Can you imagine playing a videogame that forced you to remember everything you once learned in grade school? What if The Legend of Zelda required you to know the order of all the periodic elements before brewing a red potion? What if Contra asked you to enter the first ten digits of pi to access the game’s many bases?
Luckily, this doesn’t happen very often, which, while interesting, is probably a good thing. Playing a videogame should be a challenge, but not a near-impossible chore. And no videogame -- I don’t care what videogame -- should make anyone dive back into the awkward memories of grade school.
Call it genius or call it insane, Little King’s Story -- the quirky, altogether fantastic little action-strategy game for the Wii -- actually features a moment just like this. The game contains a boss battle that requires the player to reach back into their years of Hypercolor shirts and yellow Sony Sports Walkmans to recall and utilize their knowledge of, of all things ... geography.
Goddammit, Little King’s Story.
Most people that have read my articles before know that I am obsessed with Pikmin -- for years I have been drooling in anticipation for the maybe-finally-officially-announced Pikmin 3. So when Little King’s Story was first revealed -- a strange hybrid between Pikmin, Animal Crossing, and Final Fantasy Tactics -- I was ecstatic.
Since the game was released a few years ago, Little King’s Story has amassed quite the cult following. And rightfully so, as the game is quite fantastic.
In the game, you play as King Corobo, the titular “little king” who finds a magic crown that allows him to give orders to all the people of the kingdom of Alpoko.
The object of the game is to build up your kingdom so it becomes a great empire, even competing with the many other great kingdoms of the world.
Little King’s Story plays a lot like Pikmin, in that you control the king and the countless number of “minions” that travel with him. Each member of the kingdom you control has a special ability, making them useful in specific ways. For example, a solider is great at fighting enemies and a farmer is great at digging.
When the game begins, King Corobo’s kingdom is very small.
But as the game progresses, and the King goes on multiple missions, his kingdom starts to grow.
Eventually, his kingdom becomes large enough that it gets the attention of some rulers of other nearby kingdoms.
These kings are all evil and run very corrupt kingdoms.
Determined to unify the countryside and grow into an empire, King Corobo decides to journey into each of the dangerous foreign lands, defeat the evil kings, and rescue the princesses that are held captive there.
The king of each kingdom comes in the form of an in-game boss. It is these bosses that make up the most interesting and creative part of Little King’s Story. Each one of the boss fights in the game is completely unique and display some genuinely inspired moments of game design.
It is during one of these classic boss battles when this week’s Memory Card moment occurs: Geography lesson.
King Corobo visits the T.V.-themed Primetime Kingdom late in the game. Because of this, it is one of the more complicated and difficult of the kingdoms.
At the very end of the level, he confronts the boss king of Primetime Kingdom, cleverly named TV Dinnah.
TV Dinnah is a terrifying king with a golden crown (not the Viserys kind) that sits atop a head that has been replaced by a giant television.
When Corobo first confronts him, TV Dinnah starts speaking in a muffled speaker tone. A giant eye appears on the television screen on top of his body. He stares directly at Corobo, and his digital eye starts to spin, hypnotizing the little king.
Random, creepy images flash across the screen.
After this, the battle begins!
TV Dinnah fights on top of a giant map of the world. Not the in-game, fictitious world, but a map of the Earth, complete with all the real-life continents and countries.
A countdown timer begins and TV Dinnah proceeds to give a clue to Corobo about a specific country. For example, he may say “I have arrived in the nation of art!”
At this point, multiple flags of the world appear on a list at the bottom of the screen. The player must figure out which country TV Dinnah is talking about. Once they do, they must direct Corobo to the corresponding country on the map, dig a hole using a farmer over the country’s location, and hope for the best!
If Corobo is correct, the boss becomes vulnerable and the little king’s soldiers can start to attack.
If Corobo is wrong, however, he is trapped in a random television studio set and forced to avoid a massive barrage of enemies for a limited amount of time. Once Corobo survives, he must wait for another clue and stat all over again.
So, not only does the player have to figure out what country TV Dinnah is talking about based on one tricky clue, they have to recognize the country’s flag. And after all that they still have to know where that specific country is located on the map. It’s a lot to have to know and a very, very challenging boss fight.
After correctly figuring out the clues, figuring out the flags, figuring out the location of all the countries, and continuously attacking the boss, TV Dinnah is eventually defeated.
As he falls, the screen turns to static. A “please stand by” image appears.
TV Dinnah turns off and his “show” comes to an end.
Corobo and his helpful allies celebrate as they move forward to rescue the easily excitable Princess Kokomo.
With the new princess in tow, the gang returns to the ever-growing kingdom of Alpoko to await their next challenge.
You can watch the unique, entertaining, and unbelievably tough boss battle with TV Dinnah right here:
Fun fact: I was pretty great at Geography in middle school. I had such a hardcore teacher, that our final exam was a blank map of the entire world. We had to write in every single country and every single capital. That was our test. In middle school. It was insanely difficult.
But all that studying paid off, as I went on to win the local Geography bee! Yay!
Now, another fun fact: I forgot all this amazing information just a few years later. Boo!
This was proven once I reached TV Dinnah in Little King’s Story. If I had been in middle school again, I may have beaten this boss with no problem. But being, well, older than I was in middle school, I had trouble recalling all of this useful geographical information.
So, how do I feel about the inclusion of something like this in the game? Although it is a very tricky boss battle, I kind of love it. I kind of love it a lot.
Now, I don’t necessarily think that all videogames should add sequences that force you to recall real-life facts and figures in order to proceed. Something like that would make no sense in certain games.
But in something like Little King’s Story, it just works. And it works brilliantly!
The game establishes itself as being quirky early on, with its odd, refreshing humor and absurd, yet addictive gameplay.
But then you get to the game’s bosses and everything is taken to the next level.
The bosses in the game are ridiculous. Each one introduces an entirely new gameplay mechanic that turns the game’s basic mechanics on its head!
One boss turns the game into a giant pinball machine, with players having to attack the boss using a giant “ball.” Another boss transforms the game into a glorified game show, forcing players to answer trivia questions about Little King’s Story itself.
By the time you reach TV Dinnah, the game already establishes its bizarre nature. Throwing in a boss that requires a vast knowledge of geography doesn’t feel odd at all. It surprisingly feels appropriate!
But, man, is the TV Dinnah boss fight tough.
Recognizing the flags of different countries is hard enough, but to have to know where each of the countries is on the world map makes the task absurdly difficult. If you are lucky -- as I was many times! -- you will get an easy clue and a bunch of easy flags that you instantly recognize.
If you aren’t lucky -- which also happened to me many times! -- you will get a clue that makes no sense and a choice of flags you have never seen before.
But you know what? That is great. Good for Little King’s Story to attempt something this risky and daring in a videogame. It is creative and originality like this that makes me love videogames in the first place!
I am not certain of this, but I think it is possible to find a list of all the flags and countries in the game before finding the boss -- kind of like a study guide. I have never found this (or I did and completely ignored it), but that is admittedly very helpful and would make the sequence much easier.
Regardless, the inclusion of this technique during a boss battle is genius.
On the off-chance that there is a Little King’s Story 2 in the future, I will make sure to read up on my multiplication tables and Presidential history before playing. STUDY GROUP!
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