Recently, however, I have noticed a disturbing trend with modern video game reviews. Specifically, I have a problem with 'JRPG's getting noticeably lower scores than their western counterparts, for no genuine reason. People often say that JRPGs are stagnating, that they don't provide the innovation that WRPGs apparently provide (which simply isn't true, more on that some other time). However, there seems to be something uglier than that afoot- a simple refusal by so-called 'game journalists' to give these games a fair shot at all, only begrudgingly giving a good game a decent score (see Gametrailer's review of Disgaea 4 for an example), and jumping on the smallest possible flaw. These games are criticised unfairly, plain and simple. A recent example I found was Game Informer's review of White Knight Chronicles II, a PS3 exclusive RPG that came out last month. Now, the original White Knight Chronicles was an average-at-best affair, which was dissapointing coming from the great developer Level 5. I can safely say that White Knight II is a vast improvement on it's predecessor, and in a gaming generation that lacks too many great JRPGs, you can't go wrong with a game featuring a giant midieval robot. Game Informer isn't known for particularly great reviews, but their review of White Knight Chronicles 2 is such an unfair piece of writing, I feel it is worth discussing. I'm going to pick out some lines from the review, and say why I feel they are wrong.
1- "The first White Knight Chronicles was a mediocre experience when it arrived in early 2010, but its sequel shamelessly recycles content to a degree that has me seriously questioning the abilities of once-trustworthy developer Level-5."
So one bad game by a developer with a near-perfect track record (Dark Cloud, Rogue Galaxy, Dragon Quest VIII) is enough to make you question their talents?
2- "As with the first game, White Knight Chronicles II is a clearly Final Fantasy XII-inspired, MMO-light Japanese RPG. Whether going solo or playing online with up to five other players, you will fight across complex dungeons, massive plains, and other open settings. Each character in your party can be tailored to focus on almost any weapon or magic type, providing a great deal of flexibility for combat."
Sounds pretty fun to me. I thought this was suppossed to be a bad game?
3- "Twenty hours into White Knight Chronicles II, I was still fighting the same giant bugs, spiders, and scorpions that were primary opponents at the beginning of the first game. Level-5 didn't create many new creatures for the sequel, and everyone tends to have the same strategy anyway: Discover which type of attack they are weak against and hack away until they fall."
So what? The game uses similar enemy types throughout, it's hardly the first RPG to do so. Besides that, it's also a direct continuation of the first game, so it makes sense that these elements reappear. Discovering what type of attack they are weak against... sounds like a large part of the strategy in many other games.
4- "The only highly positive thing I can say for White Knight Chronicles II is that it has an absurd amount of content. The sequel itself can easily last well over 50 hours depending on how much side content you do and whether you get pulled into multiplayer, but a remastered version of the first game is also packed in. You can choose to skip right to the beginning of the second, but if you play both back to back there is well over 100 hours of grinding and questing to keep you busy. Then again, in a game that's this tiresome after 10 hours, maybe that's not really a good thing?"
At this point, the only thing you've mentioned about the game that is 'tiresome' is that it still plays like the first game. It's a sequel, and as mentioned earlier, it's also a direct continuation of WKC1. WKC1, which COMES WITH THE SEQUEL. That's a really great value for newcomers, giving them a version of the original with the sequel's combat and graphical enhancements, which I see you have failed to mention.
5- "White Knight Chronicles II is destined to be one of those examples forum trolls point to when they're explaining everything that's wrong with Japanese RPGs, but the biggest problems with this game aren't due to genre conventions."
You never even mentioned the story or gameplay in this review, so i suppose it's only fitting that the game's problems aren't limited to 'genre conventions' (how convenient that these conventions are apparently flaws).
6- "Where the game falls depressingly short is in Level-5 ignoring the many valid criticisms of the first game and churning out a cookie-cutter sequel that is even more of a rehash than the average yearly sports title or shooter franchise."
The same yearly sports title or shooter that your publication will give yearly high scores to regardless. Keep in mind that you never once mentioned the increased combat speed, added customization, online features (the main draw for the White Knight Chronicles series has been their extensive online mode) and numerous other improvements.
Then we get to the sidebar, which seems to mention a few things that should have been mentioned in the actual review, as well as affect the score. Taken from Game Informer;
I don't even know where to start with this... what makes an area 'generic'? Especially when the graphics are apparently good? Why didn't you mention any of the new content in the review? Why is the replay value rating so high if the game is supposedly so poor? Well, DUH, there's no tutorial in the second half of the game, the first half with the tutorial is ON THE DISC! Below average voice acting, fine, but awful soundtrack? That's a matter of taste, my friend. So what if there can be grinding involved, it's never something you're forced to do. I could go on, but...
This is a good example of what is wrong with modern game journalism. The writer accuses White Knight Chronicles 2 of being lazy and uninspired, but it's his review which is lazy, not mentioning any relevant information about the game and coming across more as published whining. If game journalism is to be taken seriously, it must provide comprehensive information on the game in question, as well as provide an honest appraisal of both the game's strengths and weaknesses. This review simply isn't up to snuff. It's clearly biased against the game, is filled with factual errors concerning the game and it's genre, and doesn't say anything even remotely relevant to justify such a low score.
Dissapointing. Truly dissapointing. My own review of White Knight Chronicles II will eventually be written, where I hope to give a much more complete review that the game deserves.