Portable JRPGs have always been a bit hit and miss in my eyes, you can either come across a real Oriental gem, or be unfortunate enough to pay money for a steaming hot lump of rubbish. Some may say previous games in the White Knight Chronicles series fall under the latter category, but thankfully, the newest addition to the series, named White Knight Chronicles: Origins, can be classed as more of an Oriental gem.
The game’s beginning sees you flee a city that is under siege, and, without giving too much away, you then embark on a long adventure that not only proves to be physically demanding, but asks many questions about your character’s personality along the way. Before heading out in to the large sandbox-style, open world that you will be spending the majority of the game in, you embark on a series of military training session and simple, beginner’s quests to get you accustomed to the game and its controls.
The improvements over White Knight Chronicles II (PS3) stand out from the start. Options have been improved greatly, so has the character design system, and the audio and graphics are far crisper and generally of a better quality. Adapting a game for a portable system requires a few sacrifices, so unlike previous game in the series, White Knight Chronicles: Origins does not feature any voice work for the many scenes that feature dialogue, so you’ll have to make do with rolling text on the bottom of the screen. Oh well, not a huge biggie.
Unlike many games currently in the JRPG market, combat in Origins flows very easily and is refreshingly effortless. When on quests, your party of four brave characters have their swords drawn at all times, meaning that you can essentially just go over and whack an enemy without entering a combat mode or enduring a time-consuming, repetitive animated sequence. A lot of effort has obviously gone into the development of Origins’ combat system, which gives the user a nice blend of turn-based and real-time action in one, bite-sized lump.
Transforming takes a new twist in this new instalment with your character and his team transforming into four different modes that boost specific stats like attack power or magic. Although not hugely influential on the game as whole, it does add a nice zing to battles and prevent them from becoming long, hard-fought HP-chipping slogfests that many players of other popular JRPG hate falling victim to.
White Knight Chronicles: Origins also puts a completely new spin on the way quests are presented, instead of the usual long, complicated missions that involve carefully planned strategies and an awful amount of free time, you simply pit yourself against small, short errands that will take anything from five minutes to twenty minutes to complete, ideal for a train journey or a quick break-time JRPG-session.
The game’s storyline, although at first quite intriguing, eventually turns out to be a plot consisting of mindless claptrap and the usual, JRPG clichés. This is quite a shame, as a good, compelling storline added on to the game’s hugely successful gameplay improvements would have made White Knight Chronicles: Origins an instant classic and perhaps the last great RPG to ever grace the PSP.
It’s the game’s co-op mode, however, that proves to be somewhat of a knight in shining armour. If you’re lucky enough to have a friend that has a PSP and a copy of White Knight Chronicles: Origins in his possession, then you are in for a treat. Slaying your way through the game’s short, sharp and, at times, compelling missions proves to be consistently and surprisingly satisfying.
As you might expect, Origins can’t push the PS3’s stylised visuals and smooth graphics, but it certainly does its best with the PSP hardware. It is, for the most part, a colourful game that is incredibly easy on the eye. Although the large and baron environments do get a bit tiresome after a while.
So there we have it, Origins is most of an abridged version of its PS3 brother, a short, to-the-point take on the original with (most) of the bad bits taken out, leaving you with a nice, pocket-sized delight that will hopefully see you solving quests for weeks to come. It’s not without its problems by any means, but they’re minor enough to be overlooked if you’re really keen for some handheld RPG action.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation Portable code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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