Child of Light is one of the finest UbiArt games. This game engine is barely used at present but in the past, it powered Rayman and other short scale Ubisoft projects. It was an RPG inspired by classic JRPG games like the Final Fantasy series. It initially released all the way back in 2014 so this Switch port is out after almost four years.
Despite such dated release, the art style in Child of Light still makes the game look good. The hand-drawn backgrounds are as eye-catching as they were during its launch, although the 3D models do stand out a little odd against the background. This is more noticeable when playing the docked mode due to the lack of post-processing anti-aliasing that can clean edges around the 3D models.
Child of Light is a charming story told in the form of a fairy tale. It deals with the losses and sacrifices that one has to face in their life. The game centers on the story of a princess Aurora, who is the daughter of a Duke that rules over a kingdom. His wife apparently dies one day which leads to the Duke marrying a second time, but it doesn’t work that well for Aurora. One night, she mysteriously gets sick and dies which brings further despair for the Duke. Meanwhile, Aurora wakes up in a mysterious land called Lemuria where a Dark Queen has ruled for years. In this unusual alternative world, She manages to discover a new friend in Igniculus, who is a fairy that shines brightly with a light that can curb darkness.
Cutscenes and spectacular artwork narrates the story in a sublime way, but there is a lack of memorable characters in the game. This is a crucial problem, at least for me; because when I first finished Child of Light, it was hard to recall anything memorable from the game. As beautifully as the story presents every scenario, underneath it all, this feels like another fairy tale with a twist ending. The companions that you make on this journey don’t offer enough character development to make you treasure them.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a pretty good RPG that has a fun combat system and gorgeous visuals. It is just the world is not that interesting to explore. It is drab and bleak, but that is mostly intentional. It just doesn’t do the game any favor with an already lacking cast of characters. The combat system is clearly the highlight but ends up being far too easy on the default difficulty setting.
The exploration works like a side-scrolling platformer where the backgrounds are all hand-drawn, offering you some breathtaking views. It is a mix of 2D and 3D design that meshes well, although you can spot some visual flaws. The combat is entirely turn-based with a party and enemy turn meter at the bottom showing you when the next turn is coming up. Speaking of the combat, if you want to enjoy some strategy, don’t pick the casual difficulty setting even if it sounds appealing.
During exploration, you can also control the companion fairy with the right analog stick. The fairy can utilize some unique abilities like illuminating dark places or even comes useful during combat by slowing down enemies. The abilities for the fairy are all tied to a meter that refills by collecting shiny orbs scattered around the world. You control the fairy to get to treasure chests or discover shiny objects on the screen which reward orbs. It is also possible to do so during combat which plays out on an entirely separate screen.
Child of Light’s combat system is fairly basic. It is a standard turn-based RPG combat system – think Final Fantasy X – but with a focus on utilizing the powers of controlling the fairy. There is a standard level up system where each battle rewards experience points leading to Aurora getting a level up and awarding her 1 skill point to use. Even the customization offered by the game invokes memories of Final Fantasy X’s sphere grid. You start from a fixed point on a node list where you can pick from adjusting nodes offering stats bonuses or new skills. These skills have a timer that decides how long it will take to execute them, so you have to pick these moves wisely during battle.
The Nintendo Switch version was released as the ‘Ultimate Edition’ but the new content doesn’t amount to anything interesting. There is a quest added for the Ultimate Edition called Golem’s Plight but it doesn’t take that long to complete it. You can also equip a set of new skins, but it is just not enough to play through the game again. Fundamentally, this port feels like it is more of a refresher course for the inevitable sequel teased a while ago; but if you want to replay through the game again hoping for improvements, the Switch version doesn’t really offer anything new and innovative here.
This brings me to a major drawback of the Nintendo Switch version. There is an issue with the frame rate for some reason, which runs completely unlocked. I am not quite convinced if it runs at locked 30 FPS or unlocked 60 FPS, but you can feel the speed of the game changing when moving from one place to the next. There is a slight lag added to the input and mild stutter, which is noticeable. It is disappointing to see that here because this is almost 4 years old game by now, that on top runs on the last generation platforms.
Child of Light: Ultimate Edition Review (Switch)
Game Reviewed on: Switch
Game description: From award-winners Patrick Plourde and Jeffrey Yohalem comes Child of Light®. Encounter eccentric creatures, from wicked witches to evil sea serpents, and discover the vast land of Lemuria.
Final Score - 7/10
Visually one of the most pleasing looking games, Child of Light's turn-based gameplay hasn't aged that well. Despite that, it is only recommended for those who overlooked it during the initial release. There is nothing new added that provides an incentive to replay it again on Nintendo Switch, and you will have to deal with some mild performance issues as well.