The UBIart framework has powered some of the finest 2D visuals in all of gaming, as demonstrated in Rayman Origins and Rayman Legends. What happens when a team sets out to make a JRPG using this engine? The result is the unique Child of Light, arriving on Xbox One and Xbox 360 next week.
Working on the Assassin’s Creed series, Child of Light writer Jeffrey Yohalem became enamored with the blurring of history and fiction. “There’s a place in Austria that I saw that was very magical, in a place called Carniola now,” Yohalem told me during a hands-on demonstration at PAX East. “I wanted to create a fairy tale that talked about how that place came to be.” This tale centers on young Aurora’s quest to reach her father, the duke, in the days leading up to the Easter Earthquake of 1895.
While the location and timing of the story have roots in reality, the UBIart-enhanced visuals present a rather surreal view of the tale. Everything flows as if underwater: Aurora’s hair floats around her in a manner reminiscent of Ariel from Disney’s The Little Mermaid (Yohalem confirmed the influence), flying fish actually flit through a forest.
Child of Light’s character animation truly is a sight to behold. I marveled at the way Aurora loses her crown when she takes a hit, scrambling to retrieve it and place it back on her head. Even turning about-face during platforming segments is lavishly rendered. When I pointed this out to Yohalem, he informed me that one of the lead animators helped bring Assassins Altair and Ezio to life, as well as the Prince in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.
With a European setting, two dimensional platforming, and a birthplace in the West, why is Yohalem calling Child of Light a JRPG?
“For me [JRPG is] a rule set,” Yohalem explained. “If you said we’re going to take RISK and make a game based on that, it doesn’t have to look like it. For us it’s a rule set that happens to have been made by the Japanese. Also the art is inspired by Yoshitaka Amano (Final Fantasy’s original concept artist), at least on a loose level. We feel like this is a set of rules that hasn’t been used in a long time. We took that rule set and applied that to a very different type of experience”
Despite the distinctly different look, Child of Light’s includes a number of clear JRPG elements. Battle revolves around a timing mechanic similar to classic Final Fantasy’s classic Active Time Battle system. Your characters level up, and the game’s skill tree even reminded me of Final Fantasy XII’s License Board. Oh, and it’s not easy – your tactics will be tested in Child of Light. I’m not ashamed to say I was wiped out during the demo… and that’s a good thing.
Child of Light arrived on Xbox One and Xbox 360 today.