White Knight Chronicles Review
You probably remember the nay saying that took place in the months after the PS3's launch. Every aspect of the system was picked apart, from the price tag to the game library, which prompted loyalists to keep up the "Just wait for (insert game here) and it will be a PlayStation world once again" drumbeat. Metal Gear and Final Fantasy sequels usually filled that spot, but so did an RPG few knew very much about – White Knight Chronicles. The pedigree of former Final Fantasy developer all-stars, coupled with the Level-5 production house (Jeanne D'Arc, Professor Layton) certainly seemed promising. So, finally, the game is making like Eddie Murphy and coming to America (it's been available in Japan for quite some time) with waves of hype in tow. Was it worth the wait? Is this the game that was once prophesized to "save" Sony's console? Let's just say it's a good thing that the PS3 no longer needs to be "saved," because this blah RPG won't do much besides drive the disappointed back to the store to trade it in for something more fulfilling.
White Knight Chronicles is, at its basest level, another "save the princess, defeat evil" RPG. Some of the best games of all time have followed this tried and true setup, so that isn't necessarily a negative point. What does hurt is that the game has a rich, visually interesting setup that is quickly abandoned in favor of MMO-style quest after MMO-style quest with no feeling of story advancement until much, much later in the game. After meticulously creating a character, players are tossed into a kingdom struggling for peace with its once-hated adversaries. In an effort to rebuild burnt bridges, the king invites his regal counterpart to a party for his daughter. A mysterious third party enters the fray, and an ancient war machine – the White Knight – is resurrected as the princess is princess-napped. The somewhat-tired setup is aided by above average graphics and an interesting set of characters, but once you're past the game's prologue, the story evaporates into thin air. It's replaced by laundry lists of quests that if you've ever even tried an MMORPG, will be instantly familiar. The game's conclusion brings a satisfying end to the story that you may have totally forgotten about by that point, but it almost forgives the hours long narrative derailment that precedes it.
As I just said, the game's visuals are fairly good. The characters are passable by RPG character standards, but the real story is White Knight Chronicles' environments. Even the most mundane of fields or villages teem with life, from plants gently swaying in the breeze to NPCs merrily chatting with one another. The only graphical hiccup is the lip-synching with the new English dialogue. The character's lips NEVER match what they are saying, leading me to believe that when translating the game from its original Japanese, the developers didn't even bother to attempt changing how the character's mouths move. At best it is a minor distraction, but during some scenes all I was able to picture was the characters pointing skyward and howling, "Godzilla! We must flee!"
And speaking of the new English dialogue, the voice actors do a pretty good job. The camera/scene cuts place unnatural breaks in the normal meter of speech, but barring some strange pauses, the voice work is excellent. The orchestral soundtrack is also nicely done and fits the game perfectly. My only complaint with the game's sound was one I had intended to leave out, but after browsing some online forums I found that the problem wasn't local to my PS3 or TV hookup. I found that about 35-40% of the times I began playing, White Knight Chronicles had no sound whatsoever. No music, no dialogue – silence. In fact, when I was creating my character for the first time, I had no idea that the game was intended to have background music; I just thought it was quiet. Restarting the PS3 fixed the issue every time, but this was a huge annoyance. As I said, I almost didn't include this in the review, but when I found out others were experiencing the same problem, I had to mention it.