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Joystiq's Top 10 of 2009: Little King's Story


It seems like everyone who played Little King's Story fell in love with it. Unfortunately, almost nobody played it. It may have been too weird to attract a mass market, or too cute-looking to get the attention of people usually interested in strategy games.

That cuteness, however, is what producer Yoshiro Kimura used to present some rather dark themes in a way that seems totally innocuous on the surface. Little King's Story almost forces the player to become attached to each individual unit -- every unit in your employ has a name, and is assigned to its job by you, the king. In addition, your soldiers will frequently fall in love, marry, and give birth to children. And when just one of your soldiers -- or chefs, or miners, or farmers, etc. -- dies, the whole town wears black in mourning, and many of the citizens attend the funeral service at the church.

At first, you follow the "advice" of the experienced vet who recommends invading all the neighboring kingdoms. But, as you play the game and come to know your subjects, you realize that the other kings are more childish than malevolent, and the indigenous creatures are basically defending their own territory, and you begin to wonder just why you're sending all your townspeople, who were "Carefree Adults" before you met them, to their death in these missions. You feel guilty even as you're enjoying the gameplay.

That dichotomy is the essence of Little King's Story. It's cute, but it's dark. The story is simple, but it inspires questions. It's one of the best games of the year, but nobody bought it.

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