Level 5 is responsible for a couple of the most beloved RPGs of the past generation, especially in Japan. Dragon Quest VIII and Rogue Galaxy are the team's latest efforts, and if the review feedback is any indication, these games rank as two of the best. With this success, it came as no surprise when Level 5 unveiled their first next-gen RPG for the PS3, White Knight Story .
What was surprising, however, was how far along the game is in development when it was just recently unveiled. We reported on the game during TGS, but it was definitely news to everyone at the time, as it must've been the team's intention to keep it under wraps. But come to find out, White Knight is a heck of a lot closer than we expected, and could be available in Q1 2007.
When Sony showed the trailer at TGS, the first thing that struck every viewer was how the game looked when in motion. Early still-frame screenshots clearly didn't do the game justice, because when White Knight started to move, we got a chance to see the game's animation…and it apparently had quite the impact. Level 5 producer, Akihiro Hino, wasn't just blowing smoke with his comments about "next-gen animation" being on display in this game, because it looks like nothing else we've seen before.
The actual content of the trailer featured a quick gameplay sequence amidst a vibrant forest, where the characters encountered several enemies and even fought a boss at the end of the area. This may sound like your prototypical RPG, and while the premise and foundation remains rooted in traditional style, we assure you the actual combat mechanic is not at all similar to a game like Dragon Quest . Most of us are familiar with the standard form of attack: character leaps, swings sword, hits or misses, and character jumps back to original position. If you expect to see that in White Knight Story , we'd like to disabuse of that notion right now.
With such an advanced animation system, a character will leap to attack and the sword will realistically strike other swords and even shields, thus creating a physically accurate battle. When two characters go at it, it doesn't look like the old-fashioned repetitive style; it actually looks like two virtual humans doing battle. This is not something we were able to accomplish in the last generation, so it points towards endless possibilities in other games.
The video also displayed a great deal of variety in the combat. When encountering a set of enemies, the three characters in the party split up and entered into battle. The main character (presumably the hero) quickly eliminated his foe with a couple brutal sword attacks, but then turned to grab a-hold of another enemy, thereby giving his female compatriot a few free shots. At this point, the third enemy attempted to flee, causing the party to follow in pursuit.
And in terms of visuals, White Knight features the lush, rolling landscapes we certainly are familiar with thanks to Dragon Quest VIII , but it's not the only evident graphical benefits. We're going to get a silky smooth camera that pans cleanly over the massive environments coupled with unbelievable depth in draw distance. The game will sport a real-time form of adventuring, as you can spot enemies from afar on the world map. Enemies will also take notice of your travels, and perhaps even gather up allies to hunt you down.
And of course, we can't forget the "White Knight" himself…who is actually the hero. Well, a 7-foot version of the hero, anyway. By utilizing a mysterious ancient artifact, the main character will be able to transform into the intimidating White Knight, thus making the overall scale of the game even bigger. And in terms of the combat itself, outside of the aforementioned animations and example battle, the game may perform much like other hybrids ( Star Ocean , Tales of Symphonia ). White Knight Story will include elements from both turn-based and real-time formats, and there should also be a significant dose of strategy as well.
Before an encounter begins, you'll access a "Battle Preparation" screen where you must assign commands to each of your three characters. These characters have a "Function Palette," where commands can be set during preparation and then executed in battle simply by pressing a button. Each palette can hold 7 abilities, and herein lies that preparation strategy. Throughout the game, you should be consistently seeing both mental and dexterous challenges, which is exactly what we've come to expect from hybrids.
The more we hear about this game, the more excited we get. It's really that simple. Given that trailer and Level 5's recent quality work, the PS3 might be getting the first must-have RPG in early 2007. When we have any solid details regarding a date, we'll be sure to let you know.