RPG games aren't very easy to develop, and they especially take a long time to bring over to a region outside of Japan. White Knight Chronicles is one such example, and it was not only in development for a number of years, but it also took a long time to finally arrive stateside. Now, I've been playing WKC for a number of weeks, before it even arrived on store shelves, and admittedly, every time I sat down to play, I was enjoying myself. Now, I normally never bring up other reviews, but when I saw some of the absolute bull some of these critics wrote about WKC, a certain feeling came over me…I can't explain what, but it wasn't a pleasant one. One major online site says WKC is worth a 5.1 – and that's absolutely moronic, because a 5.1 is practically unplayable. And unplayable this game is not…
…in fact, White Knight Chronicles is a solid RPG game. What beef these high-strung critics have are unknown. This is basically a Final Fantasy XII clone, and that's a very good thing! The story revolves around a young hero named Leonard, who during a siege, stumbles upon a mystical armor called the White Knight. Leonard sees no choice but to try and use the knight, and when a princess by the name of Cisna, recites a spell, Leonard and the knight are bound together. Cisna had unknowingly recited the words, perhaps occurring only because she sensed danger and her instincts kicked in. But it turns out she may be tied to an ancient race, and so she is quickly kidnapped in hopes that she will bind her captors with the remaining knights scattered around the world. So, of course, it's up to Leonard and a cast of characters, including one of which you create, to embark on a journey and save Cisna, defeat her kidnappers, and bring peace to the world.
WKC borrows heavily from not just FFXII, but also from other Square games, such as Final Fantasy VII (the story) and Xenogears (the knights). You'll notice the FFXII similarities almost immediately when you realize the combat system is practically identical, save for the targeting lines. Combat is turn-based, but engaged in real-time, just like FFXII. There is even a small set of gambits you can enable for your A.I. fighters, allowing to either heal first, fight as they please, attack only your target, and a few more. The 'gambits' here are certainly nowhere near as in-depth as FFXII, but for general purposes, they do the job quite well. Though it is the Skills system, which is essentially this game's Licenses, that reminds me most of FFXII. Although, in all honesty, the Skills are laid out much neater than the license board in FFXII, and they are also broken down by categories.
In combat you will be able to use your knight only when you have enough action chips, so make sure you save those for when you really need to use your knight, such as during portions of a quest where a number of giant high-HP enemies stand in your way, or a boss fight. Just like many other Level 5 games, you can bind weapons together, enhance numerous items, fix weapons, and so forth. But of course, it all comes with a small price. Now, something other RPG games typically don't do are combos, which WKC does. You can enter the options menu and setup a chain of combos you'd like for your character to perform when you timely hit the action button. But be careful, using certain stronger attacks will use up your action chips, so choose your battle strategy wisely, you never know when you'll need summon your knight.
A multiplayer mode good for up to four-players is here for your enjoyment. It's composed of 50 side-quests, and you'll embark on these using your created player. The side-quests are pretty decent, for the most part, and there's certainly nothing to dislike here, especially considering they're just extras to an already lengthy adventure. With that said, WKC is a game full of value, and if you're looking for a solid, traditional RPG, you really should ignore most of the negative reviews, this is certainly a solid playing RPG title.
Visually, this isn't Final Fantasy XIII. But don't forget, this is a game that's been in development since before the PS3 launched. Still, the art looks pretty nice, and you should enjoy the towns and locations all throughout the game. Character detail is a bit on the simplistic side as far as textures, but this is still a game good enough to be in this generation. The framerate is super smooth, albeit there is some minor draw-in of enemies off in the distance, but it's not that bad, because you'll see little markers where the enemies are, even if they haven't been drawn-in yet. The environment are nice, and there are some sharp textures to be found in numerous places. Lastly, because there is such a lag of aliasing quirks, it makes WKC a fairly pleasing game on the eyes.
Audio is abundant here, as much of the game's dialogue is voice acted. The voice acting is done pretty well, with every response and line on cue and using just the right tone. All of the voices give each unique character their distinct personality, as well. And the soundtrack is traditional for a J-RPG, so you'll likely get a lot of these tunes here stuck in your head. As far as miscellaneous effects, you won't get blown away like you would with a large-scale shooter, but some of the cut-scenes still do provide enough 'oomph' to shake the floor.
All in all, even though White Knight Chronicles may not be the pinnacle of innovation, it still does a lot of things right and manages to create a fun game. This is an enjoyable Japanese-RPG that fans of games like Final Fantasy XII should eat up. The combat is great, the back-end mechanics are solid, the graphics are nice, and the voice acting is more than fair. I'm probably a harder critic on games than anyone I know, but even I coudn't deny that this is a very good game. Don't ignore this just because it doesn't have a Final Fantasy logo on the cover, White Knight Chronicles is a winner!