New Little King's Story isn't exactly "new." Konami has released an updated version of the Cing developed, Xseed Games published (in the U.S.) Wii game, Little King's Story, from 2009 for the PlayStation Vita. Frequently sited as one of the Wii's hidden gems, Little King's Story is routinely referenced as a solid game, that would have been enjoyable no matter what platform it was released on. New Little King's Story puts that theory to the test, squeezing down the assorted elements of its big screen counterpart, and packs them into one tight little Vita release.
New Little King's Story puts players right into the same royal shoes as the original release, as the young King Corobo you're forced to rebuild his kingdom after his is mysteriously destroyed. you are the lone decision maker, and must choose how best to expand your kingdom while balancing the needs of your citizens, in addition to keeping the invading monsters at bay. NLKS certainly has a lot going on for it, but it does a great job of keeping everything segmented, and not overwhelming the player with one thing over another.
Retaining all of the gameplay of the original, New Little King's Story layers a city-building sim on top of a Pikmin-style action game. The city-building aspect is pretty straightforward, as it centers on King Corobo expanding his modest beginnings into a full-blown kingdom, offering housing and necessary services to his subjects. As Corobo builds up his empire, he will need to add job-training centers that will allow his subjects to specialize in doing certain tasks, like being a farmer, carpenter, or soldier. Once Corobo assigns his citizens certain career paths, he is then able to recruit them to do his bidding as part of the Royal Guard, using them to expand or defend his territory. Corobo can amass an increasing number of specialized citizens behind him, which he can then assign tasks, from digging holes to attacking enemies – similar to how Olimar throws his Pikmin. The more area that the King can claim, the closer he is to finding out what happened to his original kingdom, as well as saving his princess friends that were scattered after the monsters invaded.
New Little King's Story retains all of the charm of the original, even with the Vita "enhancements" inserted into the game. The original was amusing, engaging, and creative, all of which carry over into NLKS, but the Vita brings some upgrades like new visuals, and online elements. The new in-game look offers some pleasing polish, however the menus and dialog can get a bit tedious and hard to read with a small font on a small screen. The Vita release also brings some convenient touch screen adjustments – on the front you can select your Royal Guard with your finger, and dash them at objects just by selecting them, whereas on the back allows you to double tap and learn about your enemies. NLKS even includes some online elements like leaderboards, downloadable content, and co-operative alchemy. The first two are no-brainers and help expand the gameplay even for people that played the original, but the co-op alchemy can be confusing, and an overall challenge to complete, especially after all you have to go through to connect to the network. One less than stellar, and somewhat surprising, change is the drop in frame rate. The Vita will begin to chug a bit when Corobo's Royal Guard starts taking up a good portion of the screen. You can over look it, but you're going to notice it.
Instead of opting for shorter form gameplay, in an attempt to appeal to the format, New Little King's Story goes all in, and brings a mix of RPG, RTS, and city building to a portable console. Missions to kill monsters, and side quests can be completed in short chunks, but NLKS is really enjoyed more as a collective experience. It is a very unique product that blends exploration and battling with city management in experimental ways, that most developers tend to shy away from. While the overall gameplay experience could go horribly wrong, overwhelming the player mechanics and losing them very early on, this game manages to remain light, and well-balanced, pointing the player in the right direction when they need the help, and relaxing when its time to explore. the deeper you get into the game the more it opens up, as characters level, partners become available, and the kingdom expands, New Little King's Story becomes one of the most expansive games on the platform.
It's hard to deny that the Vita is experiencing a bit of a drought when it comes to game releases. There have been some really good ones, but they tend to be few and far between. While New Little King's Story isn't an entirely original release, it's formula is already well-tested, and proven to be enjoyable. Even with its short list of problems, it finds itself on the shortlist of great Vita games. Since it is such a deep experience, anyone that has played through the original may be understandably hesitant to help King Corobo rebuild his kingdom a second time (don't forget there is new downloadable content), but anyone that likes games that fall outside of the standard box, and who may have missed out on the original release should really consider being king for a day.