White Knight Chronicles II
(Sony Computer Entertainment)
US: 13 Sep 2011
After over four weeks with this dreadful excuse of a game that is all I can think of to sufficiently describe myself. Not elegant, but elegant words do not suit White Knight Chronicles II, which is not to say yelling and swearing at the thing is any better a use of one’s time. In fact, any time spent at all on White Knight Chronicles II is a waste.
The first White Knight Chronicles was intended as a PS3 launch title. After being pushed back two years, the resulting game was so underwhelmingly stale that those suckers, like me, who enjoyed their PS2s for their endless supply of JRPGs and purchased this overmuscled movie-player on that premise, quietly pretended to forget their disappointment. It says a lot about the console’s non-core genre offerings that Final Fantasy XIII is still one of the better JRPGs available for it. (Valkyria Chronicles and its PSP sequels remain an underrated favorite of mine, but apparently they’re too expensive for SEGA to localize anymore.).
And then White Knight Chronicles II sidles in, and I am forced to wonder if maybe developer cynicism has been distilled and weaponized into a form so pure, so destructive that it has become a sort of molotov cocktail of engendered apathy. It could not possibly be designed to make me hate this game more.
There is not a single original idea in White Knight Chronicles II, and of the stolen ones, few are anything to aspire to. We have a knock off of Final Fantasy XII‘s combat system with a worse interface and enough menus to make Square Enix seem the epitome of minimalist design. We have the in media res introduction replete with airship straight out of Final Fantasy X-2 without the pro-feminine cast and quirky mechanics. The online missions echo the castle-building subquests of Suikoden without taking into account the derelict wasteland that is PSN these days. We have the giant ancient robots of Vision of Escaflowne minus any sort of compelling characters or storyline to make us care about anything that is going on. We have some guy who honestly looks like a cyborg out of Appleseed, and I cannot for the life of me bring myself to care enough to look up his name. This is textbook derivative crap without a single spark of either originality or enough camp to be even ironically interesting.
And if a lot of this sounds familiar, it is because White Knight Chronicles II basically is its predecessor, down to including a complete copy of the first game on the disc. It naturally assumes that you didn’t get sick of the environments of the first game and comes up with contrived reasons to reuse the original assets in the second game as much as possible, so much so that daring to call this thing a sequel instead of a bloated, vastly overpriced DLC pack is a travesty in and of itself.
All of these critiques come before all the smaller nuisances, like the fact the game does not pause in story mode while digging through the nightmare inventory system, that enemies respawn right where you’re standing, or that battles largely consist of hitting X repeatedly because Level-5 didn’t remember to rip off Final Fantasy XII‘s Gambits system in the course of ripping off the rest of it. I won’t even bother complaining about the atrocious voice acting because that just comes with the genre. Likewise, I also won’t get into the inanity of the relationship between the game mechanics and what actions do because abstraction between input and output is just one of those things JRPGs like to do.
Players of contemporary JRPGs are used to putting up with slipshod, obsolete design and half-assed production values. White Knight Chronicles II outdoes itself in this regard by not even attempting to meet this appallingly low standard. It is neither fun nor challenging. It is thematically shallow and artistically clueless. It somehow convinced the market it was an actual sequel to the misbegotten original, rather than a cynical exploitation of existing assets to turn out another cheap product absolutely undeserving of its prolonged development time. There is nothing and no one memorable about these games except the sidekick generator run at the start of the game, and if that is really the most appealing thing that your entire game has to offer, something is horrifyingly wrong.
Don’t be me, dear reader. Don’t be a sucker. Go play Knights Contract, Agarest War Zero, ANYTHING, before playing this thing.