New Little King’s Story stars Corobo, the same lead character as the original Wii game. Players witness the destruction of his kingdom in the game’s introductory moments, though his closest allies are quick to get their king back on his feet. Ready to take on the world again, King Corobo sets out to reclaim the land that is rightfully his, and just as importantly, rescue seven kidnapped princesses.
After the early going and allowing players to get a handle on things, the game opens up quite nicely. It’s fun to take the king out into town, rally the troops, and set out on an adventure to enlarge the kingdom and vanquish some monsters. The decision to include a map of the whole kingdom right away was a good design decision, as it lets the player immediately see the size of the kingdom they’re trying to reclaim.
Corobo needs help from his followers, so his first orders of kingly business are to build some centers at which villagers can be trained in farming, combat, and carpentry, among others. Players will need to weigh options and choose carefully how many of each type of person to bring along with Corobo on his various scouting missions — what kinds of skills will be needed, what kinds of enemies will show up, etc. At the king’s command, the peasants will dash out in a straight line, and if anything in their path is a problem their specific job class is meant to handle, then handle it they will. There will be a lot of trial and error in this, naturally. Wondering if a certain block of wood is something meant for a carpenter’s hammer or just asking for destruction, one might just send out a soldier and see what happens. Aiming their path is a little bit tricky at times, and oddly, this is one area where a touch control might have been useful. It seems odd for a Vita game to lack the ability to simply touch a spot on the screen and have a knight run to that spot. Instead, players must use the awkward aiming scheme provided by the stick.
You’ll never be missing any features or having problems not understanding any aspect of New Little King’s Story, as the game’s first few hours are extremely tutorial-heavy. In fact, some more anxious players might be turned off at how long the game takes to really get rolling. Even as late as three or four hours into the game, one might not yet be able to do a single thing that differentiates his playthrough from that of any other player, despite there being the illusion of such possibilities. Sure, there will soon be buildings to buy and armies to organize and scenarios to encounter, but they’re presented in very limited fashion early on; doing one of two things means it’s time to do the other, rather than a third option opening up. In this way, New Little King’s Story gives an illusion of early customization and non-linearity while actually being completely linear.
Once the world opens up, players are much more free to do as they will, advancing the story or milling about fighting enemies and building up cash to deck out their village a bit more. This makes it nicely suited for a portable system. Like most things with the game, however, this aspect is good, but not great. For a game whose big hook is supposed to be the inclusion of this world building system, it lacks real depth and never feels as complete as it should. While one can say on paper that he does indeed have the option to proceed with the story or customize the town a bit more, the latter can become dull all too quickly. Without a lot of depth and packing very frequent framerate drops, town business made me want stand in the middle of town, arms open wide and ask “Why isn’t this awesome?”
The graphics look bright, shiny, colorful, and cute. Up close, the characters look a little bit faded, but overall they’re sufficient. Complete with full camera rotation, it’s fun to explore Corobo’s ever-changing world. During dialogue scenes, NLKS goes the popular route of letting the actual character models sit idly while presenting an animated character portrait in the foreground. These images have great detail to them, and the Vita’s screen does a good job of showing them off, as it does with nearly every game. It’s just a shame, of course, that the screen can’t do anything to save those framerate drops.
Its music is charming and adequate while in the game. Almost none of these tunes will stick with you long enough to be humming them a day after putting the game down, but they function well for what they are. Their main purposes is to provide good music in the game, and they do that just fine. The voice acting, on the other hand, is best listened to with a comical mindset, as trying to take it seriously will result in aneurysms.
Little King’s Story was a unique and interesting Wii game, and New Little King’s Story does well overall in delivering that experience on a portable system. While an okay follow-up to that game, there’s something about the magic of the first one that has worn off a little bit this time. One has to wonder if this could have really shone, had the original developer still existed, as this game is made and published by Konami rather than Cing. Almost every key aspect is decent, without anything to really push it to the next level.