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Nelson Schneider's Video Game Reviews (388)

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Bloodstained: Ritual of... 3/5
The Legend of Zelda: A ... 4/5
Hob 3/5
Assassin's Creed Odyssey 4.5/5
Ittle Dew 2 4.5/5
Luigi's Mansion 3 4/5
Xuan-Yuan Sword: The Ga... 3/5
Star Trek: Bridge Crew 3.5/5
King's Quest: The Compl... 3/5
Strange Brigade 4/5
Metro Exodus 3.5/5
Evoland Legendary Editi... 4.5/5
Evoland 2 4.5/5
Burokku Girls 2/5
Finding Paradise 4.5/5
To the Moon 4/5
Marvel: Ultimate Allian... 2.5/5
Valley 4/5
Satellite Reign 3/5
The Fall of Gods 3.5/5
Even the Ocean 3.5/5
Asterix & Obelix XXL 2:... 3/5
Valkyria Chronicles 4 5/5
Ninja Gaiden ( Shadow W... 1/5
Super Mario Land 2.5/5

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Little King's Story   Wii 

More Noble Than You    5/5 stars

"Little King's Story" is a rarity in this day and age. It's a game from a relatively unknown developer that hearkens back to the Golden Age of Gaming in the 16-bit generation. It's not a sequel, and thus has no expectations and must survive entirely on its own merit. As such, "Little King's Story" came completely out of nowhere and knocked my socks off with its uniqueness.

Presentation
"Little King's Story" opens with a FMV sequence that asks questions about the nature of nobility. This FMV and others throughout the game, have a filter applied to them that makes the in-game graphics look like they've been rendered in oil paint, complete with brush strokes. It's a bit of an interesting choice, as the in-game graphics themselves are very cartoony, featuring bright colors and super-deformed characters. The FMV sequences are the only times the player will get a really good look at the character models because the camera is zoomed out and situated overhead during the actual game. I was incredibly pleased with this choice of camera, as top down perspective is, and always has been, one of the best ways to interact with a game world.

The characters are quite quirky-looking, and bear some slight resemblance to characters from "Animal Crossing" that have had their hideousness turned down to 'Minimum.' Citizens each wear a distinctive outfit depending on their occupation. These outfits all feature incredibly large hats that make it very easy to tell what job a citizen has with a single glance. When citizens are almost dead, and have but a single remaining hit point, they lose their hats and become elderly, complete with gray hair and wrinkles. The King likewise changes appearance as he takes damage, going from a child, to a child with a beard, to a child with gray hair and a gray beard, depending on how many of his three hit points remain.

The environments and characters are all rendered in 3D, but are unapologetically unrealistic. Scattered around the world of "Little King's Story," one will find giant purses, piles of Legos, and blue trees along with dead cows, hotsprings and vegetable gardens. The entire game world is incredibly surreal and manages to keep the game far away from the dreaded moniker of 'kiddy' that many supposedly-hardcore gamers would love to slap on it because it dares to feature more colors than gray and brown.

The sound in "Little King's Story" is also incredibly well done. All of the music used in the game is old Public Domain stuff. Classical music buffs will no doubt take great delight in hearing the William Tell Overture used during mini-boss battles and Rhapsody in Blue used as background music in the TV Kingdom. All of the music has, of course, been remixed. One of the sidequests later in the game involves collecting snippets of the game's soundtrack from singing citizens. These snippets are all sung quite badly, yet humorously. The accompanying comments that go with the song snippets range from weird to hilarious, fitting perfectly with the game's overall sense of humor.

The voice acting is strange, but fits well with the overall surreal vibe of "Little King's Story." Instead of speaking a real language, characters in "Little King's Story" speak an odd gibberish made of bits and pieces of words from many different languages. With the few languages I'm familiar with, I was able to pick-out bits of English, Japanese, Spanish, German, and French among the 'word salad' spewed by the game's cast. During cutscenes, the gibberish becomes almost coherent, but never quite makes it. Naturally, the gibberish is subtitled so the player can understand what in the world the narration is about.

The translation and localization of "Little King's Story" deserve special mention. Oftentimes it is difficult for localization teams to make a game comprehensible in English when it oozes Japanese weirdness out of every seam like "Little King's Story" does. Sometimes teams just translate jokes directly, leaving the English-speaking audience scratching their heads in confusion about what is so funny. Other times teams replace weird Japanese jokes with stupid American pop-culture references. "Little King's Story" delicately treads the middle ground. Everything makes sense but nothing feels blatantly whitewashed.

Story
"Little King's Story" is a bit of an enigma. It starts out looking like it's going to be a cutesy game with a light-hearted, nothing-but-fluff story. It seems a timid, young boy was lonely and liked to play make-believe in a cardboard box in his room. One day, a family of rats invaded the boy's room. In the process of chasing them away, the boy ended up outside and got lost in the forest. While wandering around, he smashed a huge boulder with a sledgehammer and found a magical, golden crown underneath (I still have no idea where he found the sledgehammer). Upon placing the crown on his head, the boy was immediately transformed into the King, the most persuasive person in the world. The new King is immediately beset by three somewhat-suspicious allies, an elderly knight who rides a bull (Howser), a fat doofus (Liam), and a girl with ridiculous hair (Verde). These three set themselves up as the King's ministers and goad him into kingly actions.

Then the story takes a sharp turn and becomes a darker and more philosophical. Howser is convinced that the King is the only person who can unite the world under one banner, though his reasons for wanting this come across as shady. Liam and Verde are supposedly the King's long-time friends, but the intro movie states that the boy had no friends before he became King. Questions about these characters' motivations is rapidly pushed onto the back burner, though, as the King finds himself in charge of a castle (a shack) and a kingdom (a vacant lot) and citizens (a handful of unemployed homeless people in white t-shirts).

Before long, the King encounters a couple of bizarre characters who lampoon the ongoing battle between science and religion. The first of these punny characters is the priest, Kampbell, of the Soup Sect (obviously named after the popular brand of canned soup). Kampbell starts every conversation with an accusatory, “Do you believe in God?” He comes across as vaguely menacing though the whole game, partially because his first statement is that the King must build him a church or face the wrath of God. He is obviously a flagellant, as he continuously hits himself on the head with a pair of ladles. It also bears mentioning that Kampbell's philosophy includes references to Flying Spaghetti Monster-ism (Ramen!).

The other punny character is Skinny Ray the astronomer. It took me an incredibly long time to figure out that his name is a pun on “scenery,” since that's what he looks at all the time through his telescope. Where Kampbell is passionate and insistent, Skinny Ray is logical and gives up easily. Their personalities frequently collide when they both bring a presentation before the King and “democracy” happens. During these scenes, Skinny Ray, Kampbell, Howser, Verde, Liam, and the King each get a vote on what to do. These votes are all rigged, however, because Howser, Verde, and Liam form a block that always gets its way. Considering that the King is supposed to have absolute power, his powerlessness in the face of the ministers' voting block is darkly humorous.

The King's overall goal in the game (foisted upon him by Howser) is to unite the entire world under one banner. Initially, it appears that there is only one usurper king that must be defeated, but before long, six others appear. Each of these usurper kings is representative of a vice. There's a drunk king, a glutton king, an indecisive king, a TV king, a tall king (apparently being tall is a vice in Japan?) and a... well, I don't really know that the 7th king is supposed to be. As the King progresses through the game, he defeats these usurpers, 'punishes' them, and rescues a captive princess from a jar held by each. Upon rescuing these princesses, who are as varied and strange as the usurper kings themselves, the King marries each of them (including one old enough to be his mother whose breasts are almost as big as the King himself). Yes, there is polygamy in "Little King's Story."

"Little King's Story" has a bit of everything: Adventure, Romance, Politics... it's all there and it's all twisted. I can't go into more detail while avoiding spoilers, so I'll just say that the game culminates in an epic clash that examines such weighty questions as the nature of God and the universe. It's the type of game that leaves the player thinking.

Gameplay
Since "Little King's Story" is a Wii game, it's important to note the controller options. "Little King's Story" uses the Wiimote and Nunchuck exclusively. There is no Classic Controller or Gamecube option. Thankfully, the game has no motion controls whatsoever, nor does it employ the pointer.

The gameplay in "Little King's Story" is completely fresh and unique. There is no other game like it. While the battle system has some aspects similar to Nintendo's "Pikmin" games, "Little King's Story" doesn't operate in the same framework as "Pikmin."

The basic gameplay involves the King recruiting a number of citizens into his Royal Guard with a press of the B button. This number grows as the game progresses to a maximum of 30. Before long, the King has the option of building a podium, which allows him to easily change the membership of the Royal Guard without having to run around the entire kingdom looking for specific people. With a press of the A button, the King sends the citizen directly behind him (denoted by a glowing triangle) toward whatever he's facing. If it's something the citizen can handle, the citizen will automatically do his/her thing. If not, the citizen will flail around with a question mark above their head before returning to the retinue. Specific citizen jobs have specific skills, such as Farmers' ability to dig holes, Miners' ability to break huge boulders, and Chefs' ability to kill chicken monsters in one hit. Citizens in the Royal Guard can be organized by job by pressing down on the D-Pad. Further presses of down on the D-Pad cycle through the jobs in the Royal Guard so the King can choose the right person for the task at hand. Pressing the Z button on the Nunchuck turns on/off target mode, which is a dotted line that shows the exact direction the King is facing and is 'sticky' for objects that can be manipulated by citizens. Target mode also shows how much stamina the target object/enemy has remaining. Two formations are available for purchase early in the game that allow the King to change the way the Royal Guard moves by pressing up on the D-Pad. These formations are incredibly useful for keeping citizens out of harm's way and moving around efficiently.

Once the King has gathered his Royal Guard, he must travel around the known world searching for treasure and defeating UMA (Unidentified Mysterious Animals). By defeating UMA mini-bosses, the King is able to expand his domain, build more infrastructure, and attract more citizens. Treasure is collected by the King directly and up to 50 pieces can be carried at once. Upon returning to his throne, the King's accumulated treasures are revealed for what they really are and their values tallied and added to the kingdom treasury. Some treasures have no monetary value, but instead can be equipped to members of the Royal Guard to improve their stats. The King cannot equip treasures, and his attacks, performed by pressing C, are incredibly weak.

"Little King's Story" has a day/night system, but the King isn't necessarily required to sleep at night. The player can keep the King and the Royal Guard out in the field for days on end. The main functions of the day/night system are that some treasures are only visible during the day or at night, health restoring hotsprings refill everyday at midnight, and slain citizens have a chance of washing up (alive) on Resurrection Beach every morning.

The King must return to his throne room to save and perform the city-building aspects of the game. This aspect of the game is vaguely reminiscent of the simulation segments of "ActRaiser," but not really. The game has a nice feature that allows the King to warp back to the castle at any time by opening the main menu and pressing the 2 button while there are no enemies around. By sitting on the throne and calling Howser to his side, the King can implement a variety of plans to develop his kingdom as he expands it through the defeat of UMA mini-bosses and usurper kings. Once the King has chosen a plan to implement, the plan's rather large fee is deducted from the kingdom treasury and the infrastructure pops-up instantly, ready for use.

While UMA mini-boss battles are all rather unique, requiring different strategies for each monster, they are all still straight-up fights. The usurper kings, on the other hand, are like nothing else in the game. They are mostly puzzle-based, requiring the player to do more than just bring a lot of Hardened Veterans and press A a lot. One thing all of the bosses, both UMA and usurper, have in common is that they are challenging. Every boss in "Little King's Story" is dangerous, and some can be impossible without the right combination of jobs in the Royal Guard. Fortunately, these challenging battles never result in frustration, as the game has a continue function that only activates during boss battles, allowing the player to immediately retry the fight without having to trudge all the way from the castle to wherever the boss dwells.

Overall
I love "Little King's Story." For a while, I thought my Wii was channeling the spirit of its great-grandfather. I honestly didn't think that anyone was making games like this anymore, but Cing has proven me wrong. By combining a brilliant presentation, a thought-provoking story, quirky humor, and fun gameplay, "Little King's Story" represents gaming perfection and easily the best game in the Wii's library. I highly recommend it to everyone. "Little King's Story," despite (or perhaps because of) its low sales will no doubt become a valuable rarity, given time. Don't miss out on this classic!

Presentation: 5/5
Story: 5/5
Gameplay: 5/5
Overall: 5/5

 

 


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