Coming back to White Knight Chronicles' world after nearly a year to see what's changed for the international version has been altogether very confusing. I'd forgotten that the game makes you bumble through about two hours of introductory nonsense before letting you play with the excellent, creative combo system and rockin' giant robot transformations that I fondly remember, and lost 20 minutes hunting around in menus for all the missing options like a halfwit.
It takes a while to get going, but once it does the game's as likeable now as it was last February when it picked up an 8/10 on Japanese import. It's full of the sort of colourful light-heartedness and creativity that are unfortunately rather hard to find in the genre nowadays.
A whole year, though. As you may have guessed, it doesn't take this long to translate some nonsense about kidnapped princesses and possessed sets of armour - what we're getting is a bigger, more complete version of White Knight Chronicles than it was at launch, bolstered by all the patches and online content that Level-5 has been drip-feeding the Japanese audience since then. Given that the online multiplayer was disappointingly half-baked at launch, full of potential that was never realised, this is potentially significant.
The single-player's changed as well, obviously, in that it's now in English with American voice-actors. The standard isn't groundbreaking, but the characters' over-egged enthusiasm does at least match the cheerful, quite cartoony aesthetic. Translation hasn't helped the script much - the story was never a good reason to like White Knight Chronicles - but it hasn't ruined it either. The lip-syncing is a bit off sometimes, and the battle cries are still quite generic and repetitive, but it's nothing to cry over.
I can't be entirely sure whether this is my imagination or not, but I swear they've changed the music a little - the squealing, Power Rangers-esque J-rock guitar solos that used to accompany Leonard's transformations into the giant White Knight are gone. More noticeable is the addition of Live Talk, which makes your party members rather more communicative.
Characters will have a blether to each other while you run around in the overworld, coming out with context-sensitive quips ("A troll? At this time of year?"), story banter ("I hope the princess is safe!" "I'm sure she is!") and, from time to time, irritating generic nonsense ("These guys? Now?"). It's supposed to add atmosphere and camaraderie, make the characters more personable, but unfortunately it just made me sick of their voices until I learned to filter out their chatter.
The international version of White Knight Chronicles also boasts a whole new online-focused game mode, the Georama system. It's a town-building subgame that echoes Dark Cloud, one of Level-5's previous games, allowing you to create your own village of NPCs recruited from the single-player game to act as a lobby for multiplayer questing. This was added to the Japanese version at the end of last year, and the level of customisation is impressive. Characters set up shop in your village and offer some show-offy unique weapons and items, too, and it's a nice way of highlighting your achievements within the game, functioning as an interactive trophy room for friends to wander around.