As you might have guessed, we are exposed to a lot of videogames at Toronto Thumbs. Even after all this time, there are games that still surprise me. I will be frank: at first glance I did not think that I would like Konami’s New Little King’s Story for the Playstation Vita. However, even the clunky interface and the grinding cannot stop me from putting this game in my regular rotation.
The story begins as your character, young king Corobo is ousted from his castle by strange forces who have him at a huge disadvantage (read: lots of baddies). In addition to this already tragic situation, a pile of princesses has been captures. Corobo escapes and sets up shop (temporarily) with some of his trusted palace advisers. The plan? Regroup, take back the land and save the princesses. However, given that they have set up residence in the middle of wild lands with some aimless peasants – it is not going to be a walk in the park.
In the campaign, you control Corobo, who in turn controls everyone else by asking them to join your party (CIRCLE button). As king, it is your job to ensure that your subjects are useful – and so you can build a few basic buildings and give your citizens some jobs. This process is amusing because the main method of getting your charges to do anything is to, well, charge! Pressing the SQUARE button or tapping the screen sends the person at the head of your followers queue to charge forward wherever you have aimed them*; they will perform an appropriate action and return to the king’s side upon completion. When you build a Barracks, for instance, you recruit a peasant into your party and then aim at the door of the Barracks and get that subject to charge. If they have any aptitude toward warfare at all, the will run up, open the door, enter the building, and after a few seconds: out comes a soldier**. This same soldier can be sent into battle by making him or her charge at an enemy. They will run forward and engage until they are recalled with CIRCLE, or until they kill the enemy (or die). Should your subject(s) not have anything to do with the task, they will return to your side.
There are a lot of construction projects around your new kingdom.
You can assign more than one subject to a task by repeatedly pressing the charge button (provided you have more subjects in your party). As you would expect, assigning more than one person to a task usually results in a faster completion time. Some subjects can assist others in tasks, even though they may not be able to initiate that job. A carpenter can build some steps, for example, and other worker types can help him out as soon shortly after they have started. Even Corobo can participate in some tasks (including fighting) – but you have to be a bit careful with him as he’s not as tough as some of the soldiers.
At the beginning of the game, your job choices are limited. You start off with farmers (who are good at digging ditches) and soldiers and keep working your way up by opening new areas up for development, as assigned by “letters” in the kingdom’s “suggestion box”. The task of expansion usually involves battling beasties of one kind or another; one defeated, the area is secured and new options will appear in your building list. With these new facilities come new job types that can be assigned to your subjects, which either gives you the ability to break down the barriers to new areas, or speed up existing productivity. For instance, an unassigned citizen can only dig for treasure at a site that already has a large fissure; but farmers can search for treasure by digging at small fissures – and they dig much faster than anyone else. It is a guarantee that there will be at least one class that you unlock that will leave you scratching your head, wondering what the hell it is for – rest assured that every class has a function, and each person will come in handy at some point.
This is what happens when you try to create poultry that can cook itself for dinner.
And so the game goes on like this for a while – which speaks to the grinders out there. There are a fair number of different areas to open up – and a variety of monsters to combat. For the most part, if you’re careful with your folks, you can get through a fair bit of the game without any tragedies. Everyone levels up, so you will be able to take on tougher and tougher opponents – and there are plenty of spoils in which to find new equipment to help your cause.
Visuals are good; cute and colourful, the Vita does them justice in terms of the overall impact of the graphics – complete with day/night cycles and weather, everything has a soft quality to it. It should be noted, though, that while the eye-candy is good, I found that the animation got choppy when there was lots going on – surprising considering the power of the Vita. Sound is also really well done – lots of royal-sounding music and cartoonish sound effects keep the mood light while not losing sight of your overall plight. That being said, it does get somewhat repetitive after a while.
As fun as the game is, there are a few annoyances that might get in your way of enjoying this title fully. First of all, the interface can be a bit tiresome after a while – especially the odd camera work. I found that in some case I would have trouble seeing my party thanks to a tree being in the way and an inability to move the camera to a place that would allow me to be able to react to what was going on. Also, some of the task assignments take a few tries to “take” from time to time. There is a handy “aiming” tool that you can use to make sure your folks get to their target – but sometimes they would get there and smash into whatever it was and come running back.
Sneaking off for some privacy is challenging with all of those followers…
If you like games with some depth and lots of grinding, you should pick this up. It is a great title to play if you’re a commuter (a passenger rather than a drive – be responsible) as saving is easy to do and you can usually bang out a few missions or hammer a few sets of monsters during your trip – a surefire counter to the possible repetitiveness of the game-play and sound. It is a glitchy game with a cheesy plot (and some odd Japanese to English translations) and it’s a bit more expensive than it should be; but sticking with it will reward you with a fun experience.