Wednesday, June 24, 2015

New Little King's Story (Vita)

New Little King's Story is a reimagining of the Wii's Little King's Story.  Exclusively for the Vita, New Little King's Story revamps some of the gameplay including lowering the difficulty, a change in art style and additions to the battle system.  The game starts off with Corobo, the titular King, escaping with his adviser Azul in the underground caverns.  The castle was attacked by the Devil King and after overwhelming the King's forces, casted Corobo out into the outside where he must rebuild his kingdom, muster his army and reclaim his castle.  Over the course of the game, we see what started off as just a hut and field slowly grow to a prospering village to a city with fortifying stone walls.  Corobo also learns that seven pillars of light has appeared and blocks key passages.

The light pillars each house a Princess and Corobo must defeat whoever's guarding the pillars in order to save them.  It is a simple story that doesn't get much more complicated than this but it gives enough of an objective for the game to process.  Once Corobo saves the princesses, the next step is naturally defeating the Devil King.  The story so far hints at worlds other than the one Corobo is in.  It seems as if the Devil King and a few other characters came from different worlds but this is never explored or explained properly, even when you've viewed all the endings, including the final one.  It's disappointing that it does this since it was intriguing and they could have gone quite far with it.  New Little King's Story is part simulation and part role-playing game.

In the simulation aspect, you will decide on how you want to spend your money in building new structures.  With each boss or mini-boss that is defeated, your kingdom grows larger (and consequently, that area opens up to allow for expansion).  It is not complex, which helps the flow of the game.  Your buildings are mostly for show, the residential buildings will add more citizens who can join your Royal Guard to fight with you (more on this later).  You will also build specific buildings which will unlock jobs required for progressing into the next stretch of area.  Nonetheless, it is addictive and gives you a sense of satisfaction as you're slowly making your kingdom bigger and bigger.  The other big aspect is the battle system.  New Little King's Story has a unique battle mechanic.

While Corobo can strike enemies himself, it is not recommended.  This is because Corobo is weak and has limited health.  Instead, he can recruit into his Royal Guard any citizen, who will listen to any command Corobo gives them.  These citizens can take any job; there are no penalties for changing jobs.  Jobs range from soldiers who are excellent at combat, carpenters who build structures, farmers who dig holes, hunters who specialize in ranged attacked plus more that will gradually be unlocked..  Specific jobs are required to be used to clear specific obstacles in the field; these obstacles are how the game directs you to where it wants you to go.  Once you recruit a citizen into your Royal Guard, they will follow you around.

At the start, you only have around seven citizens trailing behind you, this will eventually increase to 30.  Needless to say, it becomes quite hectic and crazy when you have five columns of six running behind Corobo.  There are several configurations in which you party can arrange themselves, including a singular file or scattered around Corobo.  You use the Square button to direct a citizen to charge in a straight line in front of you, their action depends on what you charged them against.  For example, if it is an enemy, the citizen will attack, if you aim towards a rock, they'll start whittling the rock away etc.  Aiming can be annoying at times, it would have been better if you didn't have to align the object perfectly in front of Corobo by allowing citizens to be smart enough to detect that the thing slightly to their left was where you were aiming at.

The strategy comes from the configuration of your party as each job class has various strengths.  Nonetheless, battles can often degrade to you throwing as many citizens as possible on an enemy to overwhelm them with sheer numbers.  Later on in the game, you can recruit Princesses who can bestow an ability to your party such as increased attack or healing your party.  Corobo himself, the Princesses and your citizens will level up as enemies are defeated, gaining in strength and health . Despite the party forming being such an integral part of the gameplay, the mechanic for choosing your party isn't well explained.  Initially, you have to scout around the town to find the citizens you want, which may not seem that bad when you start as the town is small but towards the end, it gets frustrating.

You can summon groups but every time you summon one, you lose anyone that's already in your party.  However!  What the game doesn't explain to you is that there is a menu based system in which you can pull up the menu for all citizens and manually select whichever one you like.  This makes it much easier to pick and choose your team especially when the population of you kingdom reaches 130+ people.  Boss battles are where the game shakes things up a bit.  For example, you'll encounter bosses where it plays like a pinball machine or you'll have to beat the boss during a race.  On the whole, the game's difficulty was perfect; it provided enough challenge and was never frustrating.  Apparently, the difficulty was toned down significantly from the Wii version.

The graphics are fantastic.  The deformed art style fits perfectly with the fantasy setting.  The story is told via in-game cutscenes and dialogue with anime character portraits.  The game is only partially voice-acted though.  When the game came out, there were many criticisms towards the technical issues, the most notable being framerate drops as your party reaches 30 members, particularly in the city.  This is a real issue but it isn't as horrible as many would led you to think.  It is annoying but doesn't make the game unplayable.  One way to lessen the impact is to zoom the camera in so that the game doesn't have to load as many things onscreen.  It's disappointing that these issues exist but don't let it stop you from playing the game!

There is a decent amount of content, in addition to the main story, there are a lot of sidequests for you to get through.  While most of the sidequests are "head to this place to defeat the monster", it doesn't feel like a chore.  The world map is huge and provides a lot of areas to explore.  Sidequests generate every time you "sleep".  There are Princess Quests to complete which involve filling out encyclopedias with content such as enemy data, or finding all gems scattered around your kingdom.  Overall, New Little King's Story is a different experience to most games out there.  The combination of the simulation aspect with the unique battle system is addictive.  The game is really pretty, story had potential and is, all in all, a fun game.


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