Child of Light

Ubisoft isn’t exactly a household name when it comes to role-playing games, with their experience in the genre largely restricted to their localization and publication outside Japan of RPGs such as Grandia II and Enchanted Arms. It was with trepidation, then, that the gaming community received the announcement that their Montreal, Quebec, Canada subsidiary was developing a title of the genre. Imagine the relief, however, when the game, Child of Light, released across several consoles, including the PlayStation Vita (the version upon which this review is based), turned out to be pretty solid, and proved that masterpieces can come from the most unexpected places.

The game features exploration akin to the Valkyrie Profile games, with sidescrolling fields and dungeons, alongside visible enemies that the player can temporarily stun with Princess Aurora’s illuminating sidekick to gain surprise attacks; in return, it is possible for foes to take the player’s party off guard. Battles take place with the player’s active party of two characters squaring off against up to three antagonists, with all sharing a turn order meter akin to the Grandia games, a character or enemy beginning to execute their command before a shorter gauge dictating charge time for a particular order, the ability finally occurring once an ally or nemesis finally reaches the rightmost termination of the vector.

Commands include attacking normally, using an MP-consuming skill, defending, using a consumable item (with no shops in the game and consumables only acquired from treasure chests and combat), or escaping. If a character’s offensive attack or skill executes while an enemy’s ability is still charging, then the opponent’s command will be nullified, in the same vein as the cancel attacks of the Grandia games. This can work towards the enemy’s advantage, as well, and many times it’s a good idea to defend if the odds aren’t in the player’s favor. It is possible through the use of Aurora’s light companion to slow down an enemy’s progress on the turn order meter as long as they have the energy to do so, accounting for a nice degree of strategy.

Players can also summon her glowing friend’s energy to recover HP gradually to allies, with a few plants present on the battlefield able to replenish its energy, the plants ultimately coming alight again after a certain amount of time in combat has elapsed. There are MP-consuming healing spells, so typically to save the light’s energy for delaying enemy turns is preferable. Defeating all foes yields experience for Aurora and all her companions, even those that didn’t participate in a victorious fight (the player also able to swap in allies during a character’s turn with no penalty), with level-ups happening almost all the time after combat.

When leveling, a character gains increased stats and a point the player can invest into one of his or her skill trees for more stat increases and abilities, the latter of which can consist of a choice between executing normal attacks on one or all enemies, albeit with a greater casting time. In the end, the battle system is nothing short of superb, with a nice strategic element alongside the ability to exploit enemy weaknesses and cancel their turns with careful timing, alongside adjustable difficulty accommodating to masochists and those that simply want to enjoy the gameplay and story without frustration.

Aside from a lack of in-game tracking of playing time, the controls in Child of Light are solid, with a good direction on how to advance the main storyline, easy field and dungeon navigation largely revolving around Princess Aurora’s ultimate ability to fly, and the ability to instantly teleport among visited areas using the in-game overworld map. Her glowing companion also plays part in many puzzles that fortunately don’t necessitate a guide to solve, and overall, interaction is definitely a model for other titles in the genre.

The narrative bears some similarities to Eternal Sonata, with events revolving in a fantasy world that’s the imagination of a dying Austrian Duke’s daughter, where characters nonetheless have decent backstory and development, alongside the decision to have all participants in the narrative speak in rhyme, a nice twist. There are some minor grammatical errors in the text, but otherwise, the plot is a definitely draw to the game.

The soundtrack definitely serves the game well, alongside occasional solid voiced narration, although there are certain occasions that rely a bit too much upon ambience.

The visual style is also fairly stunning, with gorgeous hand-painted environments, character designs, and sprites, although there are some palette swapped foes, and the player’s characters in battle telekinetically execute normal attacks.

Finally, the game is fairly short, taking somewhat from eight to fifteen hours to complete, with great lasting appeal thanks to things such as the different difficulty settings and in-game tracking of items remaining in each area, a definite attraction for completionists.

Overall, Child of Light is a rare gem that seemed to come out of nowhere, with this player, for instance, having read or heard nothing about it before buying it on a whim, and consequentially being blown away by its countless positive aspects such as its strategic battle system, excellent control, endearing narrative, great sound, superb graphics, and plentiful replayability. There is very little of which to complain aside from the lack of an in-game clock, and Vita owners will consequentially find it a must to acquire this modern masterpiece of role-playing gaming.

The Good:
+Excellent Grandia-esque battle system.
+Superb controls.
+Endearing narrative.
+Solid aural and visual presentation.
+Plenty lasting appeal.

The Bad:
-No in-game clock.

The Bottom Line:
A great fusion of the Grandia and Valkyrie Profile games.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Game Mechanics: 10/10
Controls: 9/10
Story: 9/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Adjustable
Playing Time: 8-15 Hours

Overall: 9.5/10

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