Level 5 has released the latest game in their White Knight Chronicles JRPG series, and Level 5’s well-paid marketing department have sat many long, coffee-laden hours to bestow upon it the creative name of White Knight Chronicles 2. I have always been a fan of JRPG games, because the driver behind the game is the story, not the character. Because WKC2 is a direct sequel to WKC1 (unlike some JRPG games **cough** Final Fantasy **cough**), Level 5 thought it a good idea to also include WKC1 on the same disc. In the same breath, they addressed many of the issues that fans had with the first game, so you can almost call the version that ships on-disc White Knight Chronicles 1: Remastered. Is it worth playing, however? Let me answer that question for you, after the jump.
Review tax time! Level 5 has a rich history of making awesome games, and I was surprised to find that I’d played a good number of the games that have emerged from this studio, most of them on the Playstation 2. Since one of Level 5’s best known franchises—the Professor Layton series—is not in the same genre as White Knight, I’m not going to discuss that game, but I will talk about the two Level 5 games that WKC is most similar to: Dragon Quest VIII and Rogue Galaxy. The only reason I’m not talking about Dark Cloud and its sequels is that I never played those, to my sorrow.
Dragon Quest VIII was possibly one of the most fun JRPGs I’d ever played, and after coming from the intense seriousness that was Final Fantasy, playing the brilliantly-produced DQ8 was like that first breath of fresh air after being dutch-ovened. The humor was fantastic, the storyline did not take itself too seriously, and the voice artistry was for once just that: art. Different regions even had different accents, and for a game, that’s a brilliant change from the sheer, stifling avalanche that is American accents in games.
Shortly after finishing DQ8, I went on to play an RPG that was for once so much more: Rogue Galaxy. In a nutshell, the game had a brilliant real-time battle system that allowed you to not only jump (in the land of the RPG, the characters who are able to jump are kings), but had mapped the long and short-range weapons to different buttons. And if that were not enough, the special attack system even had a Chrono Trigger-like feature where pairs, or even a trio, of characters could perform a single attack together depending on who was in the party. It made a difference, therefore, who was active in the party and who was not.
All of the preceding verbal barrage brings me to the meat of the White Knight Chronicles review, because amazingly, Level 5 has managed something quite astounding indeed: make a game—a pair of games, if I were to be brutally honest—that combines the sheer fun RPG-ness of both Dragon Quest 8 and Rogue Galaxy (and also Dark Cloud, I am told, and I’ll get into that bit later), and succeeds in being utterly worse than either. It takes an almost mind-confounding measure of misdirection and talent to somehow bring something worse to the table than what they had previously created, and I lay every single sanguine-soaked ounce of blame at the feet of one single, blue-hued, elf-infested, Leeroy-cursed game: World of bloody Warcraft.
However, I’m getting a little ahead of myself here in my righteous wrath, so let’s go back to the beginning and see where my tirade stems from. *Ahem*. White Knight Chronicles 2 is a JRPG that takes place in a fantasy setting [Ed: So like Final Fantasy, but without the “final”, then?]. When you fire up the game, you are first treated to a warning message about how playing for long hours on end is bad. Once you get to the title screen, you’re prompted to start a new White Knight Chronicles 1 game, start a new
M. Night Shyamalanicles White Knight Chronicles 2 game, or import an existing Bryan McNight Harmonicals White Knight Chronicles 1 save game to start Fright Night Prodigals White Knight Chronicles 2 game. Starting a WKC2 game on its own gives you a bunch of level 35 characters to play with, and the proper number of skill points to assign to those characters. As if this weren’t complicated enough, you can also import saves from White Knight: Origins for PSP to get more goodies.
Having never played the first game, I thought that the best way to go about things was to start from the beginning so that I get an understanding of who’s who and what’s what. From the start, you create a character much in the way many modern RPGs ask you to do. What happens next is a little misleading, because it turns out that your character actually has bugger-all relevance to the plot, and the only real reason this “avatar” exists is…well…World of effing Warcraft again, and I will elucidate that point on the next page, I promise.