White Knight Chronicles II, from Level-5 and SCE Japan Studio, came out in Japan last July. It’s literally JUST out in Europe/Australia and will be coming to North America later this summer. In an odd twist, the U.S. release of White Knight Chronicles II is just as well-suited to series newcomers as it is to those who spent 50 or more hours plugging through the previous release. That’s because the upcoming PlayStation 3 release will deliver TWO games instead of just one: last year’s sequel along with an updated version of its 2008 predecessor (which came to the U.S. just last year). More on what “updated” means further along in this preview, which covers a look at the game from E3 2011.
The avatar you created in the White Knight Chronicles returns in White Knight Chronicles II. Your created character is much more central to the story in this sequel than s/he was last time. Previously, only Leonard could transform into one of the game’s massive knights. Now, you’re character can as well, thanks to the Ark Knight. Unlike Leonard’s alternate form, the Ark Knight is fully customizable in terms of its “character class,” and it can even be used in online co-op sessions. Imagine a team of six transformed Knights duking it out with the game’s various baddies; fortunately, many of the missions you can tackle online have been designed with the potential six-person team’s added power in mind. Like any good sequel, that means bigger, nastier battles.
Battle dynamics seems to be a big focus of the changes in this sequel. For starters (literally), every battle begins with your active time gauge at full capacity, meaning you can wade right into the fray without waiting for it to fill up. The idea of course being to create a faster pace in combat. The physical positioning of your chosen fighter also makes a difference on the battlefield, with more damage being dealt for side and rear attacks if you can manage to circle around without drawing attention your way. Additionally, a new Break system allows players to perform attacks that will do things like stun enemies and gum up any attempts to shoot a spell off.
That’s what the big changes amount to. It’s always difficult to preview a Japanese role-playing game in any setting, and particularly in a place as crowded and as loud as E3. No sense of the game’s story or pacing is imparted, just some raw facts about how it plays. It is a very specific type of game, however, that caters to a very specific type of player. If unconventional JRPGs are your thing, White Knight Chronicles has always been that.
All the better too if you happen to be a newcomer to the series. As mentioned above, the game disc will include both the sequel and an updated version of the previous game. The “update” amounts to all of the sequel’s new features being carried over, all of the efforts that have been made to quicken the pace of combat and create a more satisfying overall experience. Probably not satisfying enough to inspire a repeat playthrough, but definitely appealing if you’ve been considering trying out the first game. The two games can be tackled in any order, and the sequel spans a similar number of hours as its predecessor (50+), all of which amounts to a lot of game on a single disc. Look for White Knight Chronicles II later this summer.