King Me, With Feeling: Checking Out Little King's StoryS

We've heard Xseed is publishing Marvelous' Little King's Story on the Wii this Winter (you can stop calling it "Project O" now), and between the gorgeous art style, charming look and the somewhat Harvest Moon-influenced gameplay blend of real-time strategy, adventure and RPG, there's a lot to clasp our hands in hopeful anticipation about.

Wait, there's more: The all-star team behind the game includes Yasuhiro Wada (Harvest Moon), Yoshiro Kimura (HM & Chulip), Youichi Kawaguchi (Dragon Quest VIII) AND Hideo Minaba, art director for FFXII.

I got to see an early demo of the kingmaking of little Corobo, the shy boy who the player must nurture into a wise and strong ruler.

The first thing that jumped out at me was the beautiful watercolor-pencil style of the cute, humorous cutscenes (we published the trailers a while back here) - and how well they transitioned immediately into the brightly-colored game world. I watched as a wacky looking old knight came riding up on a cute, bulbous cow (yes, it was the much-revered Harvest Moon cow) in his search for the true king.

Corobo then discovers a crown, suddenly prompting his friends to prostrate in homage. Next thing you know, you're in a throne room, and as you start the game as a level one "rookie" king, your mailbox soon fills up with all sorts of mundane requests, like getting rid of a red mushroom that's annoying the townsfolk, or filling in a mysterious hole behind someone's house.

In the scene I watched, the charming, fancily-mustachioed Bull Knight explained to Corobo that the neighboring lands are under siege by Oni devils and under the rulership of false kings, which, of course, it falls to you to rally your folk to deal with. Any time you want to know the state of your kingdom or what needs doing, you return to your throne.

But, of course, you're the King, so you don't have to do this dirty work yourself. Waving your sceptre at townspeople will recruit them to your aid - you can have a few or up to a throng of fifty following you from place to place, ready to do your bidding. Many townsfolk will have different specialties; for example, a team of carpenters will build something when instructed much faster and more efficiently than a group of regular individuals.

You can often earn respect by completing these quests; the more renowned you are as a ruler, the more people will obey you. And your obedient subjects are not just faceless nobodies. They've got HP and attack points, can gain in abilities, and will even show their relationship status - given enough time, your townspeople will marry and propagate. If you don't treat them well, though, if you battle too recklessly or work them too hard, they can permanently die, and as their King, you'll have to attend their funerals. That could be very interesting.

What I saw was mostly exposition and early stages of play, but this is a title I'll personally watch with enthusiasm, because life-sim/adventure hybrids rate pretty high up among my favorite genres.