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White Night Chronicles Int'l Ed.
 

White Night Chronicles Int'l Ed.

ESRB: Teen - T
Platform: PS3
Category: RPG
 
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Author:

Developer: Level-5
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

Features

1 player
2-4 players network play
720p supported
DualShock3
Headset Compatible

White Knight Chronicles International Edition is a JRPG from Japanese developers Level-5. They are the creators of such classic games as Dark Cloud and Dragon Quest. The PS3 seems to be getting their share of RPGs and this one has been highly expected for awhile. So now that the game has reached North American shores many are wondering if this long awaited title is just another cookie cutter RPG or does it rise to the levels of some of the other masterpieces that Level-5 have created in the past?

Graphics

I really quite the look of White Knight Chronicles. Some of the locations set in the game are the most beautiful I have seen yet on the PS3 and rival a lot of other video games. The eye candy is quite pleasing and it makes looting and pillaging way easier when you are enjoying the backdrop. I think most would agree that the graphic engine may be a bit dated in its presentation, but overall it is very good. It reminded me of some of those older PSone or PS2 JRPG titles that gripped us when they began showing up on our shores many years ago.

The character models are bright, colourful, and sharp, and the overall attention to detail is quite amazing. This is evident in the customization of your in-game avatar. It presents you with tons of choices right down to most minute details like eyebrow size and shape, chin width, and even spacing of your eyes. Most of this mode can be skipped by creating a generic avatar, but if you take the time then you have a plethora of options. The level of detail doesn’t stop at your avatar either. The game’s environments are all lush and can be beautifully textured. I enjoyed the little touches like dust blowing through the streets and the wind making the trees come alive as it blew through the leaves. Each area that you will explore has their own unique feel and plenty of variety.

Not all is not well however as the graphics, while great in specific areas, are not perfect. On one hand I marvelled at some of the fantastically huge monsters which are very imaginative, but on the other hand you can see how the graphics sometimes have an aged look to them. While this is a minor gripe, on a more serious note the game does stutter and chug in places. The framerate can take quite a hit during graphic intensive situations which negatively affects the gameplay, but for the most part it is manageable. Along with this issue there was also frequent pop-in. Sometimes crowds or buildings would not draw-in until you were quite close in distance. This quirk never interrupted gameplay, but it was quite noticeable as speech bubbles would show up before the character did.

Sound

As with some of the visuals, the musical musings left me with a very nostalgic feeling to the heyday of PSone and PS2 JRPGs. I enjoyed it for the most part, but hearing the same song during each battle over and over did get tiring at times. There is definitely some really good and memorable music in the game, but overall it is all stuff we have heard before.

I’m not sure why but English voice acting always adds great flair and style to any game or movie if done right. The majority of the games voice acting is fantastic here. I quite liked the script although it can be over the top at times, but what videogame script isn’t? There appears to be some serious voice talent contributing to the cast, but no big names to speak of. One small gripe would be that the lip synching tends to be a bit off, resulting in sometimes amusing looking dialogue. It is not a deal breaker for me, and it shouldn’t be for anyone else.

Gameplay

White Knight Chronicles tells the story of Leonard, a labourer in the city of Balandor who is tasked with the delivery of wine to the royal ball celebrating the coming of age of the princess Cisna. After delivering the wine a rogue faction called the Magi attack with hope of obtaining the mythical Ark of the White Knight. Leonard beats them to the punch and obtains the Ark and all the powers attached to it, including the ability to transform into a 30 foot tall knight in white armour. He fights the Magi off but not before they abduct the princess and escape. Of course you take on a magical adventure to fight evil and be the hero you can be as you set out to rescue the princess.

The Level-5 development crew are no newcomers to the JRPG genre, and much of their previous work is quite highly regarded. One of my faves in recent history is Dragon Quest VIII, which is the high point of that series. Fans of their games will immediately feel the influence of all their other titles as they set to venture through White Knight Chronicles.

Controls can be quite a bit wonky and may seem a bit helter skelter at first. During gameplay you are limited to using the X button for everything, from selecting what attack or spell to use to opening doors, chests, and completing any other necessary actions. Chaos can ensue once you try to access the menu system and change your attacks as you have to press triangle. If you want to head back to the title screen, you will have to press start. Finally, if you want to access the in game map or change which character you are controlling, you have to hit the select button. The menus are very well organized but having three different options mapped to three different buttons feels a bit like overkill as it does cause confusion from time to time. One button to access any kind of options would have sufficed, with separate sub-menus afterwards, but I don’t make games and they are the professionals. After spending some time with the button configurations you will find you can get accustomed to this setup.

A great feature of White Knight Chronicles is the ability to complete quests online and receive rewards that you can use in your single player adventure. The tasks online are completely separate from the tasks assigned to you in the single player game, and unlike so many other online games you can use these winnings or rewards as you see fit in your offline game. You also have the option of working on a quest solo or joining a party of up to three other people that have the same quest open. This is a fantastic way to share your progress and gameplay time with other players. White Knight Chronicles also supports full voice chat which adds to the great multiplayer action.

While I am talking about online play, you can liken the game’s cooperative online play to Phantasy Star Online (PSO) in that its quest based and you are trying to gain guild points to increase your guild rank. I spent a good part of my gaming life with PSO (Dreamcase and original Xbox) and this game comes close to it, although there is one negative which really makes no sense to me. I didn't like the fact that I had only 30 minutes to an hour per quest, but this is tempered somewhat as most quests are fairly quick to finish. It still feels a bit off to me having a time limit though and I wish this was not the case.

The major component of any RPG besides the story is the combat system. Unfortunately this is where White Knight Chronicles stumbles a bit. It uses a real-time battle system where the action never stops while you make combat choices for your characters. Where things go awry here is that you can only control the party leader. Instead of being able to make any decisions for each character in your party, you can only direct your party leader. This is fine for some situations, but in heated battles you are limited to a strict line or style. The styles are so confining that it may not have what you may need in that case. If only one character needs to heal then everyone heals, if you want one to fight everyone fights. The idea is right but the execution is flawed.

You can create a list of commands that will be available during combat for your own character to choose from. While basic moves and commands are standard, spells and special attack moves cost magic power or Action Chips. These chips are earned by executing various attacks in combat. The more Action Chips you build up, the more complex and more effective the special moves become. Leonard, the hero of the story, can also use his Action Chips to transform into the White Knight. This huge, extra-powerful creature dishes out tons of damage for a short time.

During my playtime found a bit of a glitch in the range and or targeting system. It was with alarming frequency that the targeting would miscalculate and fire up messages stating I was too far away for attacks. To make matters worse, you will find that as you try and run away from a fight that you are not prepared for the enemy will stand there swinging his weapons while still being able to hit you with full blows no matter how far away you are. The only way out of these situations is to run into tunnels or any place your enemy cannot access. This occurs more than you may like. In the end though it can be managed and you may even get a laugh out of it, but it is strange nonetheless.

Since you are the party leader, one thing you decide is how to distribute the combat points. By making smart decisions and determining where your parties strengths lie, you can make a fairly kick-ass group and breeze through most of the game with only a few really challenging areas. You magic spells can occasionally come across some immunity problems which had me switching them up, but other than this the game is quite simple to figure out

The amount of gameplay offered by White Knight Chronicles where the title really shines. Now this is a big game and over the week I had to review it I played as much as I could, and I feel like I have only scratched the surface. I did a little research and discovered that the game offers in excess of 80 to 100 hours of adventure to work your way through as you tackle the main story. This doesn’t include the online fun.

What really adds to the amount of playtime is the development of your town, known as the Georama. Early in the game you have the opportunity to purchase a parcel of land where you can create your own Georama. Georamas have their own set of rules as to how big the land is and what types of buildings you can place on it. As you grow and develop your own Georama it is automatically updated online for others to visit. One of the coolest features of the Georama is that it acts as your own personal set of shops. As you buy more particular shops, wares, and accessories, the quality of such increases as does the variety. This shows how incredibly in-depth the game can become, something that I love in an RPG. Best of all, other players can visit your online Georama and purchase items, earning additional income for you. All this flows seamlessly back into the single player game, providing another path for you to upgrade your character’s equipment. Again I must say that the system utilized here is one of the best I have seen in some time. I think the Level-5 team really hit the nail on the head on this aspect of the game.


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