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Joystiq hands-on: White Knight Chronicles


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Sony and Level-5's latest role-playing collaboration, White Knight Chronicles, has been out in Japan since December, but we recently got a chance to check out a partially localized version of the game at Sony Gamers Day 2009.

Starting up the demo, we were treated to an intro cinematic featuring final English voice-over. The sequence, featuring the game's hero Leonard and his party gearing up for their quest, immediately dispelled any doubt that Level 5 -- known for a typically more anime or cel-shaded art style -- could pull off an immensely detailed, more "mature" looking RPG. The cutscene also left us hopeful the voice acting we were hearing remained as solid throughout the entirety of the final game.

Speaking of sound, Sony confirmed to us that it's planning to implement voice chat in the US and European versions of White Knight Chronicles, something that was painfully absent from the Japanese release. We're told it's not 100% set in stone, but the dev and localization teams "really want to make it happen."

Gallery: White Knight Chronicles | 79 Photos

Given the compressed schedule of the event, it was far from the ideal environment to go deep with such a high-profile RPG. Still, we were able to adventure through the overworld and come to grips with the combat system. The world itself is very lush and conveys a grand sense of scale, the latter being helped by an incredible draw distance.

Why wail away with puny swords when you can run an enemy through with a blade the size of a bus?

The enemies we fought were mainly pesky, wasp-like creatures with giant stingers and venomous walking plants. In other words, typical JRPG fare. Actually battling the beasts was very easy to get into -- we get the feeling Level-5 is trying to introduce a degree of mass-market friendliness with the controls. It's possible to simply point Leonard toward an enemy, keep pressing X, and finish them off -- but where's the flair (or fun) in that? Fortunately, the range of attacks seemed quite deep and the ability to create customized sets of them that are quickly selectable is a breeze.

With just a few button presses, we were able to create rows of custom attack combinations that could be navigated with a quick up/down/left/right on the D-pad. The Sony rep guarding the kiosk said he'd leveled the characters up "quite a bit," so it was hard to really get a feel for the effectiveness of one attack over another. They all killed in one hit!

Maybe it was payback for our hubris in gloating over all the quick kills, but we soon found outselves squaring off against an overworld mini-boss of sorts: a giant boar. Effectively flanking it and backing off when necessary using the real time movement system was the key to toppling the roaring, huffing, impressive beast.

Not long after this encounter we got a chance to transform our character into the towering --and titular -- White Knight in order to do battle with an equally gigantic enemy. After all, why wail away with puny swords when you can run an enemy through with a blade the size of a bus? We'd watched an earlier player attempt to take down the Ent-like tree monster and have a pretty hard time of it as a mere human-sized Leonard. Battling it on its own level, in something that looked like a medieval mech fight, was over pretty quickly. Still, it was spectacular while it lasted.

Sadly, the online co-op component of the game wasn't being demonstrated, but we've gut a hunch we'll get to play -- and write about -- plenty of it before this gorgeous looking game ships at the end of '09. If Sony can deliver the same quality of dialog, voice-over and gameplay we experienced, combined with proper voice chat for online team-ups, we're looking at the next great PS3-exclusive RPG.

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