While we wait for Final Fantasy XIII, we’re anxious for Level 5’s (Rogue Galaxy, Dark Cloud, and Dragon Quest VIII) new exclusive PS3 RPG White Knight Chronicles. The game has just been released in Japan and we’ve got our hands on a fresh import copy. Featuring a full offline singleplayer mode as expected, White Knight Chronicles also throws a 4 player co-op mode into the mix. Today I’ll focus on the game in general, and the single player campaign.
White Knight Chronicles Intro Video
The story follows Leonard, a young boy that gets sucked into the action by rescuing the princess of Balandor before she is kidnapped. During the rescue, he finds a suit of armor that allows him to transform into the White Knight (think Final Fantasy summon spell), which grants him the powers to fight the evil force that tried to kidnap the princess.
Hit the jump for much more on the game including a look at the character customization tool, gameplay, and a report on how import friendly the game is.
The game opens by letting the player create a custom character with an extremely robust character creation tool. One you’re kitted out, named, and built, it’s time to head into the game only to find that the character you created is Leonard’s sidekick! Your personalized character will accompany Leonard through the quest and will also be used for the game’s multiplayer component. Thankfully, many of the cutscenes are in-engine which your character will be rendered in… so just make sure you don’t make them too ugly.
White Knight Chronicles Character Customization
This is where knowledge of Japanese starts to become necessary as the game is an RPG and relies mostly on dialogue to tell the story. From best I can gather, you and Leonard stay with and/or work for a local shopkeeper and are tasked with going on a simple quest.
After a few cutscenes, the game drops you into the world and it’s off to the quest area. The starting city has the requisite shops and townsfolk ready to tell you about their day or the latest rumors. The rumors happen to be in Japanese, but I can only assume they talk about the lovely princess and the upcoming event where she will invariably be in danger. Sounding a bit like Final Fantasy IX? You bet.
After a short cutscene involving a mysterious, hooded man walking past Leonard, you and he are off to fight enemies outside the city gates. The combat plays out a lot like FFXII in that it is an active system that requires a command for each attack, but you must wait a certain amount of time between each action. This is not an action-RPG.
In the beginning, you only have some simple attacks, but there are seven slots for attacks and abilities which can be customized before battle. To use these commands, you use the d-pad to select them before hitting the action button to attack. You can also spend a turn blocking, which will reduce the damage you take instead of attacking, but in the beginning it’s better to dole out the damage and heal after battle.
You’re also free to move between attacks, but it isn’t really possible to run completely out of range of an enemies attack. I did notice, however, that running away from an enemy will sometimes result in the baddy changing his target to your ally. This is useful for getting away to drink a potion or cast a healing spell.
The major feature of the combat system is the ability to make combos. As you level up, you will be able to slot more and more abilities into a combo. For example, I gave Leonard a combo that consisted of a regular attack, spinning slash, and a fire-based attack. This is a great way to deal a lot of damage in a short amount of time as it gives you multiple attacks on each “turn”. It does come with a risk, however. Not only will the combo use the full amount of Magic Points (MP) and AC, a system of blue or orange squares that build up over time and are required by some abilities, it plays out like a small quick time event. You’ll be tasked with hitting the X button at specific times to keep the combo going. The timing changes based on the attacks that you’ve slotted into the combo.
White Knight Chronicles Gameplay
Upon leveling up, you can choose to put skill points into different areas like swords, 2-handed swords, magic, etc. and within each category are different abilities. There isn’t a hard class system so you are free to build your characters any way you would like. As with many RPG’s, however, you’ll want to specialize them and avoid making too many “Jack-of-all-Trade” characters. It seems a lot like the Sphere Grid (Final Fantasy X) or License Board (Final Fantasy XII) system with a more straightforward menu presentation. Abilities have pre-requisites and unlock new things like additional abilities, spells, and character buffs.
Weapons can also be upgraded with different effects like an increase in damage or even elemental damage. This requires money and components, which are gathered from the game world and dropped by enemies. The enemy drops are auto-looted, but I haven’t noticed enemies dropping any items.
There is no loading time between battles and all enemies are visible in the game world meaning you can choose to avoid monsters instead of entering combat. Using items requires you to use the in-game menu, but they can also be mapped to an action on the bar. The game also doesn’t pause while in this menu so timing is crucial. In fact, the game doesn’t pause at all, ever. Make sure you’re in a safe area before you step away.
Graphically, the game looks good, but it’s not going to win any awards for the visuals. White Knight Chronicles also has a lot of pop-in and while the draw distance for terrain is very far, and enemies and NPC’s will pop-in constantly. The music is standard RPG fare and probably not worth buying the soundtrack like with some other RPG’s.
Import wise, if you don’t know Japanese, we recommend holding off until the US version releases in 2009. For our brief taste, it’s looking like White Knight Chronicles could be a promising title for the PS3.
Are you exciting about White Knight Chronicles? Any questions?