Child of Light Review – Best “J”RPG in Years

I can’t remember the last game that put a smile on my face. That’s not to say I’m dead inside, and don’t feel happy playing most games, but Child of Light hit a chord of jubilation that simultaneous brought waves of nostalgia while fulfilling a longing I’ve had for these games of yore. Child of Light is everything I want in an RPG, but haven’t found since Final Fantasy X.

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Japanese RPGs (JRPGs) have been in a funk for quite some time. While there’s been a resurgence as of late with games like Tales of Xillia or The Last Story, the last console generation has seen almost a complete absence from the once beloved genre. Child of Light, though created by French developer Ubisoft, is by fair the best offering the genre’s had in quiet some time while adding several unique ideas, making it a must play for any lapsed or current fan.

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The graphics are in the unique in house art style Ubisoft has been defining as of late with games like Rayman or Valiant Hearts. This whimsical water color look only adds to the fairytale like nature of the story. Make no mistake, this is a fairytale. All the text is in iambic pentameter, with every other line rhyming, most of the time. The narration and even character dialogue adhere to this format, adding to the atmosphere. Most of it works, with only the occasional line falling flat. The concept is played with, having one character ending his speech with a synonym of the rhyme, and the others correcting him. This only adds to the fun.

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Characters are equally important along side of story, and Child of Light as a plethora. The game opens with Aurora, Princess of Austria, dying, and waking up in a strange land called Lemuria. I loved this change up. While this does follow the typical JRPG cliche of saving the world, the main character is a princess that’s more than capable of taking care of herself. Once she received her fairy wings, granting her flight, I couldn’t stop smiling. Soon, others join here, including a firefly called Igniculus, who is a vital part of the game, both in and out of combat. 

The third part of a good JRPG is the battle system. Thankfully, this has one of the most complex and fun combat systems, hidden in the veneer of simplicity. Only two characters can be brought into battle, with Igniculus in tow, and only two – three enemies opposing. The meter at the bottom of the screen governs the pace, where characters wait until selecting an action (attack, item, swap character). Here is where the depth comes in. Upon selecting an action, you are in cast time. Every attack has a different cast time, with more powerful attacks taking longer. Attack an enemy while casting , called an interrupt, causes it loses its turn, pushing it back on the timeline. The same could happen to you as well though. See an impending attack? Defend, avoiding interruption with a rapid recharge. Igniculus plays a roll too. Alighting him over enemies slows their pace to a crawl. 

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It has been some time since I’ve played through an RPG of any sort, and not for lack of worthy titles. The time commitment, something in short supply for me, is usually the biggest hurdle. Taking only 12 hours to complete, Child of Light fit perfectly. The sidequests provided value to their completion while not tediously adding a checklist to increase play time. This is a tight game with enough depth to satisfy any are looking for a solid experience.

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Though not coming from Japan, Child of Light is the best JRPG I’ve played in years. A perfect marriage of story, character, and gameplay, this not only adds its own uniqueness to the muddled genre, but adopts modern sensibilities, namely, a tight gaming experience. This is easily in contention for my game of the year.

Who was in your battle party? Was this a Goldilocks game for you (just right)? Comment below.

Tony writes for his own site, thecredhulk.com, about comics, video games, movies, TV and more, six days a week. You can follow his updates on Facebook or Twitter. Drop by and tell’em hi.

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One Comment

  1. Ubisoft have crafted a beautiful game.
    That said the constant rhymes can be a pain.
    On the plus side it’s the best RPG I have played this year.
    Unlike the new Final Fantasy games that make players jeer.

    1. Saw this on Steam in the choice previews and took a look. The preview video looked stunning, and it’s definitely on my to get list. I’m gonna check it out soon. I actually could right now, but I got back into Skyrim but with mods for the first time, so yeah, it’s become my crack kind of. Still, CoL is the next one I plan to play. Was gonna be New Vegas, also for the first time with mods, but CoL was just that impressive.

  2. Please dear god NO. This game is badly written, in part due to the writers not really being able to write in rhyme properly. Which is a skill a lot of writers don’t have. Doing odd bits of rhyme is easy, doing it to the extent of this game requires a skill that the writers clearly didn’t have.

    Then you’ve got all the controversy surrounding the game, about stolen mechanics and assets. TBH i rate this as one of the worst games I’ve played this year so far.

    1. I agree, rhyming is difficult, particularly for an entire game. Though there were parts that fell flat, I felt they succeeded more than they failed.

      What controversy are you referring to? I’ve read nothing about stolen mechanics or assets.

      I’d be interested as to why this was such a bad experience for you. Aside from the rhyming, what didn’t you enjoy? I’m curious because while I’ve heard some middling criticisms, I’ve yet to hear one from the negative end of the spectrum.

      1. The problem is that they (apparently) lifted the combat mechincs in whole from another game (forgotten which), and have refused to comment on it. From what I’ve heard Ubi could be facing a suit over it.

        Now, personally controversy never really bothers me, hell im a HUGE mass effect fan and thats got more than a bit surrounding it 😀

        However for me the game just didn’t do enough to draw me in. I found the characters weak and un-engaging, no personality and a chore to work with.

        Again this ties to the writing, because of the heavy focus on rhyming the characters personality wasn’t allowed to breath and show itself off.

        I gave up in the end, got about 2 hours in and just couldn’t get any further. I couldn’t even write a review for it since it just meandered into me hating on the game lol. Which i generally try and avoid.

        I wasn’t keen on some of the practices of the dev and publisher as well, wehile not criminal, i do consider some of the misleading stuff they did to be immoral, but those are my moral’s 😀

        1. Sometimes the best way to go is to copy another’s work and improve upon it. Most sincere form of flattery and such. I haven’t heard much about this, but wouldn’t be surprised if it was true or not.

          I did find some of the characters empty, but that was from me not spending time with them (using them in battle), or others joining too late in the game.

          I thought Aurora’s personality shown through, turning the tables on the typical damsel in distress cliche.

          The battle system and exploration mechanics made be incredibly happy, giving me a sense of nostalgia I’ve missed in games for some time. That’s why I loved it so much.

          I can understand and respect why it didn’t work for you though. I’m glad you took the time to articulate your thoughts, respectfully at that. Thank you.

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