White Knight Chronicles Review
White Knight Chronicles box art
System: PS3 Review Rating Legend
Dev: Level 5 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: SONY 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Feb. 2, 2010 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1 (4 Online) 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Teen 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
A Return to Magic
by Matthew Walker

If there has been one genre this generation that has been sorely represented it is the traditional RPG or, as some stereotypically call them, the JRPG. Either way you put it, the once dominating genre has not been what it used to be. A few titles have delivered solid experiences for the traditional RPG fan, Blue Dragon and Star Ocean: The Last Hope to name a couple, but not many have proven worthy enough to write home about. Granted, this has paved the way for more Western RPGs to shine, but there is still a need for the traditional RPG. Does White Knight Chronicles deliver on this need, or does it fall short like so many before it?

White Knight Chronicles screenshot

In order to answer that question you will need to look further than the story. Opening in Balandor, we find out very quickly that this kingdom has been at war with a neighboring realm. At the beginning of the game we find out Balandor is celebrating Princess Cisna's coming of age. Through dialogue and flashbacks we discover Cisna bore witness to her mother's death and since that day she has spoken not a word. Lasting over ten years, the king wishes for nothing more than to hear his daughter speak. As luck or predictability would have it, Balandor is attacked and the princess kidnapped. I know it may seem a bit trite, but let's face it, how many times has Peach been kidnapped in a Mario game and the plot device still works?

Jumping to the aid of Cisna is Leonard, the main hero. By pure happenstance, Leonard and Cisna met when each was very young, and ever since Leonard has been in love with Cisna and would do anything for her. Filling out the rest of the cast in White Knight Chronicles are your usual RPG suspects. Beginning with Yulie, the spunky, carefree, oldest friend of Leonard; she's the life of the party. Eldore is the mysterious traveler obviously hiding something of great importance. Kara plays the reserved and quiet character until otherwise needed. Wrapping up the heroes is Caesar; the rich kid without a care in the world who is secretly heroic. If these character types sound familiar, they should, since most have been recycled throughout RPG gaming history. The reason these characters click together nicely is the way they are presented.

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Nothing is overly complex with the characters. In fact, that can be said about the entire game. Nothing ever feels too out of reach for the average gamer. You need look no further than the combat system for an example of this. The greatest thing about the combat system is that it can be as easy or as complex as you want it. If you are just looking to race through the game and not really looking for a challenge, you can rely on a few simplistic attacks to beat even the heaviest of bosses. By doing this, you handicap the complexity and the real experience. Instead, if you take advantage of the combat system built to allow you to decide the flow of things, it opens up something in RPGs I have been wanting for a long time. The ease that you can select your attack, magic spell, healing spell, or whatever action you need is fantastic. You don't have a little box that you have to cycle through several little menus in order to find something you want to do. Instead, you can have them laid out in front of you. If there are certain spells or attacks you use the most, you can assign them to the top row of your decisions. Here the combat system is very reminiscent of Final Fantasy XII; a turn-based action system. After you have toyed around with selecting how your attacks will play out, there is another option: building your own combos. As you progress through the game, you unlock more slots for you combos, allowing up to seven hit combos. In big boss battles those combos can come in handy for quickly defeating your enemies.

White Knight Chronicles screenshot

Aside from this enjoyable combat system for the regular characters, you also have a similar system for the White Knight. The White Knight's attacks remind me more of how a summoned creature attacks would work. There's a set of them that you use. However, a word of warning: even if the animation is awesome and makes you feel nostalgic for mini-cutscenes with giant summoned creatures, don't waste the White Knight on low level creatures, always save it for big bads. The reason for this is simple. Once the enemies in an area are defeated, the White knight goes away and you have to have a certain amount of AC (Action Chips) in order to release him again. Plus, those same Action Chips you are saving for the White Knight are also required for other various attacks in your arsenal.

While the action in the game can satisfy some of the most diehard traditional RPG fans, there are other features in the game that give little hints to the developer's pervious works. The biggest stand out has to be is the town building. Very reminiscent of Dark Cloud in a few ways, however, this can become bothersome if you don't have the slightest inkling of interest in titles like SimCity and the thousands of its clones. I won't say it is not trivial, because at moments it is. It can even become too much to deal with and can actually detract from the main quest you are on. That said, it is generally a nice addition to the game - just like the camera you receive early on. You may never use it, but it is there and creates a different aspect to the gameplay that most would not think about.

White Knight Chronicles screenshot

Finally, there is one other aspect of the gameplay I need to bring up: the online functionality. For too long, people have clamored for a solid online experience from an RPG like this. Instead of having strict MMO gameplay, this is broken up into quests. You buy your quest and you go online with a group of up to three other friends, embarking on the quest together. You won't go to unfamiliar lands mind you, so everything will take place in familiar territory, which can be a great thing, especially when it comes to certain landscapes with their labyrinthine design.

Screenshots / Images
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