Review: My Life as a King lives up to its name

I detest Final Fantasy games. Truth be told, I loath all RPGs. Yup, I’m in the 40 percent minority of gamers that doesn’t enjoy a good role playing game. After downloading Final Fantasy: My Life as a King, however, I can confidently say that I now adore the venerable series. Of course, the latest game is anything but an RPG.

My Life as a King is a city-building game similar to Sim City and akin to Animal Crossing, but it plays a whole lot faster — enough to entertain non-sim lovers even. Players assume the role of an aspiring little monarch that is tasked with rebuilding a castle town via home building, outsourced dungeon exploration, resource management, taxes, and inhabitant morale. It doesn’t sound that exciting, but boy does the game suck you in thanks to the aformention speed of play, strategy, and delightful presentation.

That’s you and your well-endowed assistant named Chime.

Building materials don’t grow on trees, so it’ll be up to you to first populate your town with new residents, then ask those willing and able to mine additional resources for you in the surrounding (non-playable) dungeons. You’re a king after all — get somebody else to do your dirty work!

My Life as a King is counted in days that last no longer than 3-4 minutes real time. A typical day consists of: receiving a daily report telling you how much tax you collected the previous day, what your “adventurers” accomplished, and granting you the ability to assign new work so you can gather more loot, make more money, and grow your town further still.

It’s good to be king.

It’s difficult to explain — given the boring game description — why My Life as a King is so addicting (it can be played in small doses or half-day sessions). What stands out the most, however, is that the game does a fine job in making you feel like an omnipotent but protected king. By doing so, Square Enix underscored the importance of strategy over combat while giving reason for being a patriarch over fighter, which is a nice change of pace.

Even though the game is less than a 40 MB download (287 blocks), the confined presentation rivals that of the best-looking GameCube titles, greatly adding to the gameplay. The visuals seem a bit washed out, nevertheless, they remain charming. Building animations are reminiscent of Wind Waker-like smoke swirls, select stores will hang parade-like decor on promotional days, the writing is witty and U.S. specific, and the music is amazingly memorable — like Mario good.

Talking with folk is a great way to boost morale… and fill your tax coffers.

My Life as a King is far from innovative. While motion-controls are tenderly used to call on your assistant, the experience is very straightforward and could easily be played on other consoles. Regardless, it’s difficult to criticize the game other than for its lack of pioneering ideas — its just so well-crafted.

“You little city is growing,” my wife told me today. My efforts had not be in vain!

Some reviewers have called My Life as a King “shallow” because it doesn’t let players explore and de-boss the various dungeons. Others have questioned the downloadable content, forgetting that it’s optional and of no consequence to the primary experience or story (DLC can extend the mileage, but I haven’t felt the need to buy it).

These shortsighted critics are grossly missing the point, however, and forgetting the game’s namesake: My Life as a King. Royalty may never engage in close combat, as is the case with this Final Fantasy title, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have any fun.

three and a half stars