Grand Knights History – Not a Review

Earlier this year, I played a few different Vanillaware games to pay homage to the game developer before 13 Sentinels arrived. The first among them was Grand Knights History. Grand Knights History is an obscure title for the PSP released in Japan during 2011, Vanillaware developed the game, and Marvelous Entertainment published it. It never made way outside of Japan. Luckily for me, a dedicated fanbase saw it fit to localize the game on their own.

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New Little King’s Story – Diet Pikmin

New Little King’s Story is a retelling of a 2009 Wii game with almost the same name. (Old?) Little King’s Story is a cult hit and seems to be a hidden treasure of the Wii, obfuscated by shovelware. Unfortunately, the Vita version does not share in the original’s cult status; in fact, many players feel only contempt for this “updated” version.

My history with this game is simple. It’s 2013, and I’m lying in bed, browsing the PS Vita store looking for a new game to play. New Little King’s Story seems pretty promising, but reviews were mediocre, so I passed on it time after time. Fast forward to 2020, and I finally decided after a random burst of spontaneous thought, “I’m just going to sit down and play this game.” Much to my dismay, I learned the game no longer existed in the store (more on this later), so I turned to alternative methods.

I’m not entirely sure how to classify this experience. I did enjoy the game, yes. I completed the entirety of the main storyline, all of the subquests, and fully upgraded every branch of my kingdom. It isn’t a 100% completion, but it’s pretty dang close. The gameplay and my curiosity to see if the story would go anywhere (or pick up at all) kept me returning.

It plays a lot like Pikmin, with some very primitive RPG elements shoehorned in. My biggest frustrations with the gameplay lay within the addition of the RPG-like system. Each unit levels up individually, and you can outfit them with various weapons, armor, and hats, all of which employ a certain charm the game tries to force on you. There is no easy way to reclaim weapons from units that you no longer travel within your “Royal Guard,” and there is no easy way to equip your soldiers at all. The menuing in this game is borderline unforgivable, with frustration and copious amounts of DIY-learning. The game does nothing in terms of favors regarding tutorials, most information being crammed into yet another menu, filled with even more word-vomit and text so small, ants would have to squint. Most of my enjoyment came after I kind of figured out how to play the game, and even after 23 hours clocked, there are still things I don’t understand.

I don’t know how to find units with jobs assigned in your kingdom easily. I don’t know how the party system works, or how to register a party to call that specific group back later. I can’t figure out why creating a party dismisses everyone in my current party, including my chosen princess. Most of my time spent building a party is just chasing after NPCs that I call, and then praying that none of them die in the field because I’ll have to rebuild my entire party from scratch. If you can look past the frustrations of building a party and keep the majority of your troops alive during battles, these frustrations are easily avoidable. The Princess system is entirely unnecessary. Each princess has a “princess skill” you can utilize in combat, but the vast majority of them are pointless. The only skill worthwhile is one that heals everyone in your group; everything else is a waste of time. These issues lie entirely with New Little King’s Story, as the original had no RPG elements involved. These last minute additions to the reworked game serve to diminish the experience rather than enhance it.

Graphically the game looks like a Wii era game. Due to how much is on screen at once, the frame rate chugs. Frame stuttering is one of the chief complaints about the game, and for a good reason. I’ve overclocked my Vita, and even at max settings, I was dropping 5-8 frames in town areas. Textures are simple and the overall atmosphere seems bleak in comparison with the Wii version. When I viewed screenshots from the Wii game, everything is vibrant and colorful. It looks like someone took and applied a “smog” filter before porting it over to the Vita.

Part of the New in New Little King’s Story is the story. The entire script underwent a massive transformation, making changes that were questionable and just downright bad. You lose your castle in the beginning. The Devil King took the liberty to scatter your seven princesses throughout the land, each protected by a boss. You must reclaim all of them to fight the final boss. Only after you save all seven does the Devil King make his first real grand appearance of the game just to put an end to your crusade, and scatter each princess’s life force. The life forces are being held captive by bosses in the same areas you saved them initially. It’s meant to be a “victory lap,” but it hardly feels like one. The story has no motivations, no plot points, nothing. The all of the character personalities in New Little King’s Story suffered from a hasty redevelopment, princesses were entirely scrapped and rebuilt to fit the “harem” trope that the developers/publishers were using to target a new audience.

All of these New additions to the game are the most significant fault, but this was not what the original creators intended. Cing made a cult classic hit, with a unique art style and personality. Contractually obligated to publish a game with Konami, MarvelousAQL hurriedly revamped the original game to try and target a new audience. What they ended up doing was making a complete and total trainwreck. It seems that the original creators, Cing, closed permanately, and their IP was managed by someone else. I go into more detail in these threads:

New Little King’s Story has a ton of redeeming qualities. Most of which I can’t help but wonder are remnants of the original. I didn’t mind the anime/trope-heavy direction the game took, but they trimmed too much, and what was left was a strange and convoluted mess. This game has tons of potential, and it tries (and succeeds in some cases) to find its own unique personality in some of the small details. The bosses and their respective areas were so unusual that many of the boss fights presented new challenges for the player. Some of the character interactions were charming and had me grinning from ear to ear. There are great takeaways from this experience, and maybe one day I’ll finish the true ending and see if my opinion changes. As for now, I am satisfied with my completion level of the game and still genuinely glad I took the time to play. I know I came off as pretty critical in this write-up, but of the 23 hours I spent with New Little King’s Story, the only parts I genuinely couldn’t stomach were at the very end, grinding towards the “True Ending.” Beyond that, my time with it was favorable, even if I’d never recommended it to anyone.

Blog Tags – “About the Author”

Historically I’ve never really done these types of things, but the community here is one I want to try and be more connected. To that end, I’m getting out of my comfort zone and becoming more involved.

I was tagged by Larissa on her blog Games (and Other Bits) // Musings and Thoughts. Something she said there really stood out to me:

I was originally procrastinating these tags because I felt that they broke the “aesthetic” of this blog, but then I realized how stupid that sounds.

So here I am. I am breaking the “aesthetic” of my blog because it is silly. Plus, if someone is taking the time to reach out to me, the least I can do is listen to what that person has to say and respond in kind.

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Odin Sphere Leifthrasir – Not a Review

It’s been a while since my last “not-review,” but it’s for a good reason. I’ve been doing a lot of self-reflection, not only in gaming but in life. Recently I stumbled upon an archive of about 200 or so blog posts from my first blog ever, and I’ve had an incredibly unique experience going back over them. Not to mention that Odin Sphere is a weighty game, and it overwhelmed me, but in the best way possible. It is truly a masterpiece of story-telling and demanded my entire focus for the time I spent with the game.

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Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice – Not a Review

DISCLAIMER: This piece is in not intended to make light of mental illness. I am not, and have never had any diagnosis for mental illness of any kind. My intentions here are to give an accurate opinion, to the best of my ability, regarding the game Hellbalde: Senua’s Sacrifice. If I have made any errors in judgment, or trespasses, please contact me at contact@videogamesimo.com. I would love for this to be an opportunity for me to further my understanding surrounding these complex topics. Also, spoilers ahead. 

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PlayStation Gamer Advisory Panel (GAP) – Complete History

Forums were the primary source of communication between fans and creators in an era before everyone had a voice online via social media. The concept of a “social media influencer” was utterly foreign, and without a unified voice for people to rally behind existed a community known as the PlayStation Underground. Deeper within that community existed a subset of “elite” gamers, handpicked by Sony, to serve as the voice of the broader gaming community. These people were members of what was known as the PlayStation’s Gamer Advisory Panel (GAP). 

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Spyro 3: Year of the Dragon – Not a Review

Spyro games have been my primary source of entertainment for around a month now, and the moment I began, I knew this day would come. When starting something new, despite what it is, I tend to do this thing where I have some level of existential dread surrounding the idea of the end of the said thing. The literal day I commenced my Spyro adventure, knowing full well that I had countless hours of fun ahead, I found myself continually betrayed by my brain. The start of something new is also the beginning of the end, and while I struggle to grasp this truth, I have learned to make the most of something before I reach its inevitable destination. All digressions aside, let’s dive into my thoughts on the Year of the Dragon.

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Spyro 2: Ripto’s Remorse – Not a Review

Let me start this by saying that I’ve never played the original versions of Spyro 2 or 3. If you read my first Spyro post you might recall that I was curious about how much the nostalgic nature of the original Spyro game played into my overall enjoyment. A week later and another 100% completion under my belt, I’m proud to announce that the nostalgia played only a minor role. I genuinely enjoyed this game.

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Stay Ignorant – An arguement for media avoidance

When I was a child, I had a monthly subscription to Game Informer (via GameStop), and that was my primary, sometimes only, source of news. I remember bringing an issue with me to summer camp in 2001 or 2002 and re-reading in bed every night before sleeping. I clung to every word like they were precious droplets of water, and I found myself stranded in the middle of The Empty Quarter.