Shirokishi Monogatari
Platform: PlayStation 3
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Level 5
Genre: RPG
Format: BD-ROM
Release: US TBA
Japan TBA

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Such a nice castle.
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It's gonna kill us!
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I wonder who this kid is?
Chris Winkler
First Look Preview
Chris Winkler

So far, few Japanese companies have been forthcoming with information regarding their PlayStation 3-based RPG projects. Apart from Square Enix's duo of triple A titles (Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy Versus XIII), the most anticipated RPG for Sony Computer Entertainment's next-gen platform is a first-party product titled Shirokishi Monogatari (White Knight Story.) This project marks the PlayStation 3 debut of Fukuoka-based development studio Level 5, makers of Dark Cloud, Dark Chronicle, Rogue Galaxy, and Jeanne D'Arc.

Sony Computer Entertainment Japan and Level 5 first showed off Shirokishi Monogatari in late September 2006. At that point, the game was only 10% complete but its visuals already stood out as extra-ordinary. Despite the early stage of its development, the environments already looked as good as the backgrounds of Bethesda's The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Compared to Level 5's previous offerings, the highly detailed character models do look comparatively realistic. Overall, Level 5's PlayStation 3 debut will probably be one of the games challenging Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy Versus XIII for the crown of best looking RPG on the platform, whenever it hits retail store shelves.

Unlike Final Fantasy XIII's technologically advanced world, Shirokishi Monogatari takes the player to a medieval world with huge castles. That being said, the game will also apparently feature comparatively modern locations. For instance, the city of Greed with its smokestacks and multiple floors is more reminiscent of 19th century industrialization than the Middle Ages.

The world map of Shirokishi Monogatari is comparable to its counterpart in Final Fantasy Tactics. Moving from one location to the next is done by moving a figure to a certain location. Once this figure has moved to the selected location, a window showing available quests pops up. The player can then read a description of the respective quest or make his choice and then move on to the field map. It is interesting to note that next to some quests a small "online" icon is visible. Exactly what type of online quests the game will have in store has yet to be revealed, though. On the field map all character are visible, as are enemies.

Thanks to the official trailer movie we also know a few details about the game's menus. From the main menu, the player will be able to access the following sub-categories: battle preparation, equipment, grow, use items, communication, and system settings. The sub-category battle preparation allows the player to set certain special attacks, even though how these powerful moves can be learned and enhanced remains to be seen. System-wise, standard character battles are reminiscent of Level 5's PlayStation 2 offerings. Battles are fought in realtime, with the player controlling one character at a time. The system itself promises to be an incredibly dynamic experience. Enemy combatants will not just stand still while the protagonist attacks them with his sword. Instead, they will defend themselves with their shields, and should they find a weak spot in your defense, start a counterattack. Shirokishi Monogatari also offers more sophisticated means to dispose of your enemies. An enemy's defense, for instance, can be overwhelmed by charging into him with your shield. Another scene shows a character knocking an enemy to the ground before taking him out of the equation with a fireball from mid-air. Apparently the game will allow customization of such chain attacks. Furthermore, it will be possible to aid your friends in battle. As an enemy combatant is hammering away at the heroine, the protagonist sneaks up to the bad guy and grabs him from behind, so the heroine can finish him off with her knife.

The highlight of Shirokishi Monogatari's battle system is related to the transform command. Every now and then, the player will run into towering enemies which are simply too big for your party to take on. Using the power residing within his bracelet, the protagonist has a simple remedy for this situation: The transformation into a towering 7 meter tall white knight. While no details regarding these white knight battles are known at this point, there is a small gauge residing on the lower left-hand side of the battle screen. Once this gauge has filled up, the transformation becomes available.

So far, three playable characters have been revealed: The game's protagonist Lenard, the female lead Yulie, and an old knight by the name of Eldor. Lenard, who works at a wine store, happens to be present at the imperial castle as the Balandole Empire celebrates the coming of age of its princess. The joy doesn't last long, though. All of the sudden a mysterious black army launches a full-scale attack on the capital. The powerful enemy doesn't take prisoners, quickly killing the king and burning down the castle. Together with the princess, Lenard barely manages to escape to the castle's underground treasure chamber. There, a mysterious accessory known as "White Knight," which had been excavated from an ancient ruin, attaches itself to his forearm. This accessory grants Lenard the power to transform himself into the towering White Knight. Since a Black Knight has also been confirmed to appear in the game, the accessory is not the only one of its kind, though.

The trailer Level 5 and Sony Computer Entertainment Japan showed off at last year's Tokyo Game Show only showed a product that was 10% complete. Nonetheless, Shirokishi Monogatari did not fail to impress. While no details regarding the game's scope, length and online component have been made public so far, Level 5's track record and the trailer impressions suggest that Shirokishi Monogatari might not just become another great RPG made in Fukuoka, but a true next-generation RPG experience. The game's official release date is still "TBA", but a 2008 release date seems likely.


© 2007 SCEI, Level 5. All Rights Reserved

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