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Playstation 3









Level 5



T (Teen)



February 2, 2010



- Gorgeous visuals
- Rich musical score
- Plenty of customization options for characters and GeoRama



- Almost endless grinding
- Semi-forced online play
- Unclear information on implementation of skills



Review: Heavy Rain (PS3)

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Review: Lost Odyssey (360)



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White Knight Chronicles

Score: 7.5 / 10


white knight chronicles          white knight chronicles


Of all the Japanese developers who put out JRPGs, I have a particular fondness for Level 5. Their Dark Cloud series was a standout among the other major JRPGs like Final Fantasy or Suikoden because of the combination of whimsical art style, evocative music scoring, and their “GeoRama” mechanic which let players essentially build towns and other areas in the game. You can imagine how excited I was when I first heard about White Knight Chronicles. It sounded like the start of a new and intriguing new series from a developer with an excellent track record.




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After finally getting my hands on it, I'm inclined to think that it is just that, with all of the goodies and failings of a first title.

The visuals in WKC definitely share a lineage with the style found in Dark Cloud, but they are also considerably evolved from that series, as you would expect for a PS3 title. Rather than the hyper-realistic style found in Final Fantasy XIII, WKC goes with a more manga-esque style which gives the game the feel of an


anime series as opposed to a more cinematic feeling. The character models are excellent, particularly the giant monsters that you find yourself fighting from time to time and the titular alter ego that your character becomes. The variety of weapon and armor styles are also incredibly well done. Strangely enough, you almost want to spend time just putting the characters through various combinations of weapons and armor just to find what looks the coolest to you. There simply isn't anything ugly or substandard about the visuals in this game. It's a feast for the eyes.

In much the same way, the sound and music for WKC is also a treasure trove of audio goodness. As I've said before, the hallmark of a good soundtrack is one that I want to pop into the CD player in the car and go bombing down the highway with, and the only thing stopping me from doing that is importing the CD from Japan. From sweeping orchestral scores played during the cinematics to bouncy little ditties stepping into the local tavern, there isn't a bad piece of music in the batch. My only problem might be that the combat music does get a little tiresome after a while, and I kind of wish they'd found a good way to change it up. The voice acting in the game is top notch, though only a couple of names were immediately recognizable. As far as sound effects go, they're present but generally subdued, as if they're being kept low key to let the music and voice take center stage.

There's a lot to love about the gameplay in WKC, but there's also room for some concern. You start the game by creating your avatar, which promptly gets demoted to the role of playable sidekick while the main character in the story makes their way through seven chapters of steampunk swords and sorcery. Early in the game, the main character Leonard gains the power to transform into the White Knight, which certainly makes taking out the giant monsters in the game easier, but is more irksome in the Guild Quest multiplayer portion because your avatar never gains a comparable ability. Character customization in terms of skills and abilities is very open ended, but there's a dangerously temptation to simply buy everybody the same kinds of armor regardless of their abilities. While the game uses a timer to indicate when a character can take an action, and armor can affect the speed at which the timer runs, there's not much point in trying to armor your characters differently. The ability to build your own multihit combos is offset by the slow method by which you regain the Action Chips necessary to execute them. A few skills can be learned by characters to help speed that process up, but they're buried deep in the skill lists, and not every skill category has them. Characters have a much larger number of skills than they have command slots to use them, which is only natural, but the distinction about which skills can be used under what circumstances is a little less clear. Some skills are meant for putting into combos, but the description of the skill suggests it can be used elsewhere in general combat. Additionally, there are some skills that can really only be used either on the giant monsters by themselves or on regular monsters as part of a combo, and the distinction is not entirely clear.


white knight chronicles          white knight chronicles

If one were to try and make a speed run through the main quest of game, they could probably accomplish it in about twenty hours, give or take, which makes this probably one of the shortest JRPGs I've ever played. However, the online multiplayer component is considerably larger, primarily because of the tremendous amount of grinding you have to do to get all the items you need to improve your avatar's online “guild rank” which allows access to special sets of weapons and armor. The GeoRama system in the game is a fun little sandbox that you get to build, run around in, and buy equipment at, but players looking to max out their GeoRama's size and capabilities might take issue with the fact that you have to improve your Guild Rank. It is possible to solo Guild Quests, but as a practical matter, you're better off delaying that until one has improved their character significantly or finding people online that you can group with. Completists will undoubtedly be grinding through the Guild Quests in order to get all the goodies and max out their avatars.

It's good to see Level 5 doing big RPGs again, and White Knight Chronicles is a solid first effort in what could be a new series.

- Axel Cushing

(April 22, 2010)


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