With the huge lines at Level 5's Tokyo Game Show booth, I was certain that people were lining up to play the upcoming PS3 RPG Shirokishi Monogatari (White Knight Story), but it turns out that they just wanted the free DS cartridge. I was much more interested in getting my hands on White Knight Story and giving it a thorough rundown, but it turned out that I had to go somewhere else for that. That's Tokyo for you.
White Knight Story is as impressive as you'd expect in person. The screen shots and videos we've been treated to over the last year haven't lied, and seeing this game in action is a real treat. The game has a sort of Japanese MMORPG-ish look, which reminds me of Final Fantasy XII (or even FF XI) a bit, but obviously with quite a bit more visual polish. Looks aren't everything, and we've already decided that we like how it looks, so I wanted to find out how this title actually plays.
Hit the jump for more on White Knight Story.
The demo starts out by dropping your three-person party on the Balastor Plains, where you're guiding some huge, strange looking pack animal down a dirt road. Naturally, I didn't want to guide this beast anywhere; I wanted to fight. Upon encountering my first enemy, nothing happened. Much like Final Fantasy XII, battles never leave the world (no battle screen warp), and combat takes place immediately when you encounter an enemy.
Surely you've noticed the dotted ring in screen shots; we've been looking forward to seeing what this is. It's basically a time status bar formed in a circle. If you're like me, you were hoping that this was some kind of flashy game feature, but it really isn't -- it's just a handy timer to let you know when it's your turn to attack. You wait for the circle to complete, and then you attack. You might be thinking that this does not sound that interesting, and aside from the visuals, it really wasn't. I was thinking that I might be missing something, and thanks to a representative, I found out that I was missing the whole point.
In the game's menu (oh!), various moves can be assigned in a sequence to be used during battle. After selecting a few moves to add to my arsenal, I sought out another enemy and gave this thing another spin. Things went from "what?" to "wow!" very quickly as I pressed the attack button at appropriate times, which eventually sent my enemy airborne, and then back down to the ground with a thud. The timer circle indicates when a button needs to be pressed, and proper timing initiates the next move in your sequence. From what I could gather, different moves can be placed in these sequences to better equip you for different kinds of fights. This made for a simple, yet interactive battle system, that has some customization to keep things interesting.
I eventually ended up running into a huge enemy (boss) that dwarfed my entire party, but no worries, as I was able to summon an equally huge knight. A fairly simple (and a bit less entertaining) battle with this boss took place, and then the demo ended. I liked the idea of controlling a huge character for a time, but it didn't have the depth the normal battles did, and I couldn't help but giggle at how the large knight mocked the original character's every movement.
White Knight Story left me with a strong desire to play more. The customizable battle system replaces the standard JRPG button mashing with interactivity, and the visuals are about as nice as next-gen RPGs get. We've been looking forward to seeing more of White Knight Story since this time last year, and this little taste has just made us want it more.