on January 22, 2013
With the recent announcement of the PS4, you might think that the era of the PS3 is over. But it isn't - yet. I hadn't owned a gaming console for several years when I found out about Ni no Kuni. Now, I played my fair share of games back in the day, but the video game market in recent years has just seemed... dull. In large part that's because I don't care for first-person shooters or fantasy sports games. I don't begrudge anyone who does, but I play games for the same reason I read books: to escape into a story. Online shootouts with trigger-happy 14-year olds just doesn't do it for me.
Of course, the gaming studios mainly make games for those 14-year olds, not me. So instead of original content and new stories, we get Call of Duty sequels. So when I found out Studio Ghibli was involved in production of a video game, I was only cautiously optimistic. It seemed too good to be true, and it was hard to imagine that their first video game collaboration would be a resounding success. Then I saw the screenshots... and that was when I started poking around eBay for a second-hand PS3.
Because, you see, the game art is astounding. It's really a step above any video game world you've ever seen. Ni no Kuni is simply a Studio Ghibli anime rendered as an entire walk-through world. As you play, you'll come across a scene and think it's the best-looking shot in the game. And then, a few minutes later, you'll come across something better. One of my favorite visuals comes late in the game: a character's backstory told with haunting, comic book-style sketches. It should go without saying that this isn't a game you want to play on an old CRT TV: an HD screen is the way to go, the larger the better (mine is a 100-inch projection system - I was worried about quality, but the game looks great.) Also, turn up the volume: I'd be denying the skill of Joe Hisaishi if I didn't mention the music. In my opinion, it's the best score he's done since Spirited Away.
Now, if the game just looked and sounded great, it would still be worth playing. But the other half of the game's development was done by Level 5. Level 5 has been building critically-acclaimed JRPG's for over a decade. And they've been getting better at it. The story builds throughout the game, is clever and amusing, and seems to make an effort to avoid cliches while also making fun of them (your first major objective in the game is to find the king's red herring). As a resident of southeast Michigan, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that this is certainly the first time Detroit (or a throwback to a 50's era Detroit suburb, rather) has been featured in a JRPG! There's even a "To I-75 North" sign on one of the streets in the neighborhood.
The battle system in Ni no Kuni is the best and most fun I've ever used - a clever hybrid of live-action and turn-based attacks. Basically, most actions have a time-out period after you use them, but you're still free to move around the arena, or cancel an in-progress attack if you suddenly need to cast a spell instead. But that's not all - like most games involving physical battle, there are defensive moves (usually overlooked in favor of repeatedly pressing the attack button!) In Ni no Kuni, you must learn when to defend, when to attack, and when to use provisions/spells if you're going to beat the game.
I played the game all the way through and completed all the side-quests. In the end, it took me just over 100 hours spread across January to April, but you could certainly do it in less, and I could have easily spent more. A big factor in this game is how many familiars you want to collect and battle with - I only had about 30 total. There's also an entire in-game book (the Wizard's Companion), of which I've read only bits-and-pieces. If you think the game is expensive, think of it this way: if you buy the game at full price and a used PS3 for, say, $200 total, you're paying $2/hour for entertainment for a few months. My only real complaints are the click-through dialog text, which gets to be repetitive, and that most of the side-quests weren't very hard. But really, these are small complaints in a masterpiece game. Quite frankly, if you're on the edge about playing the game, you should go do it. You won't regret it.
on January 29, 2013
Ever since I saw My Neighbor Totoro as a kid back in the early 1990's, I had wanted to see what would happen when Studio Ghibli combines their efforts with another developer to create a video game. Now that we have the end result, I couldn't be more satisfied. P.S., this is going to be one heck of a bias review.
Ni No Kuni is one of the best JRPG'S I have ever played. Combining Studio Ghibli's incredible imagination with Level 5's polished and fun gameplay mechanics, Ni No Kuni feels like the JRPG'S of old while revitalizing a dying genre. It feels like Dragon Quest VIII (a personal favorite), mixing elements of Tales, Star Ocean, and Pokemon into one pot of pure bliss. And man, how I've missed an overworld!
The story and world sucks you in right quick, creating a sense of charm and wonder right from the get go. The opening is a tear-jerker, creating a sense of desperation and sympathy for our hero, Oliver. More than anything, Studio Ghibli's incredible ability to create such unique and real emotion in such with their animation is one of their strengths, and combining that with Level 5's sincere approach to the story, it works like magic. Right away, you meet Drippy, one of the most incredibly charismatic and lovable characters to ever grace a video game. The writing and script is top notch, filled with hilarious dialogue and wonderful characters (that feature some of the best English Dubs of any JRPG translation that I've played).
Battles play out like a synthesis of Tales meets Pokemon. You gain control of familiars, small creates that have attributes (sword and shield, tank, fire, etc.) that do your fighting in battles. You can also take control of Oliver to command him to use various tools such as the ability to use items, heal, and run. Battles begin fairly simple with you fighting one to two monsters, but the progression exponentially increases and by no time battles become chaotic affairs that will test your wit and reflexes. The combat is incredibly addicting, rewarding constant interaction and movement on the battlefield. One of the best features is the real time aspect of the battle system. If you command your familiars to attack, defend, and use tricks (or special abilities) at the right time HP and MP orbs fall from your enemies, offering a quick heal. It sounds like a simple mechanic, but it keeps you constantly engaged while in combat, offering a fun, fast paced and exciting tug of war against your enemies.
Story telling is, to put it simply, reminiscent of Studio Ghibli. A hero going on an epic adventure to save his kingdom, healing the people of the land of their broken-heartedness, all while trying to save your mother sounds, walks, and talks just a Ghibli presentation shoud. NNK can be enjoyed by a younger audience, but the elements here are consistently dark and mature, which comes as a major relief. Keeping it spoiler free, the game engages you quite well. It's a simple yet emotionally effective story that grabs you right away.
Also of note is Joe Hisaishi's majestic, sweeping, and beautiful original score. Frequent collaborator with Studio Ghibli, Joe was (gladly) offered to compose the score, and man is it incredible. The overworld theme is still reverberating in my head as I write this. It captures the moods with gorgeous melodies and memorable themes. It allows you to explore and enjoy an already tremendous achievement all the more. They seriously need to release the PS3 soundtrack, because this is as good as JRPG and video game scores get.
And speaking of outside influence, Studio Ghibli made a significant contribution in the art department. There are original animated cut scenes produced by Ghibli themselves (namely Momose)which are wonderful (especially in HD!), the monsters are original and cute, and the gorgeous colors used in the backdrops provoke the imagination. Everything is here, and it feels like Ghibli production combined with Level 5's JRPG mastery in full force.
If there are any complaints (and these are minor grievances) it's that the draw distance is nothing to write home about. On the world map you'll see mountains "peel" in in the distance, and foliage in more graphically intensive areas obviously pops in as you walk through the areas. This is such a minor complaint though, honestly, as it comes from years of playing games and eventually noticing technical "tricks" that developers use to cut corners.
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is sincere, wholesome, and most importantly FUN entertainment that might just be the last push the JRPG genre needs to get its legs again in a predominantly "bald-space-dude-marine-bro" controlled market. Some may ask "why is the title stupid?" or say "it looks like a game for ten year olds!," which at that point I would say that Ni No Kuni game isn't appropriate for them. If you aren't willing to give the game a shot, you'll be missing out. Ni No Kuni takes skill, dedication, and maturity to play and enjoy this long and challenging adventure; it dares to be different from just about every JRPG out there, straying from the spiky-hair-big-sword cliches that have plagued the genre for years, and succeeds so incredibly well at doing so.
And in case you just looked to the end to see the score or closing comments, here they are: Ni No Kuni Wrath of the White Witch is one of the best JRPG's ever made, and it rightfully deserves the praise it is receiving. Part homage to JRPG's and part fan service for Studio Ghibli lovers, it's hard not to like Ni No Kuni. If you love RPG's/JRPG's, this is a no brainer. If you love Studio Ghibli, this is a no brainer. If you've been looking to jump into the genre, you won't get a better chance. Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is a steroid shot to the imagination, giving players freedom to explore one of the best adventures this console generation. It's a masterpiece that won't soon be forgotten.
It's not every day we are given such an incredible gem. Just leaving here with one comment: Thank you Level-5 for the incredible adventure and Studio Ghibli for continuing to create entertainment that is both wholesome and enjoyable.
So what are you waiting for? Go play Ni No Kuni for flippen sake!
Afterthoughts: Just completed the game! My opinions from the beginning couple hours have not changed. I love Ni No Kuni even more now. The ending tied up and explained all of the mysteries and loose ends (without being stupid, farfetched, or cliche), the characters came full circle and were developed so well, and Oliver really grows up into a hero, and a quite likable one at that. There seems to be plenty of post game challenges left, so consider me excited to continue exploring this world.
Total play time for story run: 51:14:06.
Final score: 10/10
on January 22, 2013
I am a fan of Studio Ghibli. More of a fan of Hayao Miyazaki (Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Howl's Moving Castle) but he has had a hand in selecting animators for Studio Ghibli over the years and is himself an exceptional animator. So for that reason alone I have been anxiously awaiting to see the great animation cut scenes for this game. Not to mention music by Joe Hisaishi, composer for Howl's Moving Castle and Ponyo.
I am by no means a fan of RPG's or JRPG's. I am just a fan of art and video games are one medium I really enjoy. Mainly because a big team of people make an entire world for us to explore and play in. LEVEL 5 is a master at this. This is the closest I have seen a game come to looking like an animated film. Although I do have to note that the Namco's game Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm blew my mind with its cell shading and anime look, as well as Rayman Origins with it's wonderful 2D side scrolling animations. This LEVEL 5 production takes playing in the world of animation to a whole other level. Side note, like Naruto you can choose to have the English dubbed track or the Japanese audio with English subtitles which I think is great.
I am not very far into this game and will update as I venture further into it. As of now, I have had no glitches or problems, load times are as expected. The controls are tight and responsive, the visuals are stunning of course.
The inner kid in me wishes that they had released a game this massive and epic and cartoony when I was a kid. The main character Oliver and his guide Mr. Drippy are very classic Studio Ghibli styled characters and the animation cut scenes have been most impressive so far. The learning curve is pretty nice for this style of RPG. As my only familiarity with RPG's are Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VII, and Eternal Sonata, and in that order, I can't really compare this to many other RPG's. I have read some things online comparing this game to Pokemon for the Gameboy (mainly because you capture creatures or "familiars" who help you in your battles), I can't speak to that. What I really like about the battle system is that it is not just button mashing or the regular RPG style pick and choose how to attack and then watch it happen, but being in real time and an open battleground, it is to your advantage to stay moving when attacking the enemy. So far I haven't found the errands (side quests) to be repetitive. Compared to the aforementioned games however, this will undoubtedly go down as a classic among them. I have heard this game can be beaten in about 40 hours if you don't do any errands and just stick to the story. Something tells me you can squeeze a good 65 hours out of this at least.
Any fan of Studio Ghibli films, classic RPG's like Chrono Trigger and any fan of solid game design need to get this. Highly Recommended. If you are a huge nerd like me, you should try and get your hands on the Wizard Edition, it comes with a physical copy of the Wizard's companion that you use in the game.
I am a big fan of what they have done with the familiars in this game. There are a lot, 14 different genuses and each genuses (Arcana, Dracones, and Vermes to name a few) has countless different familiars within their respective class. Each with their own unique abilites which makes gameplay very deep when doing battle with enemies who's weakness may be exploited with a particular familiar.
Like other reviewers have said, the world map is stellar and detailed and harkens back to old school RPG's. This game does take a while to get going, but if you played Assassins Creed III, then this game in comparison seems like it gets going immediately. So far I have not had to use the Prima Guide I ordered for this game. The in game Wizard companion book is very helpful. I can't wait to get my Wizard Edition to have the physical copy that will make it much easier to reference. The more I play the more I love this game. Unfortunately I am stuck at work, otherwise I probably would have played all night and would still be playing now.
on January 27, 2013
So far I love this game. The graphics look great. You know those cut scenes you get in games how pretty and clean everything looks? The whole game is just that. It's a great jrpg with lots of grinding to do. Plenty of side missions and such to keep you busy. I'm 16 hours in, and it seems i've barely scratched the surface. The story is well kept and doesn't fall short on anything, which is no surprise since ghibli is well known for well written stories and hand drawn movies amazing. There is so much to this game i can't wait to finish the story!
on February 11, 2013
+ The graphics are gorgeous. I feel like I'm running around in a Studio Ghibli film, and I love it.
+ The battle system is fun and requires more than just button mashing. There is a good bit of strategy on and off the battle field. Recruiting familiars has the addicting hook of the pokemon games.
+ Most of the characters are just as fun and interesting as any Miyazaki creation.
+ Bounty hunts are enjoyable, albeit a little too easy.
+ It's fun!
o The music that was written for the game is decent, but very limited. I feel like they created about 6 pieces, and the overworld and battle music become very tiring. The string intro to battles will probably grate on your poor ears.
o In general, the game developers seem to have had a hard time figuring out who their intended audience was. In many ways, the game feels targeted toward elementary age children. But then the battle system probably requires a high school level of intelligence to really comprehend. As an older gamer, I love the battle system, but start to become irritated with the nursery feel.
o The Wizard Compendium is a neat idea, but in practice becomes frustrating to use due to the need to pan & zoom, then I suppose write things down on scratch paper so you can actually use the info you just read. Why can't the alchemical formulas I have in my Compendium be in my formula list when using the cauldron?
o The concept of evolving your familiar is cool, but a lot of the evolutions feel like palette swaps or otherwise simple changes. Also expect to do some googling to figure out which final evolution to pick.
- The AI controlling your teammates during battle is just awful. Their choice of familiar, skill or spell in a given situation is often questionable. Even though you can issue tactics, the AI tends to spend MP like mad. You'll want to purposely unequip certain high MP cost abilities from allies' familiars, or watch your MP disappear in a couple of trash fights. It's not so bad that it ruins the game, just annoying because their decisions are simply mind boggling at times.
- I want to cut my own ears off every time Oliver says "jeepers!" or Drippy says "flippin." It's not that I want them to swear - it's just that these phrases get so overused and sound so intentionally candy-coated.
- There is a LOT of meaningless dialogue. The game's philosophy is "why use one sentence when you can use eight?" Lengthy dialogue is okay if it adds something to the story, but often it's just Drippy rehashing and beating you over the head with an explanation or his personal take on whatever is happening. When you're fixing brokenhearted person number 30 or so, you just don't need to flip through 10 bubbles of dialogue. Get on with it.
Overall: If you like JRPGs and Anime, particularly Studio Ghibli, get this game. If you think that Anime is a fancy word for cartoons, or don't know what JRPG stands for, then this might not be the title for you.
on January 27, 2013
I am not an RPG fan like most reviewers here. I was drawn in by my love for Studio Gibli, and the breathless universal enthusiasm for the game. Indeed the game looks like a Studio Gibli epic, and everything about it is top-notch in terms or quality. The art is stunning. The story tugs at heart strings (even if having mom keel over and die is a little un-subtle way to tug them).
However several hours in and I am struggling to maintain interest. The battle system may be great for this type of game, but I find it tedious and repetitive. Walk walk walk, fight, walk walk walk, fight, walk, fight, die, back up and repeat. The enemies are cute, but repetitive and flat. Fighting involves a ton of selecting this character and that spell that takes a while to deal with, pulling me out if the action. I'm sure this gets more intuitive after a while, but often I wish I could just slash away and be done with it.
It is like playing a movie, except for the fact that most of the dialog is just subtitles, and there are boring stretches of Pokemon style battles every 30 seconds as you go on some errand to find some thing to enable some other thing. I do love the fact that the gameplay is indistinguishable (almost) from the cut scenes. But the fact is the characters are 2D cartoons, so that shouldn't be such a feat. Having just played Skyrim for a million hours, I am no stranger to walking and fighting and running errands, but this feels more like a chore. I felt much more immersed in Skyrim. In Ni No Kuni I feel much more bogged down by menus and stuck on the tracks of the story.
That said, the more interactive story engagement sections of the game are wonderful, if a little corny and childlike.
I have a feeling if I were 14 this would have me riveted for weeks. But as a an adult non RPG gamer, I'm struggling to get into this. I realize I may not be the target audience, but for others who were attracted by the Studio Gibli association, I think an outsider perspective may be useful to temper the hype surrounding this game.
on February 13, 2013
I have just completed Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch.
While the visuals and game play are outstanding, the games lack of depth for story and characters really hurt the overall experience. After the first 15 hours I lost quite a bit of interest in the game and had to push myself to finish it. The game is not without it's faults but it's still a great game that every JRPG lover should play.
1) Great visuals
2) Battle system
3) Familiar system
5) Developers attention to detail
1) Story and Characters overall development
2) The game "holds your hand"
3) Animated and voiced cut scenes of the game are few and irregular, hurting the overall flow of the game.
4) Battle AI is quite poor
5) Feels like the game was hurried or rushed near the end of the game.
on January 22, 2013
Ni no Kuni (translates as Second Country) is a fantastic JRPG (Japanese Role-Playing Game) that combines superb visuals with classic RPG elements. If you are a fan in any respect of the genre, then Ni no Kuni is the game to start the year off right. There are pros and cons at the bottom if you don't want to read the review.
The graphics of the game have a somewhat 2D feel to the characters in a 3D environment. While this sounds bad on paper, it doesn't detract from the game at all. Rather, it enhances the gameplay and whole story altogether. Think of anime techniques in a 3D open-world environment. All it means that transitions from game to anime is seamless.
Studio Ghibli has blown me away in terms of the animation and transitions from game to cutscene back to cutscene. Even while playing the game, you feel as though you are watching an anime rather than playing. It might feel cheesy for some but give it a shot. It only enhances the story that you are getting a two for one when enjoying this work of art.
Through this bi-media story, the game has this feeling of projecting a story like a normal anime (feels like watching My Neighbour Totoro) while having control in some of the characters actions and choices. Do I steal? Do I help? Do I rush to vanquish the darkness? The answer truly is, up to the reader in this adventure.
The camera isn't bad in this game but isn't the greatest. The way the map displays your location seems awkward according to your in-game position. The overworld feels somewhat smooth to travel through and closed locations (like within the city or forest) feel even better to control. This area is mainly down to personal preference. For me, I wasn't too impressed in their camera angles.
Unlike other RPG games, this game doesn't focus on turn-by-turn combat (like Pokémon). Neither does it focus on `always-on' combat (like Skyrim). Instead, it has an interesting mesh where you fight enemies in secluded fight scenes. Here, you choose your fight options from the scroll-wheel menu. After, you then engage the enemies like it was Skyrim by button mashing (if using melee) or charging your spell when casting magic. A great comparison is like the Pokémon battles you would see in the anime.
Like any good RPG game, Ni no Kuni has a higher offline playability than other titles now simply because JRPG titles are seen more as interactive stories than linear plots where you kill the bad guy and the end. Even if the story is the same, you will still get that euphoric feel as if you were reading a favourite book again.
If you would like, the United States version (which I have) is also playable with the Japanese voice over. Instead of shelling out the extra $70 for the Japanese version, simply switch the audio to Japanese after you beat the story. It might work better since the mouths are animated to Japanese rather than English.
The music and symphony of this game was not something cut back by the studio. Out of all the games I have played recently, Ni no Kuni has the best music to top any of those shooter games out there. Paired with the silly scenes and tragedies experienced in the first hour alone, you will feel they were not kidding around with the music. The soundtrack does not disappoint whatsoever.
Ni no Kuni will not disappoint any fan of the JRPG genre. If you are looking for the game to start your 2013 collection, Ni no Kuni will begin to fill this void. Despite what some reviewers (on gaming sites, that is) say, take it with a grain of salt. Listen to the other players who purchased this game on faith and enjoy it themselves. If you want to enjoy this game even more, play it with a friend. The overwhelming storytelling is more than enough for multiple people to partake at once.
Basically, if you like anime and Japanese games, buy it. It won't disappoint. For those who need pros and cons, look below.
-Uses anime to complement the story and enhance it further than other stories and campaigns of other games.
-Combat is meshed with turn-by-turn and free-attack.
-The soundtrack is one of the best to be released this year yet. Made by master composers.
-Level 5 and Studio Ghibli did not low ball this title and have lived up to their reputations and expectations.
-Also includes Japanese voice-overs for an authentic JRPG feel.
-Camera and movement can be tricky at times.
-The first few hours can be slow and feel like handholding. If you have the mindset that you are watching an anime rather than playing a game, you will not feel this.
-The combat transitions feel slow at times.
on January 22, 2013
I've been an RPGamer since FF1 for the original NES.. FF2 and FF3 (4 and 6) for the SNES and of course the famed Chrono Trigger. The recent trend in horrible "futuristic" RPGs have been really depressing to say the Least, Except Blue Dragon.. Blue Dragon is the ONLY exception... until now
Ni No Kuni takes everything you love about traditional RPGs with towns.. people.. interactions.. wonderful music.. studio Ghibli art style and fantastic graphics.. and of course an INCREDIBLE Pokemon style party member system.
The lack of cliche for your protagonist is also a welcome suprise.
on June 23, 2015
80+ hours in and I just completed the game...only to find that there is even more to do after the game is over! To think that I almost didn't even bother with it.
The first hour of Ni No Kuni is ridiculous. Seriously. When you're first introduced to your companion Drippy you're going to be sitting, jaw agape, at how cruel he sounds. The way events unfold is swift, jarring, and emotional. I tried to put that aside in order to enjoy the gameplay mechanics, surely they would be better? Then when the battle system was introduced, it just wasn't what I was expecting. What a massive letdown. So I set it aside, played through a few other games, waiting to get into an RPG mood again, then finally gave it another shot.
I love the Studio Ghibli style, and I'm sure that is one of the major draws for people checking out this particular game, so my initial disappointment was greater than it would have been for any other game. I WANTED this to be great and for my first impression to be so bad really took the wind out of me. Loading it up again I was prepared for an average-at-best product...but boy, was I wrong.
The alternate reality established in Ni No Kuni is just so...bluntly honest. Drippy is not the cute little companion you expect, he says things that cut right to the heart of whoever he is talking to, and manages to emotionally invest you in the various characters you meet because you sympathize with their plights. Somehow, Drippy's worst quality is what makes him such an amazing character. It is like he can't help but see the world for what it really is, all illusion aside, and that makes everyone he interacts with feel all the more real.
Oliver (the main character) is almost the polar opposite of Drippy, he is careful with everything he says, kind to everyone he meets, and sees the best even in the worst of people. Everyone from your allies to your enemies have very real, very complex, and sometimes astonishingly warped motivation for being the way they are. You feel incredibly involved in the world, like your actions really are making a difference to the citizens of each town. One of the main sidequests of the game is to heal the broken hearts of everyone who has come to be overwhelmed by it's power. The very idea of being able to help someone with their broken heart is very inspiring and the detail that went into telling the story of each broken heart is surprisingly rich.
It may take a little while for the charms of Ni No Kuni to envelop you but once they do, you'll be absolutely hooked. For one, the art style is the kind that makes your inner little kid smile. You collect numerous animal/robot/undead/other companions on your journey, being able to switch between them at will as you seek to unravel the mysteries of a strange new world. At first the battle system isn't all that spectacular but once you gain control of more creatures the intuitiveness of the system really starts to shine. You can choose any variety of play styles based on which creatures you control and you eventually grow very attached to your favorites, especially when you find that it may be time to switch them out for a stronger one. You don't have to though, you can use the same creatures for the entire game, leveling them up from relatively weak to exceptionally strong if that is what you choose.
The amount of care that went into the details of locations, your interactions with other people, and the vast lore that exists in-game is unheard of. Ni No Kuni allows you to free roam from almost the very beginning, finding buried treasures, gaining new allies, and jumping into new locations you have no hope of surviving in to try to grab some higher level items early on. The game is perfectly balanced, with just the right amount of hand holding before unleashing you on the greater world. Everything feels alive and you feel more alive as you experience it.
After many weeks of play, I can most certainly say that anyone who bought this game at full price definitely got their money's worth. For the rest of us who are buying it at 1/3rd that cost, we're getting the deal of the century. If you're a fan of RPGs, if you're a fan of Studio Ghibli movies, if you're even just a fan of a good story, you will want this game. I rarely ever gush when I write reviews, mainly because those sorts of reviews tend to not sound very genuine, but I assure you that I do it with good reason. If you own a PS3 then you should own Ni No Kuni.