When I first played Pikmin in 2001 it was unlike anything I had experienced in the RTS genre considering my only reference at the time was Starcraft. Pikmin took similar fundamentals and applied them in a creative and approachable way. Looking back on it, Pikmin was the first example of Nintendo’s ability to take established genres and reinvent them in fun, creative ways. And yet surprisingly, even with how often developers try to capitalize on popular or inventive works by emulating them, more games like Pikmin don’t exist.
Little King’s Story is the only game I know in which the selling feature is its similarity to Pikmin, and I mean that in the least cynical way possible. Unfortunately, I missed Little King’s Story when it was released on the Wii but thankfully it did see a re-release on Steam to satisfy all my monarchic desires!
Little King’s Story puts the player in the position of a little king chosen by destiny, or so the not-at-all suspicious Captain tells you. But you won’t stop at just one little kingdom; global domination is the name of the game here and the player can only achieve this plan by defeating the evil UMA (Unidentified Mysterious Animals) that roam the land. It’s actually a really funny story, delivered so innocently, and yet, I can’t help but feel like it questions your morality a bit. Here you are, enacting a plan of violent global domination, but it’s okay because the “monsters” are “evil?”
Gameplay is quite rightly compared to that of Pikmin. The king must recruit his subjects and use them for various tasks. Where Pikmin felt a little more organic in its approach, Little King’s Story takes on RPG elements, allowing the player to choose to build structures that can assign different jobs to subjects, or ones that will allow for a larger total of villagers. Combat plays out similar to Pikmin: the player literally throws them at danger until they pummel the danger to death, but it’s a good structure that feels fun and fast-paced while still requiring some degree of strategy, especially when facing multiple enemies.
Where it emulates Pikmin, it does so admirably, feeling very much like it has its own identity despite being built upon the same foundation. It’s a genuinely charming game and the humorous tone is backed by the use of classical music. The game opens on the second march of Sir Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No.1 and the boss music is the finale of Rossini’s William Tell Overture. This connection to reality does give it a sense of child-like wonder, like the events taking place are really just a child playing make-believe, which help make the story’s darker tones all the more adorable.
Unfortunately, Little King’s Story does lack a lot of the polish that Pikmin had. The whole game looks kind of cheap, most notably in character movements, and feels very janky while lacking the fluidity that Pikmin had. While it also bears the chibi aesthetic, it’s graphically unimpressive, even for something that debuted on the Wii.
My biggest issue with the PC port of Little King’s Story is the below-par performance. I should have known there’d be problems when the game had a pre-launch settings window and besides the 60fps setting there was a warning of “not recommended”. The game is chuggy, with consistent drops in framerate, and while it only crashed once, there were a more than a few close calls. While these issues certainly don’t make the game unplayable (unless you try to play at 60fps, yikes!), it does make Little King’s Story another entry in the long list of sloppy PC port-jobs.
If the performance issues get fixed, I’d highly recommend Little King’s Story on PC, especially those who can’t find it on the Wii. It’s a fun, cute little game that’s like Pikmin in all the right ways. It’s fun and challenging, albeit a bit easy, but enjoyable nonetheless.