I’ve read that Child of Light was inspired by JRPG. Maybe, I could feel it. But it’s not really important since Ubisoft Montreal’s new title goes far beyond traditional RPGs or gaming in general.
At first sight, Child of Light looks no different from a fairy tale : Princess Aurora, who has been transported in a strange world, seeks to go back to her father. But the comparison stops here because you realize pretty soon that the thing is unique.
Because Child of Light is, for starters, artistically unprecedented. Like Journey or The Unfinished Swan, Ubi’s game is immediately charming by its design coming from nowhere. As always, it’s up to each person’s perception, but you the strokes that forms the backgrounds, characters and monsters definitely seem alive. Lighting and shadows are beautiful and cleverly serve gameplay. Nearly every screen is magnificent. Every time I came to a new environment my jaw dropped. It’s very simple : you could open a museum with only Child of Light inside.
But the museum would hardly be enough. You really have to see all that MOVE! Not short of ideas, Ubisoft Montreal have created fluent and unique animations. Movements remind classic puppet theater a bit like Pupetteer which suits perfectly to the general picture. How to say it… it’s just 2D, but it feels a lot more immersive than most of «realistic» titles. Kudos to the animation in which Aurora loses her crown, picks it up and puts it back. It is really the must of kawaii.
Adding to that, the direction is quite above average. Child of Light borrows as much from literature as from fine arts : the Shakespearean lines with faultless rhymes are filled with elegance and intelligence. The devs have included and smartly transformed a few references : the wicked sister Cordelia, Achilles’s Odyssey… The dialogs as well as the story are both funny and moving, which is indeed a major quality in the greatest JRPGs, and efficiently addresses classics themes like courage, honor, kinship, etc.
What about gameplay, then? I’ll ask me. Well let’s talk about it, because again it’s not borrowed from elsewhere but created from scratch. True, the progression remains fairly linear, but it’s a pleasure to rummage the stages to find hidden objects and secrets. Moreover, a dozen of sidequests will make you search in places you’ve previously visited and you’ll have sometimes to search intensely.
The battle system is fairly original too. You share with your enemies a timeline divided between “wait” and “cast”. If you hit a opponent that is in the “cast” area, that skips its turns. But careful, this applies to you as well! Thinking ahead the movements in the timeline is key to victory, but you have a trump card : your little fairy Igniculus (controlled with the right stick) can slower foes and allow you to overtake them. Each of the seven characters has a specialty and you can equip Oculi (gems) to boost their parameters (elemental attack/defense, ATK+, XP+, etc.). The fights in themselves are really interesting in the way that they emphasize buffs and debuffs which your opponents won’t refrain from using against you. Up to you to withstand with a defensive strategy or break their assault with a daring offensive.
In particular, the bosses have varied behaviors and strengths/weaknesses, forcing you to switch constantly between your characters. Let’s stress that the boss fights have an epic dimension that totally lives up to the best JRPGs. The “bad guys” are horrible and scheming, the monsters are gigantic and the boss battle theme has some grandeur. Oh yeah, THE MUSIC! The orchestration is glorious, the melancholy affects the player deep inside. Ok let’s voice some concerns for the sake of it : I would have liked a larger trophy list, and the game crashed twice. That’s about it…
Child of Light is exactly what gaming needs : something beautiful, like no other, that pleases the senses and the mind while being profoundly emotional. It is an oasis in the middle of sadly generic titles, a masterpiece that stand out in the coldness of the mass market. Child of Light is one of the best titles of this gen and next-gen, and it costs only 15€…