Before now, Ni no Kuni only existed as an RPG on the DS in Japan so unless you were well versed in Japanese it would have been pretty tricky to get into the story.
Now, thanks to Namco Bandai, the game’s a PS3 exclusive here in the West so now we can all play along and know what it’s all about. And as a bonus if you still want to play it with Japanese voices and English subs – you can! Hooray, everyone’s a winner!
The game’s a heartfelt tale from animé experts Studio Ghibli and Professor Layton developers Level-5 that tells the story of a young boy who’s thrust into a parallel world when his tears wake up his doll called Mr. Drippy after the death of his mother. Whether it’s real or he’s having a breakdown I’ll let you decide but you’ll be casting spells to warp between both the real and fantasy world in order to progress through the story.
The game starts off with tonnes of beautiful cut-scenes with full voice acting as Oliver begins his journey but it’s a shame that as you progress through the game, you’re left reading more and more text and watching less animé. It’s still a beautiful game though and once you have all the voices in your head you can imagine what they sound like but you’d think, being on the PS3, there’d be more voice work which is a shame.
As you walk round the towns you can speak to the residents to activate sub-quests which you can complete for stamps in your book which you can then trade for goodies and also use magic to heal heartbroken people. There’s also the usual trading to be done as you buy and sell items in shops to help you in combat.
When out in the wilds you won’t have random encounters but will end up fighting if one of the nasties spots you and comes running. You can then either take them on yourself or throw out a ‘Familiar’ which is a little monster that can fight on your behalf. I’m not sure what to make of the combat system. The action pauses when selecting who to send out or which enemy to attack but often you’re left trying to run away from enemies and use the d-pad at the same time to select magic and attacks and it’s something that really requires an extra thumb. You also take an age to cast healing spells or even eat bread to full up your shared HP bar and it’s easy to get caught out when low on health resulting in death and starting again at the last checkpoint.
If you like Pokémon, however, you will enjoy the aspect of finding and raising Familiars and tweaking their powers to make mincemeat out of enemies and bosses.
Ni no Kuni is certainly a game that’s had a lot of love put into it. Everything about it screams quality but unfortunately, JRPGs aren’t my thing. I’m going to give it an 8 out of 10 but if you really love this type of game (and you’ll know if you’re that type of person) you may wish to rate it a bit higher.