Child of Light Review

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Title: Child of Light
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Game Type: PlayStation Vita
Download: 1.1 GB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download
EU Availability: Digital Download | Retail

Role-Playing Games are nothing new to the gaming industry, or even to the PlayStation Vita.  There have been many RPG’s, both Western and Japanese, releasing on the system in the past year or so.  There are the likes of Mind Zero, Demon Gaze, Final Fantasy X | X-2 HD Remaster, and more.  Much like the PSP before it, the Vita is slowly becoming a machine filled with Role-Playing Games of all kinds.  That trend isn’t stopping, either, though there are some games coming that aren’t RPG’s as well.

The one type of RPG that isn’t very abundant on the system is Western RPG’s.  What, exactly, is a Western RPG?  That is a question you may be wondering as you read through our review today and play through what we’re reviewing, as we pondered the same question.  Are Western RPG’s merely RPG’s developed in the West?  If a Western Developer developed a game that was exactly like Final Fantasy VII, would it still be considered Western just because it was developed over here instead of in Japan?

A game that really begs the question is Ubisoft Montreal’s creation, Child of Light.  The game has released on many platforms, and has shown its poetic charm across Microsoft, Nintendo, Sony, and PC gamers alike.  Now that the game has become portable with its own version on the PlayStation Vita, how does it stack up?  We have those answers.  Here is our official review of Child of Light.

Story

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Child of Light takes place in 1895 Austria, where a Duke lives with his daughter, Aurora.  Having lost Aurora’s mother in years past, the Duke raises Aurora on his own, spending much time with her.  Getting lonely, he finds a new bride and, the same night she comes in, Aurora goes to sleep, acquiring a physical sickness as she does, her skin growing cold and, for all intents and purposes, being void of any life.

Young Aurora then awakens in a mythical kingdom known as Lemuria.  She soon finds that Lemuria has had its Sun, Moon, and Stars stolen and replaced with dark monsters that have driven its inhabitants into hiding.   With a talking Firefly as her guide, she travels Lemuria, in the hopes of finding a way home, as well as protecting the citizens of Lemuria from the Dark Queen Umbra, whom has cast their world into darkness.

The charm about Child of Light’s story is that it feels like you’re in the middle of a fairy tale.  The entire script, from character dialogue to directions is constructed that it sounds like a poem, as you play through the game.  There are poems in every corner and, as the story gets closer to the end, it begins feeling like it is falling into the world of fairy tales, almost mirroring some fairy tales you all know and love.  It’s very different than your standard Role-Playing Game.

Gameplay

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Game-play for Child of Light is arguable.  Some call it an RPG.  Some says it’s a side-scrolling adventure game with RPG elements.  In a way, it is both.  In Child of Light, you control Aurora as she explores the world of Lemuria.  You do this by exploring the world in a 2D fashion, climbing walls, jumping on platforms, flying through currents, and swimming in the ocean.  You move around left or right, just as you would in a 2D side-scrolling game like Mega Man or Valkyrie Profile.

As you progress through each area of the world, you will come across puzzles, enemies to fight, and gain new abilities, such as the ability to fly, rather than walk.  Puzzles can range from a variety of things.  Some puzzles require you to push a heavy block down areas and onto a pressure pad that unlocks the door to the next area.  Others require you to operate and move gears to open up a chain to open a door, and others require you to shine light onto doors as a means of decryption.

Puzzles are handled by the first ally you meet on your journey, whom is a small firefly.  This firefly may be moved around the map or battle map and shine its light on various objects or characters, until the rechargeable energy bar runs out.  You will use this light for many things.  With puzzles, the light can reflect images upon walls, which you can do to direct a reflection to a glyph on the wall and match it to unlock doors.  You can also use him to power up small orbs of light to open doors or give you items.

Another aspect for your firefly comes in battle.  When you come across enemies on the map, you can either move into them to start a battle or be attacked by them to start one.  Starting one incorporates your friend as you may use his light to blind enemies and pass them by, or move behind them to start a battle with you having the advantage.

Once a battle begins, you will be taken to another plane, showcasing two party members, your firefly, and an enemy party.  This is where the RPG part of Child of Light really shows itself.  You will take part in turn-based battles for this, much like you would in games like Final Fantasy.  There is a time bar and cast bar at the bottom of the screen with icons for your characters and enemy characters.  Once a character reaches the Cast Bar, they may choose a command, from attacking, defending, items, running, or magical skills.

Each type of skill takes a different amount of time to charge up both for you and the enemies.  If a character, or enemy, is attacked while they are charging up a skill and take damage, their skill will be cancelled.  This can be used for and against your advantage.  Another aspect is the Firefly.  If you hold and shine light over an enemy, it will blind them and slow their movement, or you can shine him on one of your characters to progressively heal them until the energy bar runs low.

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Apart from skills are parties.  Your battle party is limited to two people, but you can switch characters out whenever a character’s turn comes up, much like switching party members in Final Fantasy X.  This allows you to bring in characters you need for a moment and then switch back to your main party.  Once you win a battle, you will gain Experience points to level up, which goes to everyone, whether they participate in the battle or not and whether they have fallen with 0 HP or not.  Everyone gets experience so long as you win.

Leveling Up will increase your stats as well as earn you Skill Points.  Skill Points are used in a character’s Skill Tree, which is used to increase their stats further and learn new and more powerful versions of their skills.  The Skill Tree lets you learn a skill and then use points to learn a skill adjacent to it, in position.  This is very similar to Final Fantasy X’s Sphere Grid, but much less complex.  Each character’s skills are unique to them, not allowing complications with moving into other characters’ Skill Trees.

A final aspect of character customization is Oculi.  You will acquire Oculi Gems as you fight battles and open chests around Lemuria, and they can be equipped on characters for various effects.  Each character can equip three.  Some will increase your damage or add elemental damage to your attacks, some increase the amount of experience you get from each battle, and some can add status effects, like Paralyze, to your physical attacks.  You can also combine Oculi to create different types that do different things.

As you progress through the world, you will also gain two things.  The first is the ability to Fast Travel to any major location from the World Map in an instant.  The other is Quests.  As you progress through the world, you will come across towns and will gain quests to complete for them.  This could be as simple as fighting some enemies in someone’s basement or searching the world for a long-lost relative.  These quests are particularly short and will reward you with new party members and items that will permanently increase your stats, like Strength, Defense, and Speed.

Child of Light is a lighthearted RPG, for all intents and purposes, though it’s not an incredibly long game.  From start to finish, Child of Light should take you about 10-12 hours if you play on Normal Difficulty.  When you beat the game, you also unlock New Game + if you want to replay the game, maintaining all of your levels and skills while fighting much tougher enemies.

Controls

Child of Light is a 2D Side-Scroller, but it still uses quite a few of the control options on the PlayStation Vita.  While you may not use all of the different options that the game gives you, or not a huge amount, you will be using the majority of the buttons on the system as well as the touch screen, though that is an optional part of the game.

Moving Aurora around the world is done with the D-Pad and Left Analog Stick.  There are only so many directions you can go, but once you gain the Flight ability, you can tap the X Button to jump into the air and fly in any direction of your choosing.  The X Button is also used to Dash while you’re flying, so you can fly into strong winds or through torrents of water.  The Square Button is also used, mostly when you’re near a treasure chest or lever to use and open those interaction items.

The Right Analog Stick is used to move the firefly around the screen and the L button is used to shine his light on something.  However, these two controls are optional.  You can also move him around with the touch screen (or rear touch screen, if you disable the front touch screen in the menu) and hold your finger down to shine his light.  I found the touch controls were useful in the map, but got in the way in battle.

Presentation

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Presentation is one other thing that’s hard to determine.  Is this a 2D game or a 3D game?  When you take a look at the game, it’s hard to tell.  Aurora and the rest of her party members are 3D Cell-Shaded models.  But, the firefly and the environments are clearly hand-drawn images that are set in 2 planes that give a 3D look to them.  There are also other effects, like waterfalls and wind that clearly look 3D, yet everything around them looks 2D.  The style also may look similar to RPG fans, as the game’s visuals were inspired by Yoshitaka Amano, whom designed many of the Final Fantasy games.

Another thing to note is the lack of Voice Acting.  While the game’s main animated scenes do have voice-overs from the game’s narrator and a key character in the story, most of the dialogue between Aurora and the people she meets are not voiced, only showing visual novel-style text in it.

The game plays very well, when compared to its PS3 and PS4 counterparts.  While Aurora doesn’t have as smooth a character model, and the load times for the game are easily doubled to 7-8 seconds when loading an area rather then 3-4 seconds, it plays well.  There are some instances where the frames will slow down for a split-second, but there’s nothing that you will notice if you’re not looking for it, other than the heightened load times.

Another thing to note is crashing.  While I played this game, I had it crash a couple times.  Neither of these were in the middle of the game, but it would crash when I first would try to open the game.  Then, when I tried to open it again, it would open and play fine.  Though, I believe it is worth noting.

Overall

Child of Light is a charming fairy tale woven into a poetic RPG that will make you wonder whether you’re really playing a JRPG rather than a Western one.  While the load times have easily doubled in this version of the game and it occasionally crashed upon opening, Child of Light is just as charming and beautiful on the Vita as it was on its console brothers.  This is certainly a game worth looking into, whether you’re a fan of RPGs or poetry.

The PlayStation Vita Review Network Rates Child of Light an 8.5/10

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