as though you know what you’re doing. As it turns out though, the initial tutorial ends up being just a stepping stone on the way to seeing what the game’s mechanics truly have to offer. Once you rescue the first princess the game opens up a little more, and you can bring her with you on your adventures as a support character.
The game’s world is big, and there’s lots to see and discover. There’s plenty of regular enemies for the King and his minions to fight, and there’s a full loot system, with item drops being converted into money whenever you return to the King’s castle. Monsters and environmental objects also yield materials, which can be collected and then turned into new weapons and equipment for your Royal Guard members and King. Money is used to build up the kingdom by adding new structures and features, which can have various effects. To truly make progress in the game though, you’ll need to capture new pieces of the surrounding land, and you’ll need to embark on quests in order to do so. Quests often feature a special tough monster, which will have strengths and weakness that need to be exploited by using the right combination of jobs with your Royal Guard. Once you’ve completed the requisite quests, the story will take a step forward, and you’ll be pitted against a boss monster who is blocking you from expanding your kingdom into new areas. These boss monsters are truly challenging, and battling them requires careful planning. Each boss has unique attack patterns, and you’ll need to use particular combinations of jobs, timing, and placement of your Royal Guard in order to win. Once the boss goes down, a princess is yours, and your King will have claimed another piece of the world as his own. Length wise, the game holds up well. Completing the game for the first time will take around 20 hours, but there’s multiple different endings to see, which require some extra work to unlock.
Graphically, the game doesn’t disappoint. It’s one of the nicer looking Vita titles so far, and the fact that a fair bit of work has been put into the presentation is evident. There’s high quality, crisp 2D character artwork during conversation scenes, and the 3D graphics have a clean look to them. Everything is fairly smooth and well defined, with no awkward jaggies to mar the game’s cartoony look. There’s good attention to detail, with even the various weapons that you can equip to your Royal Guard members having their own models. The player is given control over the camera most of the time, including the level of zoom, and this makes for a comfortable viewing experience. Background music is universally pleasant on the ears, and can even be quite catchy in its own simple way. There’s a healthy variety of tracks spread across the game, as well as a little bit of voice acting. The voice acting, while limited, tends to be rather hit and miss. Some definitely don’t sound like native English speakers, as their pronunciation is a little off, but others do a good job. It’s not something that really detracts from the game.
Overall, New Little King’s Story is a great new title for the PlayStation Vita. Fans of simple real time strategy will find a game that’s easy to pick up and get into, while still maintaining a reasonable amount of depth, and RPG fans will enjoy the solid questing, looting and levelling. Those who enjoy both genres will be pulled in immediately. The story is nothing amazing, but it does its job well, even throwing in a bit of much needed humour at times. Controls are tight, graphics are good, and the music is fitting. Marevelous Entertainment have produced a strong sequel in New Little King’s Story, one which builds on what the original set up, and has wide appeal. It’s easily one of the best Vita games so far, and an easy recommendation, if the premise appeals.