Ni No Kuni, the DS game turned into a PS3 game that non-Japanese gamers knew about, but never knew when they would get it. Three years after its release in Japan, Level-5 studios published and developed Ni No Kuni; a game also featuring the handiwork (as well as help in development) of one of the most famous animators of all-time, Studio Ghibli (creators of Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle, etc.)
The big catch to this game is it is referred to as a “JRPG from the 1990’s”. The game combines many elements featured from those elder JRPG games and melds them into a way that makes it seem familiar but at the same time fresh. Many gamers feel today that the JRPG’s have become either very watered down, making it easy for almost any player especially veterans or insanely niche. Ni No Kuni is able to bring today’s generation of gamers and gameplay altogether to meet that of nearly two decades ago when JRPG’s were at its prime.
Ni No Kuni’s story has to do with the adventure of a young thirteen year-old boy named Oliver. and his journey into a whole new, undiscovered world. Oliver is from Motorville, a very 1950’s-eqsue town, where he lives with his mother, his best friend, and other citizens of the old-school town. Oliver is a simple child who doesn’t really garner the spotlight, like many JRPG hero’s, and he isn’t very powerful; he is just a normal boy living his life. Unfortunately, after a few couple of unforeseen incidents, Oliver finds himself alone and depressed, that is, until he meets/saves his faithful companion throughout the game Mr. Drippy. Mr. Drippy is a fairy from this other world and tells Oliver that only he has the power to save his world from an evil wizard known as The Dark Djinn Shadar.
Overworld and Battle Gameplay
Ni No Kuni, being an RPG, is divided into main types of gameplay: overworlds and battle. The overworld in Ni No Kuni is set into three parts: Towns, Oliver’s World/Motorville, and of course the overworld itself. Starting with the overworld in Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, the game does not contain randomly generated battles. All enemies (known as familiars), are visible to the player at all times. Enemies have the ability to notice you as well and due to this some may chase you, depending if you are weaker or a close level to them, and others may run away if you are stronger than they are. The game takes a cut from Earthbound/Mother 2 as approaching an enemy from behind will give you a preemptive strike on the enemy and vice versa. You mainly travel around the world by walking to each area, but as the game progresses you find multiple ways to travel such as obtaining a ship to travel the seas. On the ocean the same rules apply, although you can’t see what type of familiar you will fight in the depending/ensuing battle.
Every town in Ni No Kuni contains four things: The Inn, Weapon Shop, Item Shop, and Errand’s Building. All four areas are vital parts to Ni No Kuni; the Inn you must stay at if you want to get maps for the area (provided in your Wizard’s Companion). The Weapon Shop and Item Shop are self-explanatory areas. The Errand’s Building is basically the sidequest spot of Ni No Kuni. Unlike most JRPG’s, sidequests are usually requested by random NPC’s that you have to find in different areas, or they are time-locked and some go away, etc. In Ni No Kuni, Errand’s are divided up into bounties and errands, and can be accessed at anytime. More specifically, errands are available after beating certain bosses/temples, but you can return to do errand’s at anytime you want to in the game. Every job request is accepted in this Errand Building and sometimes the errands can only be activated by reading the errand board (similar to Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door).
What makes Ni No Kuni special is the fact that there are two things: the ability to travel to Motorville (and the importance it plays) and your Wizard’s Companion. Ni No Kuni has two worlds, but each world is connected by its people, where they are called soulmates. Early in the game you meet a girl who joins your party named Esther. Esther was affected by Shadar’s magic because he cursed her soulmate, who lives in Oliver’s world, Myrtle. Because of this, many sidequests and main-quests of the game, have Oliver consistently going back and forth from his world to the other world. Now, the Wizard’s Companion is like your guidebook for being a wizard. This book is an important part of the game because certain puzzles can only be figured out by actually reading this book! The book also states general facts about enemies and monsters (like weaknesses, best equipment) and is a constant source for players who are looking to better their party.
Now, the battle gameplay of Ni No Kuni is a more live-action RPG with a bit of turn-based influence. In a way more concise, it would be Pokemon with a second to think for your commands. Each battle you can either command your player (Oliver, Esther, etc.) or one of three familiars from your party. The attacks range from an auto-attack for a set-time, to a magic attack (where battle time freezes as you select your command), to defending and items. It is possible to also dodge without using commands, as physical attacks need to be performed by actually hitting the player, so if you are far away and select Attack, you or the enemy have to get in range in order to attack you. So, unlike Xenobalde Chronicles, when you are no where near an enemy and still can get hurt, in this game staying away or running around the battle field for time works as a strategy,
In the game there are many types of familiars, and like Pokemon each has a type they are weak against and effective against. In addition, each familar has a set attribute like one can be a fire and heavy type familiar, that can only use certain equipment. These types of monsters are usually slower and more powerful, although still weak against storm or ice opponents. Also, like Pokemon, each familiar can evolve up to a third form! By leveling up, your familiar can reach a max level for that species and you must feed it stones to evolve its form. Evolving also resets the levels of the familiars (so be careful to not evolve before a boss!) and sometimes may change the type of familiar it is.
Ni No Kuni’s soundtrack is done by Joe Hisaishi and Rei Kondoh. The soundtrack is beautifully done in many areas of the game, especially in the beginning, although it is a step behind the usual music we here in games like Final Fantasy. My favorite track of the game is the Arie Recollection [clickable]. Graphics for Ni No Kuni are an obvious step up from its DS version, but are very Wind Waker-eqsue. Not in a sense of cel-shading, but you can see the animation features in most of the character models, making them look more like fantasy than reality. The landscapes and towns are gorgeously done and really bring that fantasy-movie feeling whenever you walk into a town. Also, for those fans of animated Studio Ghibli movies will love that some of the cutscenes are drawn and animated for the player to watch and enjoy. Replay-value of the game is not high, but completion wise is very high. The game offers many post game sidequests in addition to a way to unlock the game scenes and movies if you are up to the task.
Ni No Kuni is a fine entry into the JRPG franchise and a very enjoyable game. While a bit easy to many JRPG vets, the story and addicting sidequests would get anyone hooked to this game; plus we get animated scenes from Studio Ghibli! The game is about 40 to 50 hours long and double that if you want to platnium the game like myself. While the ending didn’t do it for me (hurt the score), you still are able to find a connection with all of the characters and grow to love them (especially Mr. Drippy!)
- Fun sidequests
- Great music/great to look at
- A smooth game that any gamer can get, RPG fan or not
- If you don’t like grinding (well for the trophy)
- A bit slow at first
Michael Troina plays games for his Youtube Channel: LegendofMikeandBill that is only if you want to watch awesome gaming videos with full walkthroughs, unboxings, and news-updates you can also catch TLMB on Facebook so make sure you like us or on WordPress!