What is Ni No Kuni? Ni No Kuni is a Japanese role-playing video game for the PlayStation 3, developed by Studio Ghibli and Level-5. Ni No Kuni is about a young boy named Oliver who adventures throughout a new world, connected to our world through ‘soul mates.’ Oliver adventures throughout the lands with the help of his stuffed animal Drippy. Being the High Lord of the Fairies, Drippy allows Oliver to travel to and from each world through a gateway spell. These two ultimately fight through various obstacles put in place by the Dark Queen who seemingly wants to destroy their world for whatever purpose.
I bought Ni No Kuni for a number of reasons. First and foremost, because Studio Ghibli was involved with the production of it. Anything Studio Ghibli touches is of high interest to me. The Studio’s artistic nature has provided me with countless hours of inspiration. I’ve also always been a fan of RPG’s/JRPG’s such as the Final Fantasy series, Tales of Xillia, Skyrim, and the Fallout series, so new JRPG’s are always of interest to me. One of my favorites has been the Kingdom Hearts series, and I am constantly on the look out for a game that will parallel the greatness of the original Kingdom Hearts.
So what went right? Well, Studio Ghibli did not let us down with the artistic elements behind Ni No Kuni. Due to these great visuals, Ni No Kuni is unlike any other game you’ve played. The word that comes to mind is magical. The art forces you to take notice of the game. The art, more than anything else, brings the player into the game. The game itself is massive and completely immersive. There is countless things you can do in the game, keeping you occupied for a long while. One of the finest touches was the Wizard’s Companion book that is available to you in the game. To get the most out of your experience, you should read the various tales that the game presents and check out the fictional language created just for the game’s fantasy world.
Unfortunately, there is one major problem with the game… The actual game play. The game play is horrid. First off, the game, especially Drippy, treats you as if you are a toddler trying to play a game for the first time in your life. “Okay… use THIS spell now.” “Now, Oliver, you need to build a bridge to get past here.” “Crikey Oliver!! This monster’s weak-spot is its tail. Hit it there!” This destroys any thought process that goes into the game play. I want to be challenged, and feel great when I beat a boss, not end up feeling like a machine just telling the A.I. how to operate things. The repetitive nature of how you advance throughout the game is also a game-killer for me. In the game, you go from town to town to get further in the main storyline. While you are at the town you face various problems with the community and need to help them out in one way or the other. Great! The problem is that every single town features the same monotonous problems. The king of the town is corrupted or brokenhearted, you must mend his heart somehow. So you go through the village doing the same thing you did in the prior village to fix the king’s broken heart. You fix it, here’s a boss fight, and now you are on your way to do the same thing in the next village. Did I mention that I hate when games make you feel like you are just carrying out orders like a machine? Oh I did. Good.
The actual fights are not that spectacular either. The biggest issue with these is the A.I. you receive from your teammates. Your teammates are completely useless in battle because of poor intelligence. They will use up all their magic in early, easy encounters, leaving none left for battles that they actually require it for. They will die often, and usually for you, you are better off without them running around the battle field. They may not use the familiars giving to them that have the best abilities, instead, opting to attack with a mage or use magic with a brute force attacker. Moving on from that, the easy encounters are overwhelmingly mind-numbing, just forcing you to press x to attack and get the battle over with, whereas the challenging boss fights feel more like a coin toss than an actual battle dependent on skills.
Overall, the game is worth checking out due to the amazing visuals and creativity amongst the different worlds. It’s worth letting your mind wander through the vast impressiveness of the game, but just keep in mind that around the 10-15 hour mark you are going to be feeling the monotonous, repetitive elements of the game. My hopes of a game that inspires me where shattered for now. Fortunately, the Kingdom Hearts remastered edition will be out September 10th for my gaming pleasures.