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.
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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!
The Memory Card Save Files
.01: The return of Baby Metroid (Super Metroid)
.02: Palom and Porom's noble sacrifice (Final Fantasy IV)
.03: The encounter with Psycho Mantis (Metal Gear Solid)
.04: The heir of Daventry (King's Quest III: To Heir is Human)
.05: Pey'j is captured (Beyond Good & Evil)
.06: The Opera House (Final Fantasy VI)
.07: Attack of the zombie dog! (Resident Evil)
.08: A twist on a classic (Metroid: Zero Mission)
.09: A Christmas gift (Elite Beat Agents)
.10: To the moon, Mario! (Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island)
.11: The Solitary Island (Final Fantasy VI)
.12: Wander's brave friend (Shadow of the Colossus)
.13: The submerged letter (StarTropics)
.14: The legend of Tetra (The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker)
.15: Snake pulls the trigger (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater)
.16: Riding under the missiles (Contra III: The Alien Wars)
.17: Hover bike madness! (Battletoads)
.18: Syldra's final cry (Final Fantasy V)
.19: Death by ...grappling beam? (Super Metroid)
.20: The message in the glass (BioShock)
.21: Crono's final act (Chrono Trigger)
.22: Ganon's tower (The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time)
.23: It was all a dream? (Super Mario Bros. 2)
.24: The assimilation of Kerrigan (StarCraft)
.25: A McCloud family reunion (Star Fox 64)
.26: The return of Rydia (Final Fantasy IV)
.27: The battle with the Hydra (God of War)
.28: Fight for Marian's love! (Double Dragon)
.29: The Hunter attacks (Half-Life 2: Episode 2)
.30: The Phantom Train (Final Fantasy VI)
.31: The end of The End (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater)
.32: In Tentacle We Trust (Day of the Tentacle)
.33: Peach dances with TEC (Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door)
.34: Learning to wall jump (Super Metroid)
.35: A leap of faith (Ico)
.36: The Master Sword (The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past)
.37: Thinking outside the DS (Hotel Dusk: Room 215)
.38: Running outside the castle (Super Mario 64)
.39: Del Lago! (Resident Evil 4)
.40: In memoriam (Lost Odyssey)
.41: The tadpole prince (Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars)
.42: Pyramid Head! (Silent Hill 2)
.43: Waiting for Shadow (Final Fantasy VI)
.44: Solid vs. Liquid (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots)
.45: The birth of the cutscene (Ninja Gaiden)
.46: Insult swordfighting (The Secret of Monkey Island)
.47: A castle stuck in time (The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker)
.48: 'That's the magic flute!' (The Wizard)
.49: Saving Santa (Secret of Mana)
.50: A shocking loss (Half-Life 2: Episode Two)
.51: The flying cow (Earthworm Jim)
.52: Blind the Thief (The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past)
.53: The nuclear blast (Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare)
.54: Microwaving the hamster (Maniac Mansion)
.55: The fate of Lucca's mother (Chrono Trigger)
.56: A fiery demise? (Portal)
.57: Jade's moment of silence (Beyond Good & Evil)
.58: The Great Mighty Poo (Conker's Bad Fur Day)
.59: With knowledge comes nudity (Leisure Suit Larry III)
.60: Flint's rage (Mother 3)
.61: The dream of the Wind Fish (The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening)
.62: Leaving Midgar (Final Fantasy VII)
.63: Auf Wiedersehen! (Bionic Commando)
.64: Death and The Sorrow (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater)
.65: A glimpse into the future (Space Quest: The Sarien Encounter)
.66: Taloon the merchant (Dragon Quest IV)
.67: Scaling the waterfall (Contra)
.68: Anton's love story (Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box)
.69: TKO! BJ! LOL! (Ring King)
.70: Giant robot fish! (Mega Man 2)
.71: The rotating room (Super Castlevania IV)
.72: The collapsing building (Uncharted 2: Among Thieves)
.73: Death by funnel (Phantasmagoria)
.74: Crono's trial (Chrono Trigger)
.75: The blind fighting the blind (God of War II)
.76: Brotherly love (Mother 3)
.77: Prince Froggy (Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island)
.78: The statue of a hero (Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride)
.79: Inside the worm (Gears of War 2)
.80: The return to Shadow Moses (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots)
.81: A prayer for Ness (EarthBound)
.82: Yuna's empty embrace (Final Fantasy X)
.83: Blast Processing! (Sonic the Hedgehog)
.84: A royal assist (The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker)
.85: You have chosen ... wisely (Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis)
.86: Death is final (Fire Emblem)
.87: A Snake in a microwave (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots)
.88: The mark of a THIEF (The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening)
.89: MEAT 'SPLOSION! ('Splosion Man)
.90: In her father's Shadow (Final Fantasy VI)
.91: A sniper rifle and a telephone (Grand Theft Auto IV)
.92: Sacrificing Yoshi (Super Mario World)
.93: Language barrier (Uncharted 2: Among Thieves)
.94: Death is impossible (Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge)
.95: The jeep chase (Metal Gear Solid)
.96: Farewell, Klonoa (Klonoa: Door to Phantomile)