Dark Start

It's pretty obvious White Knight Chronicles International Edition is the beginning of... something. Unfortunately, it's also a very bad beginning.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: February 8, 2010
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It's been over a year since White Knight Chronicles launched in Japan. In that time, the game has gotten more than a few bad reviews from critics on the other side of the Pacific, though the time between its release overseas and the arrival here in the States has meant SCEA could incorporate some of the updates to the game into the release here. The result? The game's title has grown to include International Edition as part of the moniker.

Even still, more than a year to localize a game is significant, and it's meant an already truncated idea has only gotten staler. Had this been a worldwide simultaneous release, the game would likely have been panned all over the globe, but the hope that this is somehow something to tide JRPG-starved fans over until the epic release of Final Fantasy XIII would have at least been squelched early on. No, this is not the JRPG you've been looking for -- nor is it the next big Level-5 console experience.

The various guys and gals at Level-5 are ridiculously talented. They've created everything from a superhero soccer team to completely redefined the wall between role-playing games and city building -- hell, they effectively rekindled a forgotten franchise here in the States with Dragon Quest VIII. Something happens, though, as you play through a Level-5 game -- an overwhelming sense of fatigue sets in.

Whether by design or process, Japan's hot new third-party developer is absolutely obsessed with repetition. You get the basics of their game, and then you get to experience it for 20, 30, sometimes 70 or 80 hours (and some measure of in-betweens) depending on how diligent you are at playing them. Level-5 games are, by their very nature, a grind. Some absolutely dig that, and it's clear that with White Knight Chronicles, they've tried to spread the myriad of options available when chilling in any number of gorgeous, brilliantly-conceived stops along the grind-fest tour, be they cities or towns or hovels, but there is no escaping the inevitable: White Knight Chronicles will bore you.

Before that it will tease you with an interesting premise, will absolutely coat the experience in cutscenes (more than any other game in recent memory), will introduce you to myriad different lands -- each of them exquisitely varied... and then you will experience all of this to such excess that those positives become negatives. White Knight Chronicles is absolutely rife with things to do and yet you do them so goddamned often you actually start to hate that there's something more than just thumping on enemies for 30 hours.

Every friggin' concept introduced is recycled so many times there's nothing left; palette-swapped enemies bleed into palette-swapped battles and it all becomes so very, very tired. Again, this is something that L5 superfans have come to expect, but this game actually has the balls to hold off on delivering a proper plotline hook for a good twenty hours. In between that time, you'll try to (and almost) save the princess (yes, literally), only to have her unlock something new for you almost a half-dozen times. Then you finally get her and the game just ends. Yes, really. You may not know the twists (and they are both important and, rarely, genuinely surprising), but you sure as hell know what's going to happen: you'll arrive just in time, hulk out, steamroll a boss lazily and then lose Princess Archetype over and over and over and over and over and over an... you get the idea.
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