It’s hardly surprising that 2009’s Little King’s Story was a critical darling. As a clever amalgam of kingdom simulation, real-time strategy, and light role-playing elements, the game stands as one of the better third party efforts crafted for the Nintendo Wii. What is remarkable is the game’s commercial performance. Little King’s Story’s lackluster sales helped plunge developer Cing (Hotel Dusk: Room 215, Monster Rancher DS) into bankruptcy, while upsetting the momentum of both Marvelous AQL and XSEED- the title’s Japanese and stateside publishers.
With the digital release of New Little King’s Story for the PS Vita, the defunct developer’s concept has been granted a much deserved second chance. The 650 MB download serves as a sequel, articulating the metaphoric collapse of the original game’s kingdom. Players step into the role of King Corobo, a minute monarch tasked with rebuilding the empire and eventually defeating the force which pushed his citizens into exile.
The bulk of gameplay centers on issuing orders to your faithful subjects, in an effort to expand the power, jurisdiction, and technological proficiency of your realm. Complementing those long-term objectives players must also sustain the contentment of your constituency, as well as free seven captured princess- who serve as one of the sequel’s main augmentation.
Executing commands is wonderfully breezy. Players move their monarch around with the left stick, while a press of the “O” adds a citizen to your persistently trailing entourage. Once a follower has fallen into formation, pressing the square button near a point of interest sends them scurrying to work, excavating pits for treasure, removing impending logs that block the way, or pummeling on menacing foes. To prohibit New Little King’s Story from becoming too tedious (see Army Corps of Hell for an example of this), your compatriots can’t complete just any task. Instead, specialization is essential for progress.
Initially, players only have access to fundamental vocations. But by excavating currency and expanding their realm, new possibilities opening up, allowing for miners able to reduce obstinate rocks into rubble or carpenters capable of constructing walkways. Like its predecessor, New Little King Story feels invigorating and organic when players are presented with a variety of objectives, each imploring attainment. However, periods where gamers have to scour the map to find a solitary funnel point are far less stimulating. Regretfully, this issues is exasperated by the title’s accompaniments; your map doesn’t articulate enough information while quest directions can be occasionally vague. Players who already surmounted the Wii iteration will experience an undeniable sense of déjà vu with this game. Much like the evolutionary trajectory exhibited by the Harvest Moon series, New Little King covers much of the same ground, with players visiting some of the same locales and clashing with identical enemies.
Another blemish is the title’s frequent, long-winded, and tepid dialog bits. Although JRPG enthusiasts will likely be able to endure the extended sections of expositional dialogue, those attracted to New Little King’s Story for its succinct exploration and combat may find themselves disinterested. Mechanically, the game also has a few niggling downsides, from targeting issues when there are two adjacent objectives (touch control helps here) to framerate woes which escalate as your contingency grows in number. Mercifully, engaging boss battles and a consistently charming visual aesthetic will allow some gamers to look past these flaws.
New Little King’s Story is the type of game the PS Vita’s library should be filled with. Elevated by gameplay which straddles the gap between hospitable simplicity and engaging strategy, the game’s cadence is idyllic for commute-time gamers. Save for a few imperfections and Konami’s premium pricing ($39.99 USD), New Little King is an agreeable addition to the platform. Hopefully, the title won’t be overlooked once more.