Ryan Smythe ’15 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Child of Light is simply one of the most beautiful games available. The watercolor-style art of the game draws the player into the magical world of Lemuria with Aurora, the main character. Every scene, every character, every tiny detail is so impeccably gorgeous that this game is easily one of the most enjoyable ones to just sit back and watch.
That’s not saying it isn’t fun to play as well. UbiArt Framework, the engine behind this game, lends itself to some of the smoothest controls out today. With Rayman Origins and Rayman Legends already on its resume, Framework is quickly becoming one of the most consistently good engines producing games for this generation despite the limited offerings. At first in Child of Light the animations, especially of Aurora’s hair, are the most noteworthy part of the game, though this isn’t the case for very long. Upon receiving a set of wings, the 2D world opens up and flying around is by far one of the most enjoyable gaming experiences of 2014.
The play quality isn’t limited to the movement controls. Child of Light has some of the best battle controls of any JRPG, and that includes the Active Time Battle (ATB) system from the Final Fantasy series. Like the ATB system, characters act once their meter fills up, but unlike the ATB system, all characters, friend and foe, share one gauge. They are represented by headshots sliding up the meter, and once they reach the beginning of the red “Combat” zone, actions are input. The really special part about this system is that if any character is attacked while they are in the “Combat” zone, their attack is interrupted and their action no longer takes place. Since the gauge pauses to input controls, players have to plan whether or not they will be interrupted, who to attack to interrupt, and which attack casts fast enough to succeed. If more games copied this system the gaming world would be a better place.
Unfortunately, the combat is not perfect. While most JRPGs have a cast of four on screen at a time, Child of Light limits it to two. They can be switched freely with anyone waiting in the wings, but this limit is aggravating, to say the least. It leaves combat very limited, and the screen very empty. Since the cast follows the typical character battle styles fairly well, with a mage, a speedy rogue-esque circus performer, an archer, etc., having only two available at once just doesn’t feel as much fun as the usual four.
On top of that, the RPG elements are very dumbed down. There is no equipment to improve the characters; instead gems called “oculi” are placed into one of three slots to improve different stats. They start out weak, but by collecting more and combining two or three, they improve to buff stats even further. It’s so basic that it feels like the developers added it last minute just to satisfy the ‘RPG’ part of ‘JRPG’.
Even the characters are too simplistic to stand with the vast majority of games in this category. While series like Final Fantasy has created characters so memorable that they are turned into movies, the ones in Child of Light are so flat, with almost no character development that any time the screen goes to dialogue it is best to mash the ‘A’ button to get back to playing. The worst part is that most of the characters speak in rhyme so bad that if it were submitted to a poetry contest, even third graders would groan.
With such amazing gameplay and graphics, it is heartbreaking to see such terrible writing bring this game down from a classic to just very good. It is absolutely worth its $14.99 price tag, as long as players go into this game remembering that it is in fact a $14.99 game, and should not be compared to the usual $60 offerings.
Overall Rating: B-