White Knight Chronicles II is a JRPG with western influences. It not only includes the next five chapters of the White Knight story, but also a re-mastered version of the original White Knight Chronicles. All told, this is a thoroughly enjoyable JRPG with a great online and offline presence.
By any standards, I am a JRPG noob, and one that really prefers a strong mix of typical third person action adventure mixed in with my JRPG. I have a hard time with turn based JRPGs, and ones where your character can only move x amount of squares or hexagons in a grid. I knew White Knight Chronicles, despite not having played the first one, had freedom of movement, but I also quickly learned in playing WKC2 just how much I like the combat system and the series in general.
Before I get ahead of myself though, let's take a wider view of this new release from D3. White Knight Chronicles II includes the full version of the original White Knight, and in re-mastered form to boot, giving it improved animations and textures. I can't comment on how big of a difference this re-master job is, but the first game was well received overall, and the fact that you get both it and the sequel together means that you have the potential for several hundred hours of gameplay. Whether or not you play that long or even a tenth of that depends on a variety of factors of course, such as the story, characters, combat system, leveling, NPC interaction, side quests, online play, may or may not keep you going.
Let's start with the story; if you're like me and have not played or completed the first game, fear not. In addition to being able to play it on this disc, WKC2 opens up with an informative cutscene that explains the story up to the point where WKC2 starts, which is right after the end of WKC. To keep it fairly brief and spoiler free, the Magi, lead by Grazel, are intent on reviving the Yshrenian Empire. Doing so requires world domination. So, Grazel and his goons are attacking every kingdom in the world, and are largely successful due in part to Grazel's ability to "control" an Incorruptus known as the Sun King. Leonard, the primary protagonist, discovers the White Knight, Wisel, also an Incorruptus, while escaping the castle of the Kingdom of Balador with Princess Cisna. The player's avatar, which you create upon starting the game using a ton of customization options, fights with Leonard, Yulie, Eldore, and others.
WKC lasted seven long chapters, with online co-op included, and while Grazel was beaten back, he was not defeated. WKC2 continues the story with another five chapters of Grazel's reinvigorated onslaught from Redhorn Isle. This time he is targeting the land of Faria. Players can create a new avatar, or import your old one from a save game (level, guild rank, and money intact), although if you create a new character they will be set to level 35 automatically so that they can keep up with the enemy. Rejoin Leonard, Cisna, Eldore, and others, in the second part of this adventure, with gameplay nearly identical to the first game.
The story is somewhat un-original, but I found it and the characters plenty interesting enough. Of course the story, good or bad, doesn't stand alone. The combat system is a huge part of the experience. Instead of being turn based, combat in WKC2 is based on an action meter, that circular gauge you may recall from the original game or have seen in screenshots. There are other components to determining when you can strike, with what tactics, and how many times, too, these are all things that you can improve upon by leveling up and learning new skills. I found a lot to like about the combat system; I liked that random battle encounters are nearly completely optional, and they're also seamless. Random
battle encounters in other JRPGs -- especially those that caused the game to 'pause' for a few seconds while a splash screen appeared and the enemies were loaded -- drive me nuts after a while. In WKC2, you can clearly see enemies in the game world. You can avoid most of them if you choose, although at the cost of not earning XP, Gold, and other items they may drop. Entering and exiting combat is as simple as pressing X whenever the battle icon appears on screen; by pressing X, your characters arm themselves with whatever weapon you have equipped. You are then able to continue to run around
freely and attack as much as you want, so long as you have the ability to do so (in other words, you are not waiting on a turn mechanism).
Combat in WKC2 is deep; with about eight different weapon classes, in addition to a magic system, and around sixty techniques per weapon class, players have a lot of freedom in molding their party as they see fit. Weapon classes include short and long shorts, spears, bows, staffs, axes, and more. All players can learn all skills as they level up and earn skill points, but you want to of course keep your party balanced while also mastering certain skills. I liked how you could read what each new skill in a given tier offered the player, too, before committing to learning it.
With so many skills per character, I wondered how easy performing these actions was going to be, and I thought Level-5's solution was sound. For each character, you can create and edit Command Sets. These appear at the bottom of the screen and allow you to quickly call on the skills that you want to use simply by moving the d-pad and pressing X. Combos are setup in the same way, allowing you to chain multiple normal attacks together; how many moves you can string together depends on the Skills you have learned. For this JRPG newcomer, the combat system in WKC/WKC2 achieved a nice balance between freedom of movement and action and RPG strategy.
Other gameplay elements of WKC2 include gathering items, upgrading weapons and armor through combination of said items, side quests, and several other elements normally found in a well-rounded JRPG/RPG. WKC2 is no stranger to side quests, which are split into errands, quests, and bounties, with over 100 available to you. Fortunately, the return of online co-op play returns, supporting six other players at a time. A built in messaging and 'emote' system makes it easy to quickly communicate in game, too. I've been entrenched (in a good way) playing offline, but what online I have played thus far has been positive, and I can definitely see how it would extend the gameplay even further than the single player portion would. WKC2 allows you to create your own town as well, so you certainly won't run shy of content on this disc.
From a presentation perspective, WKC2 looks very good -- it's more about the artwork, colors, and little details in the character's appearance than it is about amazing lighting or special effects. I experience some light screen tearing whlie dabbling in the original WKC as well, but it did not detract from the experience significantly at all. Music is fairly constant and fitting for the atmosphere, and I thought it did a good job of not being too overbearing or too quiet. Voiceovers are less grating than several other JRPGs I have played, which is a plus and, other effects are fine.
While on the subject of presentation, I should mention that I liked the menu and HUD system of White Knight. Sure, there are plenty of menus and lists and things to keep up with, but navigating these is logical and easy, which increases the accessibility and decreases the learning curve, a plus to any game. Not being able to stop and save your game at anytime was something I would have liked to have seen (and shorter savegame times for that matter), but Logic Stones are spread out regularly enough that this isn't a big problem.
Overall, while I still have a lot of WKC2 ahead of me, and more online to partake in, WKC2 has done something for me that many JRPGs have not been able to: it's kept me playing and pleasantly entertained.
To the summary...