The Surprising, Imperialistic Allure of 'Little King's Story'

Who doesn't love a game whose boss battle theme is the 1812 Overture?

Little’s King’s Story is out on PC this week, and that’s cause for celebration. Aside from being a Wii game from 2009 — making the odds of it ever coming to another platform slim — the sugary (and quite strange) kingdom sim-meets-Pikmin mashup is extremely underrated.

Everything about Little King’s Story suggests it’s a game for kids — from its crayon-scrawled art design to the way your little king is himself a boy who could very well be dreaming of ruling over an equally diminutive kingdom. Your subjects also resemble flap-mouthed muppets, speaking in gibberish and moving with a delightfully off center herky-jerk.

So you know right off the bat that Little King’s Story has a personality, with its popping color and goofy faces complemented by a soundtrack that’s almost entirely made up of bright, cheerful renditions of fair-use classic pieces from Bach to Tchaikovsky. Seems like such a fun, harmless little game.

Then the story begins.

XSeed Games

Your trusted adviser, the Don Quixote-esque Howser the Bull Knight (who rides a cow named Pancho), tells you your kingdom is dirt poor and your lot of unemployed citizens are indolent good-for-nothings, thus you must put them to work. Within minutes of going out into your kingdom, you’ve enacted serfdom.

Even better, you can summon loyal followers to your side with a wave of your scepter to make them fight or perform manual labor. They huddle behind your kingly little body forming a comical phalanx, and making them work is a matter of targeting and slingshotting your servant horde at the nearest work. A king, after all, does not lift a finger; he simply tells everyone else what to do instead.

After collecting enough coin from random holes in the ground, you can expand your kingdom to add a farmhouse and guard training center, allowing your worthless citizenry to get jobs.

A town square quickly follows, giving way to a suggestion box wherein the common folk can send you fan mail, suggestions on how to improve your kingdom when you’re not busy building new additions for them (your first available edict you can optionally pass? Mandatory evening calisthenics).

Between expeditions into the wilds beyond your kingdom fighting animals and foraging for gold and construction materials, it isn’t long before Howser advises expansion. After all, what do kings do if not claim other lands?

Your trusted advisor explains that across the river live “vile creatures” called Onii. “You must obliterate them in order to unite the world! he proclaims.

You can probably see where this is going. Hurling your brave warriors at the (adorable) Onii, soon your path towards conquest is complete and your realm expands. Back in your makeshift castle, Howser congratulates you. But it’s not enough. Now you must unite (i.e., conquer) the entire world, which is much bigger than was previously thought. Soon, other kings start sending you letters, including one from a self-proclaimed party animal extending an invitation to break bread and drink booze with him. Of course, Howser won’t be having any of that.

We must punish these impostors!” he cries.

And so the last vestige of Little King’s Story’s cutesy façade gives way to a hilariously black-humored romp into exploitation and imperialism.

Though this only gives a barest hint of how the game really plays, there are plenty of oddball characters that get attracted to your kingdom, and the translation is peppered with continual jokes, usually at the expense of the poor people who live under your noble sovereignty.

Considering the Wii edition now may as well be a relic lost to time, strategy fans looking for a weird and different take on the genre will find a lot to appreciate. Wartorn kingdoms and the politics of expansionism are handled all the time in various RPG genres, but very few do so with their tongues planted in cheek.

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