Little King's Story is one of the most intriguing games of the year, and for good reason. At its best it takes the good things about Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing – the feeling of controlling and interacting with a virtual world – while giving you some actual gameplay and a sense of purpose. From atop the throne, you can oversee your expanding empire, build new homes and industrial buildings (useful for creating new unit types like merchants and miners), and even preside over marriages for lovestruck citizens. While the game isn't extremely deep, it creates a great sense of place, especially when you see NPCs taking part in post boss-fight celebrations or solemn funerals.

While village life is engaging, the meat of the game takes place on the road, exploring for new items, treasures, and taking on enemies to conquer the six rival kings that populate the land. In this portion of the game, Little King's Story plays like Pikmin, which has you leading a gang of followers and issuing basic commands like attack and retreat. At first, it's basic – just face the baddie and send your minions running. However, as the game opens up you must make decisions about which units to take in your squad (each unit has special abilities, be it the hunters' ranged attacks or the miners' ability to break through rock obstacles). Later on, you can upgrade your units, either through further construction of buildings that spawn advanced units or through dropped items that give stat buffs. Eventually, you can use different battle formations and techniques to give you a further advantage.

When everything works, it's a great balance. The city building/sim elements are light enough not to bog down the momentum, but keep you invested in building your kingdom. While the combat and world exploration aren't exactly deep, there is a layer of strategy in play when determining which units to take with you on the next missions. In addition, the boss battles put you to the test using classic attack/defend patterns gleaned from old-school platformers.

Sadly, things don't always run as smoothly as they should. Your troops are plagued by control and pathfinding issues that make combat a frustrating experience at times. You hold down the Z button to bring up your king's targeting cursor, which is so erratic you frequently send troops running towards nothing instead of the enemy one inch in front of them. The pathfinding issues are worse; your troops can't manage to circumnavigate even the smallest obstacles, meaning that battles frequently devolve into total chaos. While certain unit types are more effective against certain enemies, there's no good way to quickly change between unit groups.

While it's not perfect, the more I think about Little King's Story the more inclined I am to focus on the good things than the bad. While I'm certainly hoping for a more refined control scheme next time (perhaps using the pointer functionality of the remote), I can't fault a game that offers such a fun, engaging, and lengthy adventure on the Wii.