The Let's Play Archive

White Knight Chronicles I & II

by nine-gear crow

Part 89: Tokyo Game Show Trailer

Before we say goodbye to White Knight Chronicles once and for all, I figure the last official thing we should do is take a short look back at that original trailer that got the gaming world so hyped for the game before the actual footage of it emerged and everyone went “Oh…? Ooooooooooh.”

I was inspired to do this by a poster in the thread who’s username has eluded me, but they posted a while back that I should highlight this trailer vis-à-vis the actual game just to show what an absolute con-job it was and how fucking completely Level-5 dropped the ball on it. If you’re reading this, dear poster, please let me know and I will properly credit you here, because I can’t find the post in question in the thread.

The following screenshots were cropped from the first “footage” of White Knight Chronicles debuted to the public at the 2006 Tokyo Game Show convention. Ah, 2006, George W. Bush was still president, Twitter was just months old and still an internet oddity, YouTube was still a barely-functional piece of shit, Saddam Hussein was still alive, and I had no idea what Level-5 was, but holy fuck I can’t wait to play this White Knight thing they just unveiled.

This is going to be the best PlayStation3 game ever, even better Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy Versus XIII, which are totally coming out at the same time.

Let’s begin, shall we?

CUTSCENE:Tokyo Game Show 2006 “White Knight” Announce Trailer

The trailer begins with the roundup of the usual suspects involved in perpetrating White Knight Chronicles upon the world.

First up is big daddy Sony itself, who was so proud of the WKC franchise, they buried it in cement and refused to acknowledge it even existed.

Sandwhiched in the middle is SCE Japan Studio, the second-party dev that tried to help Level-5 push the car out of the snowbank only to get covered in mud for their troubles.

And finally…

Good old Level-5, showing off their PS2-era logo here. By the time White Knight Chronicles was finally published four years later, they’d debuted the gray-on-white V logo which they still use to this day.

At this point, the game was still known by its production codename, Shirokishi or White Knight. “Chronicles” would be appended to it at a later date.

OVERWORLD MUSIC:The Continent of Nadias” (Disc 1, Track 15)

The trailer begins in earnest with a shot of the prototype world map screen. This screen would eventually be replaced with the more cartoonish hand-drawn map seen in the finished game.

You can make out some familiar landmarks on it if you squint. Though some places have been shuffled about geographically on the final map, you should be able to recognize Balandor, Parma, Balastor and Greydall Plains, the Lagnish Desert, even the tip of Redhorn Isle in the upper left.

The camera zooms in and a number of names appear on the screen denoting potentially visitable areas. We’re starting at Balandor in the centre. To the south is Balastor Plain, and Greydall Plain is off in the south east by the lake.

Up in the top right of the screen is an area that was apparently cut from the final game: the Eshalar Ruins.

There were apparently three other places cut from the game, most of which appeared on the western half of the map where Faria is: the Xarm Plain, which is right next to the Lost Forest, the Athwani Capital itself, which was supposed to be a separate visitable location apart from Guido’s Hollow, and Ences Temple on top of the massive mountain in the far north west of the map above Athwan.

Xarm Plain is briefly (but not really) glimpsed in the PSP prequel White Knight Chronicles: Origins, while Ences Temple would have been the place where you would retrieve the dummied out seventh Incorruptus, the God of War, for Scardigne, back before Scardigne was reworked into Kara for game 2.

The demo, and by that I mean 100% pre-rendered video, takes place on Balastor Plain.

Unlike in the base game, where you just automatically move to your next location the map, Level-5 originally intended to show your party’s journey after a fashion with a winding blue arrow.

When you arrive, the horse icon denoting where you started from then moves to your current location. In the final game, this only happens if you visit the area and then leave it immediately and go back to the world map.

A list of quests similar to those that appear in the final game comes up when Balastor Plain is selected. The big change, aside from the UI being a little more detailed in this incarnation, is that the depiction of Balastor Plain in the upper window is animated, unlike in the final game where it’s just a still image.

This was -era Level-5, full of optimism and ambition and out to conquer the gaming world, before time, tribulation, and ultimately failure ground them down into Level-5.

Instead of just fading into a loading screen, Level-5 intended transitions from World Map to storyline segments to zoom directly into the start of that section’s opening cutscene.

CUTSCENE / AREA MUSIC:Balastor Plain” (Disc 1, Track 5)

Well, this is looking vaguely familiar, no?

Remember bland and samey Balastor Plain? The place from the start of the game all of you have forgotten about by now? This is the exact same area; one of the few assets to survive into the actual White Knight Chronicles game.

What a difference a proper lighting engine makes, huh?

Unfortunately, Level-5 scrapped the lighting engine and kept the area map, so it wound up looking like shit because it wasn’t lit properly.

I think the various parts of the game were intended to have their own chapter titles at one point, because this one is titled “Quest 3: The Journey of Leonard.” Though another translator also titled it “The Dawn of Leonard”, which is a title I find infinitely disturbing after everything I’ve been through w/r/t Leonard himself.

We also get our first shots of prototype Leonard and Eldore here. Though their models are less janky than their finished counterparts, they also lack the finer details on their individual textures present in the finished product.

Personally, I think the prototype models looks better, even with the blander textures. Hell, Leonard kind of looks like a credible protagonist character in this incarnation.

So this trailer is set after the attack on Balandor Castle. Princess Csina’s already been kidnapped, and the party is running after her.

This is why it’s titled Quest 3, because I’m assuming Quests 1 and 2 were the run to Parma and back and the attack itself, respectively.

The party for the demo consists of Leonard, Eldore, and Yulie. The Avatar either didn’t exist as a concept at this point in the game’s development, or was an asset Level-5 was sitting on because they don’t show up at all in the demo.

So as you can see, even early on, Level-5’s attitude was “Fuck the Avatar.”

In the demo, when characters begin to Live Talk, the rest of the party will turn around and listen to them if you’re standing still. This doesn’t happen in the final game because of course, .

As Leonard starts down the path, he turns back and waves Yulie and Eldore on. Again, these little details are entirely absent from the final game.

The demo wastes no time priming you for action, as a group of Magi soldiers are spotted by the party just ahead.

At this point, Yulie tells Leonard to prepare for the coming fight. Because I guess even Demo Leonard is kind of a dumbass who needs to be reminded about things most people take for granted.

On Yulie’s prompting, the game’s menu opens up. It looks somewhat similar to the menu we see in the final game, only a little more streamlined and simplified than the one that shows up in the finished game.

Making something more obtuse and unwieldy as you refine it? “That’s our Level-5!” he says in a patronizing 70s sitcom voice.

Menu simplicity aside, the other thing you notice immediately that’s not apparent in these still images is that the party’s menu portraits are animated and reflect their current status and equipment.

Fuck me, 2006 Level-5 was all about .

The demo shows off its version of combat set up by selecting Leonard first.

We see here a similar screen to the Command Bar customization screen in the final game.

So here’s something that sort of survived the transition from hypothetical to actual mostly intact.

Switching over to Eldore, however, shows off an interesting aspect of the demo’s Command Bar: integrated combos.

In the final game, combos were separate individual skills comprised of multiple skills chained together based on linking parameters. Here in the demo, you could apparently turn your entire command bar into a combo by linking skills with matching parameters together.

You can see the little arrows going from one skill on Eldore’s bar to the next which weren’t present on Leonard’s bar. It also has icon prompts on the bar that suggest what skill you should put in next to continue the sequence.

Like this.

The demo will tell you you did it right by flashing a little “Connect!” indicator over the linked skills. Again, this is absent from the final game.

The game doesn’t bother to show off any of Yulie’s skills, because fuck Yulie, apparently.

I think this part of the demo was supposed to take place on Graydall Plain, but because Balastor Plain was the only place they had finalized at the time, Level-5 just said “fuck it, nobody knows anything about this game yet, they’re not gonna care.”

BATTLE MUSIC:Prelude to Battle” (Disc 1, Track 7)

Another thing you notice looking back on the demo is that the soundtrack for these parts of the game was already complete. That’s probably why it’s so decent compared to the rest of the game, it came from early Level-5, rather than later Level-5.

Also, one thing to point out; I never mentioned it in the LP itself, but the two versions of the game have different battle themes. Both tracks are called “Prelude to Battle”, but the version here only shows up in the original version of White Knight Chronicles International Edition. Level-5 had a separate battle track composed for White Knight Chronicles II, which overwrites the original version even in the remake section of game 1. You can listen to it here if you care too. I’m torn over which one sounds better. Both tracks aren’t that great all told, but they each have their own unique merits that prevent me from definitively saying which one is “better” than the other as an RPG battle theme.

The basic screen layout for battles is pretty much the same as the final game, expect the party panel is in the upper right of the screen in the final game, and it also denotes MP and actual HP numbers in the final version. Your target identity and health are also transposed on the other side of the screen in the final version.

And here’s where the bullshit part of this whole “bullshit trailer” really starts to come into play. This battle is pre-rendered and motion captured, and is trying to trick you into thinking it’s live rendered.

When enemies attack, your characters will respond by blocking the attack directly with their shields, or parrying with equipped weapons, if they don’t have one, and vice versa for enemies.

Enemies and PCs will react to hits in real time and with realistic reactions. All non-fatal hits are blocked or dodged, only killing or wounding strikes will connect with their target, just like in real life combat.

I think the battle system in the demo is operating on the same sort of principles as Final Fantasy XII’s, Xenoblade Chronicles’s, and The Last Story’s battle systems do, in that generic physical attacks are handled automatically by the AI, though they can be prompted by the player as well, and the player really only manages their character’s more complex attack skills or magic or other special abilities.

This of course was scrapped from the final game, so you had to mash X every three seconds otherwise your character would just sit there and die.

I can sort of see why Level-5 ’d out on the demo battle engine, from a functional standpoint. Yeah, battles in this style look very cool and cinematic, but they would also take their sweet time. Plus I can’t even fathom how many calculations per second it would take to pull this off in real time on the PlayStation3, especially with its fucked up obtuse system architecture.

Still, good fucking god, this demo looked so good at the time.

In this video, Yulie’s equipped with just a knife rather than the bow and arrow, so she blocks with the blade of her knife here.

Here’s an example of a fatal hit: Leonard bashes this Magi goon with his shield and knocks him out.

He also does a little sword swirl flourish after he makes a kill in the demo. It’s just another bit of personality that Demo Leonard has which never made it into Final Game Leonard because Level-5 didn’t incorporate any sort of victory fanfare into their battle system.

The demo then switches over to Eldore, showing off a less obtuse version of the final game’s character switch mechanic. It almost leaves you wondering what they actually wound up getting right when they went to make the game for real.

Eldore’s role in the demo is to show off combos. He starts out with his first attack…

Then the cursor immediately moves down the line to his second linked attack.

Then the third as the next attack launches his enemy skyward.

Combos in the finish game sort of look like this, but are less impressive than they are here in the demo. Because Level-5 couldn’t get them up to this level of quality for real.

Also, demo combos can include magic attacks, apparently.

You can’t do this in the final game, BTW.

Magic attacks also leave persistent environment effects after they finish. This also didn’t make it into the final game.

And now back to Leonard for more pre-rendered motion captured play-fighting.

After Leonard deals with the next Magi goon, Yulie calls out to him to set up something else that didn’t make it into the final game: co-op actions.

While Yulie’s keeping this mook occupied, Leonard sheaths his sword and sneaks in behind him.

When in range, he executes the appropriate command on the Command Bar, and…

Grabs the Magi soldier from behind, locking him into a full nelson.

This allows Yulie to come rushing in…

And roundhouse kick him right in the head.

Even Demo Yulie is a fucking amazing badass.

Again, I get why these were cut. They probably proved too complex to execute live, so Level-5 just ’d on them and didn’t even bother.

Now there’s only one goon left.

Leonard readies to go in for the kill, but…

The mook realizes he’s outnumbered handily now, and panicks and runs away.

Leading to a chase sequence that adds a little bit of excitement to standard battles. Once again, enemies cutting and running doesn’t happen in the final game. The AI isn’t smart enough to retreat. All they did is attack you till they kill you, you kill them, or you manage to run out of their field of view.

I’m going to miss going through and analyzing in specific detail the exact way Level-5 shit the bed on this game.

The chase is interrupted, however, by a sudden EXPLOSION!</terrycrews>

An explosion which triggers a cutscene. Also, it’s apparently instantly night now.

In another example of how Level-5 ’d for this demo, the individual strands of Leonard’s hair flutter in the wind kicked up by the explosion. There’s barely any hair movement in Final Game White Knight Chronicles, let alone to this detail.

Once again, Actual Level-5 took what Demo Level-5 did and made it sloppier, cheaper, and poorer.

Again, I’m really disappointed that they eventually went with a more cartoonish design over the semi-realistic one presented here. It probably would have helped people take the game more seriously, rather than end up writing it off as a Saturday morning Y7 anime like Beyblade or whatever the fuck the latest fad is.

Is Beyblade still a thing? Or am I just mashing words together as a sign of that oncoming WKC-induced stroke I promised back at the start of the LP?

Oh, I recognize that menacing fireglow.

Pyredaemos is back too for the demo.

It also gets a Level-5 Boss Subtitle too.

CUTSCENE / BATTLE MUSIC:A Worthy Opponent Draws Near” (Disc 1, Track 8)

PD’s hidden behind shadows and smoke for the demo because it’s mostly an untextured shadow mass here and Level-5’s trying to cover that up. Personally, I think it looks even more menacing than it did when you got to see the full thing.

Also, note the slight design change from the final version: more emphasis is placed on the creepy doll mask on its head in this version, including a pair of lights behind its eyes.

Demo Pyredaemos is also a lot more fluid in its animations than Final Game Pyredaemos. Again, no surprise, because this was a pre-rendered proof of concept that Level-5 put their best work into, and then slacked off in the final game.

The demo also mimes at giving you a chance to see a boss battle in action here.

One thing to point out: Boss HP gems in the demo were red specifically to denote them as bosses, or maybe to hint at multiple HP bars with different colours overlaid on top of each other, Kingdom Hearts style. This also didn’t make it into the final game.

Taking on Pyredaemos on foot at the start of the game is pretty much suicide, but that doesn’t stop Eldore from leaping at it…

And getting swatted away like a fly. Though as luck would have it, Leonard’s transformation gauge, denoted by the glowing Yshrenian symbol in the lower left, is now full. In the demo, it apparently steadily builds as you fight regardless of whether you’re doing anything or not.

At this point, Demo Leonard also hits the Transform command.

…Which triggers a cutscene.

I’m trying not to make any Leonard fuck up/stupidity jokes in this update, I really am.

Again, the game is trying to trick you into thinking that this is happening live in-engine.

Weep for this poor child. This is the first and last time he will ever be anything approaching badass or competent in this series.

So the trailer concludes with the unveiling of the White Knight itself, looking very much like it walked out of a PS2 HD remake.

The White Knight is one of the few elements of the demo whose finished version I like better than the demo version.

It’s very clear just by looking at it that this was a very early-stage rendition of the game’s titular element. That’s why it only shows up for like the last five seconds of the trailer, and mostly obscured by various glow and blur filters.

Like, look at this.

So yeah, the visual aspect of the White Knight is probably the one area they improved on over the trailer. Everything else is an almost hilarious backslide in terms of quality.

And so rather than show off any actual Knight combat, the trailer just ends with Leonard rushing at Pyredaemos and stabbing it with Whitesteel. Probably because I doubt Level-5 had even programmed a single presentable line of code for how the Knights operated in-game yet.

And that’s it. That’s the last I have to say about this game. Though really, by this point, I’ve said about everything there could be said about it, so it’s about time I finally shut up anyway.

White Knight Chronicles! It literally peaked during its announcement trailer.