Saturday, October 10, 2020

Child of Light: Ultimate Edition


An Austrian Went Rhyming

The year 2014 saw the original release of the Ubisoft-developed Child of Light for various consoles, giving gamers the ability to experience the Western RPG in most cases without regard to whomever gamers gave their console loyalty. The game was decently-received, despite Ubisoft’s relative inexperience in developing RPGs, and the Nintendo Switch would ultimately prove to be a pioneering console with the ability of its players to play on their televisions or portably. Child of Light: Ultimate Edition would be among the many games to see a rerelease on the console, definitely being one of the stronger Western RPGs I’ve ever played.

In Austria in 1895, a princess named Aurora is born to a Duke and his enigmatic wife, who ultimately dies, causing her husband to remarry. On the eve of Easter, Aurora dies in her sleep, transported to the ethereal world of Lemuria, where a speck of illumination named Igniculus guides her, and she meets several colorful characters during her quest. The narrative is generally enjoyable, with the twist of rhyming dialogue and plentiful development, with expository scenes occurring typically after obtaining a new character after fights, and story-wise, Child of Light is what Eternal Sonata should have been, with meaningful resolution as well. There are some occasional errors in the text, but otherwise, the plot functions well.

Fortunately, solid gameplay backs the experience, with Aurora quickly receiving the ability to fly, and the player able to move Igniculus around the screen so that he can temporarily stun enemies so that, when they recover and the princess contacts them, the player’s party gets the advantage in battle. Two of the player’s many acquirable characters face off against up to three enemies, with all appearing on a Grandia-esque turn order meter where speed determines how fast an ally or adversary takes their turns. Characters have many moves available such as attacking one (or later on, all) enemies with a physical strike, using a consumable item, or executing MP-consuming magic.

There’s a shorter gauge before a character or enemy executes their turn, and if anyone from either side of combat attacks the other while they’re on the rightward portion of the gauge, the executed command will, with a few exceptions, interrupt their turn and push them back on the leftward section of the turn order meter, akin to cancel attacks in the Grandia games. One twist is that the player can move Igniculus around the battle screen and hover over an enemy, in which case they can push a button to slow the enemy’s movement on the turn order meter.

Likewise, the player can also hover Igniculus over one of the two active characters and press the same button to heal them in small increments. A meter limits how much Igniculus can perform such actions, although usually in battle are illuminating plants that the player can move the sentient speck over to recover light power and occasionally partially recover the HP and MP of whichever two characters are on the battlefield then. When characters reach their turn, they can exchange places with a backup ally, in which case the player’s turn doesn’t go to waste, or swap out the other ally with another.

Defeating all enemies results in every member of Aurora’s party acquiring experience for occasional leveling, in which case their HP and MP completely restores, and the player gains a point they can invest into their skill trees for stat increases, additional active and passive abilities, and the ability for physical attacks or offensive/defensive spells to target everyone on either side of combat. Enemies tend to have weaknesses that the player can exploit, and there is a fair bit of strategy in that some foes are resistant to physical attacks, and may counter interruptions of their commands.

Throughout the game, moreover, the player acquires differently-colored gems that the player can fuse and equip on each character, one on their weapon, which may change their element, and two for miscellaneous stats or elemental resistance. Overall, the battle system works pretty well, with most battles having an agile pace, and unlike in the Grandia games, the player doesn’t need to keep in mind the positions of characters or enemies in battle, which are fixed. There are also no shops, with all consumable items and gems acquired from treasure chests or fights, and while there is some minor foresight necessary in the command interruption system, the gameplay is generally fun.

Child of Light also interfaces well with players, and while there are no in-game maps aside from the overworld diagram that allows the player to revisit past areas, dungeons are generally straightforward, with little room for getting lost, and the current narrative objective being crystal-clear. There are also occasional puzzles that luckily won’t drive players to use a guide, with Igniculus largely being the chief actor in solving said riddles. The menus are also easy to navigate, and the game autosaves after things such as battles and acquiring items, and aside from the lack of an in-game clock, the game is very user-friendly.

The soundtrack is also enjoyable, with rare voice acting in the rare narration of certain events, within and without Lemuria, and the sound effects are never out of place. Some of the music is mildly-subdued, but the game certainly won’t drive players to listen to other tunes as they experience this game.

The visuals are also pretty, with smooth animation, pretty environments, and good combat effects, although there are occasional reskinned adversaries, and characters and the enemy execute commands in battle from fixed positions instead of moving around the battlefield.

Finally, the game is fairly short, with a straightforward playthrough taking somewhere from nine to fifteen hours, with plentiful lasting appeal in the form of a New Game+ and extras such as finding all treasures in each area, “confessions” that reveal supplementary plot, sidequests, and, of course, leveling all characters to acquire all skills possible.

In the end, Child of Light is definitely a high point of Western RPGs, given its quick, enjoyable, strategic combat, tight control, endearing narrative, great sound, pretty visuals, and plentiful lasting appeal, and easily one of the highlights of my videogaming career. There’s very little, if any, room for improvement, and Switch owners in particular will relish at the chance to experience this title. Given its similar storytelling, as well, in my opinion it’s what the Japanese RPG Eternal Sonata should have been, and the game in general avoids the common pitfalls of Western and Eastern games in the genre, being a bucket-list title regardless of system.

This review is based on a playthrough of the physical Switch version included alongside Valiant Hearts, purchased by the reviewer..

The Good:
+Does the Grandia battle system better than the Grandia games.
+Tight control.
+Endearing narrative with rhyming dialogue.
+Great sound.
+Pretty graphics.
+Plentiful lasting appeal.

The Bad:
-Minor issues with the visuals.

The Bottom Line:
What Eternal Sonata should have been.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Game Mechanics: 9.5/10
Controls: 9.5/10
Story: 9.5/10
Music/Sound: 9.5/10
Graphics: 9.0/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Adjustable
Playing Time: 9-15+ Hours

Overall: 9.5/10

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