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Ni No Kuni

Ni No Kuni photo
Ni No Kuni

Practically steal Ni No Kuni for $5 in Sony Flash Sale

Maybe you should feel bad paying that little
Jun 03
// Brett Makedonski
Here's a deal that's almost impossible to pass up for any fans of role-playing games. Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is only $5 right now during a Sony Flash Sale. That's so stupidly cheap! There are a few other decent ...
Ni no Kuni sales photo
Ni no Kuni sales

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch has sold over 1.1M

Now for Ni no Kuni II: Wrath of Kahn
Mar 10
// Steven Hansen
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch has passed 1.1M worldwide sales since its January 2013 release. Which maybe doesn't seem like that much with Tomb Raider needing five times that for profitability and unfinished games like...
Cyber Monday photo
Cyber Monday

Cyber Monday Deal: Ni No Kuni for $9.99

Slew of deals over at the Namco Bandai Shop
Dec 01
// Wesley Ruscher
If you haven't had your fill of Black Friday deals, then Namco Bandai might just have a few more to keep you busy over the long winter drought. Over at their CLUB NAMCO store, a few deals are currently running and are good th...
Level-5 game sales photo
Level-5 game sales

Layton series has sold over 15 million units

Level-5 also reveals sales of Ni no Kuni, Inazuma Eleven, and the Guild games
Aug 28
// Tony Ponce
Level-5 has kicked the fans in the collective nuts with the complete tonal shift that is Layton 7. That must mean the games are on their last legs and can no longer make bank on Nintendo handhelds alone, right? Not likely if ...

Deals photo

Amazon discounts Ni no Kuni, Uncharted PS3 bundle

Check back for deals throughout the day
Jun 25
// Jordan Devore
In today's game-centric Gold Box event on Amazon, latecomers can nab the 250GB PlayStation 3 with Uncharted 3 bundle for $250 ($49.99 off) as well as deals throughout the day including everyone's favorite JRPG Ni no...
Ni No Kuni DS photo
Ni No Kuni DS

There may be hope yet for a Ni No Kuni DS localization

A Namco Bandai executive reportedly isn't opposed to the idea on 3DS
Apr 11
// Chris Carter
For months now, fans, or prospective fans who don't own a PS3, have been clamoring for a localization of the DS version of Ni No Kuni, which Namco Bandai shut down to due "translation issues and costs regarding the Wizard's C...
Ni no Kuni photo
Ni no Kuni

Amazon and Target have Ni no Kuni for $40

Do it for Mr. Drippy
Apr 08
// Jordan Devore
This is the day I've been waiting for. Level 5's Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch started the year off right all the way back in January and some of us who missed out on the well-received role-playing game have been ...

Jimquisition: Innovation - Gaming's Snake Oil

Jimquisition happens every Monday!
Mar 18
// Jim Sterling
There's nothing wrong with a game that innovates. There's everything wrong with a game that goes out of its way to innovate without reason. Like any tool, innovation is neither good nor bad, and it has its specific uses. How...

Ten psychedelic freakouts and hallucinations in games

Mar 04 // Taylor Stein
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty - Turn off the game Raiden!!! Scrape together all of the bizarre, hilarious, and confusing thoughts that you can muster, and fashion them into a particularly wacky scenario. Add a dash of nudity and the ramblings of a rogue AI, and what are you left with? Arguably one of the strangest scenes in the entire Metal Gear series. A butt-naked Raiden is bombarded with continual calls from an advanced artificial intelligence that has been infected with a debilitating virus. Crazy Colonel as I like to call him, covers a multitude of topics while in his fanatical state, from alien abductions to irritant plant juice. In an especially creepy encounter, his speech deviates from the randomness aimed at Raiden and shifts to a command intended for the player. "Raiden, turn the game console off right now. The mission is a failure. Cut the power right now." I know that I am not the only one who actually considered turning the system off at that very moment. Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess - Screaming ... eerie screaming Link has always been a relatively reserved guy. Besides a set of exclamations and fighting sounds, the boy clad in green is about as laid back as they come. Behind those baby blue eyes is the perseverance of a champion ... or the thoughts of a madman. Considering that the hero is continually reincarnated from one generation to the next, forced to battle the evils of the world for all eternity, it's no wonder he finally snapped. Upon reaching Lake Hylia Spring in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Link cleanses the region of darkness that has entrenched the area. He then falls into a dream-like state that begins rather informatively; backstory is revealed and the player is enlightened with a deeper understanding of the narrative. In traditional nightmare fashion however, the vision takes a drastic turn for the worse and Link is joined with the company of dark doppelgangers, complete with glowing eyes and eerie screaming. Not only was Link puzzled by the revelation, upon viewing the scene, I too was struck by the disturbing nature of the dream. I don't know exactly what the craziness means, but it's certainly not what you expect from the tried-and-true Zelda formula. Batman: Arkham Asylum - I am vengeance, I am the night, I am Gasman Batman is a beast among men, there is no doubt about it. When an average person is pitted face-to-face against his innermost demons, he crumbles under the weight. The Dark Knight, on the other hand, punches his deepest fears in the face. After being exposed to the Scarecrow's signature fear gas in Batman: Arkham Asylum, Bruce Wayne's most painful memories, worries, and regrets are given a life of their own, taking physical form with a single purpose of crippling Gotham's savior.Batman relives the deaths of his parents multiple times, defeating nightmarish versions of the Scarecrow in each encounter. He is pumped with enough crazy juice to kill an elephant but he somehow manages to trek onward. The cat and mouse game is finally trumped thanks to an unlikely source, Killer Croc, who literally takes a bite out of crime. Far Cry 3 - Giant slaying with a side of fornication? What would you do to save your friends from murderous, slave-trafficking pirates? Cali boy Jason Brody goes above and beyond to fulfill the role of a hero in Far Cry 3. Unfortunately, privileged immaturity does not bode well against an island riddled with danger in the form of wild animals, homicidal pirates, and a mysterious tribal faction. Brody aligns with the latter camp, and his quest of rescue slowly evolves into a pursuit of revenge.In a rite of passage ritual, Brody is tested as a true Rakyat warrior. After chugging a ceremonial drink, the ancient temple exudes a darker more intimidating aura. Then an enormous red-faced shadow creature emerges front and center. Foreshadowing at its finest. With only a bow in hand, the drug-induced Brody must battle toe-to-toe with the beast while dodging dark projectiles, and assault from shadow-men. Are you wondering what his body is doing while his mind is engaged in mental gymnastics? Getting down and dirty with Citra. Talk about tripping balls. Ni No Kuni - Girl you're crazy If this list conveys any message at all, it's that the mind is capable of crazy things. Loneliness is an especially potent catalyst of mental instability, one that can manifest in a variety of ways including multiple personalities. What better way to counteract isolation than talking to oneself? In a narrative of great sadness and good intentions gone bad, Queen Casseopeia of Ni No Kuni accidentally altered the entirety of her kingdom into mindless monsters. With the population of sentient citizens reduced to absolute zero, Casseopeia vowed to sit in waiting upon her ghastly throne until someone came to free her from inadvertent, self-induced seclusion.Days became months, months became years, and the empire was eventually lost to the hands of time. The queen of a once prosperous nation, the daughter of the legendary Wizard King, was reduced to a bitter shell of her former self. Driven mad by solitude, she created not one, not two, but over 12 different personalities to help alleviate the sting of separation. While many of these mental actors were united under an evil agenda, a few actually came to the aid of the protagonist, helping him to put an end to the ruler turned tragic figure. So she was talking to herself the whole time?! Yes, yes she was. If having a dozen cerebral characters isn't enough to strongly suggest lunacy, their bickering and disparate goals are icing on the nutty cake. Fallout 3 - Swamp plants and psychedelics If there is an award for gullibility, the Lone Wanderer in Fallout 3 might take the prize. In order to appease a tribal cult leader, he is ordered to traverse a sacred bog, slay mutated crab monsters, and retrieve the mother of all fruits. Sounds simple enough, but is it ever that easy? Approaching the vegetation causes hallucinogenic gas to spew from the plant, resulting in the player falling unconscious. This is where the fun begins.As my character came to, I remember thinking, "Oh, I guess nothing happened" until I began heading towards the exit. In a flurry of weirdness, the seemingly ordinary swamp is overwhelmed by random events. Collectable Bobbleheads featuring disheartening inscriptions become littered across the terrain, a camouflaged saw can be seen floating in the air, baby-sounding explosions  detonate without warning, needle and thread stitch the ground in a sewing motion, and oh yeah, you see the Lone Wanderer's mom as a skeleton in a pointy birthday hat. WTF is an understatement. Adding to the weirdness, while you were dozing by the Mother Punga tree prior to the psychedelic trip-out is that someone sliced your head open and removed a large chunk of your brain. I guess he's physically and mentally scarred for life. Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception - Drugs drugs and more drugs Treasure hunting in remote corners of the world is a hazardous pastime. Doing so while under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs is even more so. During multiple instances in Uncharted 3, Nathan Drake experiences strange visions. Twice after being shot in the neck with a dart, again while stranded in the desert. Drake even enters a delirious state after drinking the water. I've heard about Montezuma's revenge but diarrhea is nothing in comparison to temporary insanity.Fighting an entire private army is much more difficult to handle when the mercenaries shoot fireballs, and teleport, that's for sure. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - Madness incarnate The entire Shivering Isles DLC in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion immerses players into the epitome of lunacy. Split into two lands, Mania and Dementia, the realm of insanity is ruled by none other than the Daedric Prince of Madness, Sheogorath. With a title like that, you can expect enough absurdity to last a lifetime. Rather than a specific incidence of hallucinatory psychosis, the entirety of the narrative, including the world, is surrounded in unusual happenings.Sheogorath quests the Champion of Cyrodiil to defeat the evil lord Jyggalag who makes an appearance every era by conquering the land. In a series of events, it is revealed that Jyggalag is actually the Daedric Prince of Order and Sheogorath's true form. Cursed long ago by god-like beings, the master of order was forced to live as madness incarnate for all eternity; becoming his true form only sparingly. Who sounds crazy now? Dead Space 2 - The worst relationship ever Struggling to survive against an onslaught of reanimated corpses is a challenging feat. Any false move or lapse in concentration can easily fulfill a death wish. At least they're usually slow, mindless drones. Unfortunately, the Dead Space franchise doesn't feature run-of-the-mill zombies. Necromorphs are more like grotesque, appendage mishmashes with brains and brawn to boot. If the enemies weren't bad enough, battling insanity while exploring infested terrain surely adds to the intensity.Due to exposure with numerous alien artifacts, Issac's brain became imprinted with an alien code that causes him to experience an assortment of odd visions, voices, and images. The most common of which is a reoccurring hallucination of his deceased girlfriend. Out of the three installments of the series, Dead Space 2 definitely takes the cake in showcasing the Marker's influence over the mind. The guilt associated with Nicole's death consumes Isaac who is unable to accept the loss and move on. Though he is able to "reconcile" with the illusion, thus reconciling with himself, overcoming the vision is not a simple feat. Stalking, choking, and attempted stabbing were all in Nicole's repertoire of tactics, only defensible with sudden button-mashing frenzies. Domestic abuse is never funny ... even if it's between a guy and his own brain. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater - Face your deeds in the river of death With two entrants from the same series, I'm sure you can tell that I'm a huge Metal Gear fan. The mix of history-rich story, extremely diverse characters, and the tone of seriousness flavored with hilarity is exactly why I hold the franchise in such high regards. Rather than leading with the humor theme, The Sorrow fight in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater joins the ranks of Twilight Princess and Dead Space in category creepy.After jumping off of a dauntingly high waterfall, Snake awakens in a ghastly spirit realm personified as an endless river. The Sorrow explains to Big Boss that he would be forced to walk down the waterway for all eternity so that he could, "feel the sorrow of those whose lives he had ended." As a player who went absolutely knife crazy on just about every grunt in the entire jungle, that's a whole lot of sadness on my part.Every enemy that was slain appeared before Snake in the chilling landscape. Soldiers screaming in pain, some on fire, and plenty grasping at their necks from slice wounds pressed onward, appearing exactly as they did upon their deaths. Upon finishing the spirit walk, players are able to return to the land of the living, but not without deeper insight into how The Sorrow actually died. Spooky, deep, and all-around creative for a trip into the afterlife. Other notable favorites: Catherine - Daily nightmaresMass Effect 3 - Child visionsHeavy Rain - Madison's nightmareSpec Ops: The Line - Ending  [Image source]
Ten psychedelic freakouts photo
WTF sentiments all around
Have you ever heard the saying, we're all a little bit crazy? I don't know about you, but "a little bit" might be an understatement, especially within the world of videogames. While virtual protagonists often reflect the abso...

Ni No Kuni free DLC photo
Ni No Kuni free DLC

Ni No Kuni is offering a free Draggle familiar DLC today

Free party member
Feb 12
// Chris Carter
It's a free DLC-fest for the PlayStation Network today, as Draggle, the adorable guy pictured above, is dropping for free on the PSN. If you aren't familiar with how Ni No Kuni works, it's basically like Pokémon. Aroun...
Ni no Kuni photo
Ni no Kuni

Ni no Kuni is #1 in the UK, sold out in many shops

Three cheers for color and whimsy!
Feb 04
// Tony Ponce
I guess a lot of grown-up "mature" gamers, who complained that Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch was too "kiddy," were blowing smoke out their asses and bought the Level-5 RPG anyway. According to GfK Chart-Track's UK Top ...

Dear Ni no Kuni fans, your help is urgently required!

Can you HELP us!?
Jan 30
// Jim Sterling
Seriously guys ... do you know where we can find something brown and sticky? Brown and sticky?

Boob Wars: Colonial Marines, HD Wind Waker & RIP THQ

The Destructoid Show gets weird on Fridays
Jan 25
// Max Scoville
Hey gang, here's the recording of today's live Destructoid Show! Nintendo Direct happened, so we talked about all of that, and SimCity has new curved roads in it, I hope you're ready for that. That new Aliens: Colonial ...

Namco Bandai responds to Ni no Kuni LE order issues

Affected fans to get 400-page guide book
Jan 25
// Dale North
Namco Bandai handed Destructoid an official statement on the Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Wizard's Edition order issue we've been following these past few days. It is as follows: Namco Bandai Games America ...

Ni no Kuni Wizard's Edition orders issues abound [update]

Sound off if you've had issues with your order
Jan 25
// Dale North
[Update: As you can see from our comments section below, this has been a messy issue. It got nasty when word got out that one buyer got over 200 copies and is now selling them on eBay. Disgusting. Thanks to our readers for in...
Ni no Kuni pee-pee photo
Ni no Kuni pee-pee

I helped a girl take a piss in Ni No Kuni

Sympathy for the NPC
Jan 23
// Niero Desu
It wouldn't be fair to say that Ni No Kuni has a specific urination quest. It's more of a side story or side effect of a larger task, if you will.  Nevertheless, when I came upon this girl who needed to whiz, I immediate...

The Elder Scrolls Online & Electronic Child Molesters!

The Destructoid Show would never touch you like that
Jan 22
// Max Scoville
Here's today's Destructoid Show! Lots of cool stuff today, and some stupid crappy stuff. Sounds like a regular ol' Tuesday, huh? The Elder Scrolls Online has started beta signups, Ralph Nader called video games a mean name, Resident Evil Revelations is coming to consoles and PC, and Ni No Kuni got reviewed! Also, Dead Space 3 has some smelly little microtransactions in it.
Mash Tactics photo
Mash Tactics

Live show: Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

All it's hyped up to be?
Jan 22
// Rick KingFoom Olson
[Mash Tactics airs Monday through Friday at 4p.m. Pacific on Dtoid.TV. Watch King Foom play a variety of games, each day with its own theme. With a heavy focus on community and viewer interaction, you can be as m...

C'mon, Level-5! Localize Ni no Kuni DS already!

Jan 21 // Tony Ponce
[embed]242714:46443[/embed] The original Ni no Kuni was announced way back in 2008. It would be nearly two years, mere months before the DS game's release, before any mention was made of a PS3 version. Wrath of the White Witch is no mere update of the DS version, subtitled The Jet-Black Mage. From what I've gathered, both games were developed separately and feature several elements that differ in significant ways, even though the general framework is the same. Even if Mage and Witch were identical save for the graphics, I still believe there would be strong interest in the former. The large library of quality RPGs on the DS and PSP indicates that the genre has found a cozy home on handheld devices. It's ironic that a genre infamous for demanding massive time investments would adapt so well to the style of bite-sized gameplay fostered by portable hardware. Level-5 envisioned Ni no Kuni as a franchise, thus there is no reason why anyone ought to picture Mage and Witch as anything but complementary experiences. I understand that the big draw of Witch is how closely the in-game assets resemble the original artwork, but it's not like Mage is a slouch in the art department either. [embed]242714:46442:0[/embed] It doesn't end there! In order for Ghibli composer Joe Hisaishi's score to sound as crystal clear as possible, Level-5 opted to use a 512 MB game card, the largest of any DS game. "Compromised," The Jet-Black Mage is not. More important than graphics and card space is the fact that Ni no Kuni is a major milestone for an animation studio that has historically avoided getting involved with videogames. Ni no Kuni is technically not the first time Ghibli had a hand in a game's art direction -- Magic Pengel on the PS2 holds that distinction -- but the level of involvement here is unprecedented. Why would you not want to experience such an event firsthand? But Wrath of the White Witch was announced for the West, while The Jet-Black Mage wasn't. Localization for Mage was definitely considered, but according to Level-5 CEO Akihiro Hino, the big spanner in those plans was the book bundled with every copy of the game. For those unaware, the 352-page Magic Master book is a companion guide that details in-game lore, creatures, and magic runes that can be drawn on the touchscreen to cast spells. This book is a crucial element of the game, and its existence as a physical object was intended to add an extra layer of immersion. Apparently it was too expensive to translate, and even if it were translated, there would be the issue of printing enough copies for each game and expecting consumers to pay a premium for the bundle. I'm sure Level-5 could have found a decent workaround, but I do understand the cost concerns. Disappointing news, but that's the way the world turns, right? By the way, Witch also requires the use of the Magic Master book, but instead of being a physical object, it's an in-game item accessible from the menu. And oh yeah, US publisher Namco Bandai is selling a limited "Wizard's Edition" bundle that includes a physical version of the book, now called the Wizard's Companion. WHAT. THE. FUCK. So all that talk about expense and translation hurdles was just bullshit? I'm trying to be as rational as I can, but the only conclusion I can draw is that neither Namco nor Level-5 thought Ni no Kuni would have been able to sell on the DS. I don't see how it wouldn't unless Namco wasn't planning on advertising the game at all. Look, I'm glad that Ni no Kuni is coming out for PS3, but we are still being robbed of delicious Ghibli goodness! There has got to be a way for the DS game to make it out here somehow. Here's what to do The DS is a lame duck. There might be a studio or two still releasing new DS software, but most have moved on to its successor. Therefore Level-5 should port Ni no Kuni: The Jet-Black Mage directly to the 3DS. The team won't really need to touch it up too much -- as you saw in the footage above, its a very beautiful game, I would say even by 3DS standards. With this platform transition, Mage would benefit from the larger game card capacity -- cards at the 3DS' launch could already hold 2 GB, four times the size of the DS' largest. I'm going to take an educated guess and assume that Mage's card was fairly packed, thereby preventing Level-5 from -- oh, I don't know -- including a digital version of the Wizard's Companion. Because 3DS game cards are much roomier, the already translated book ought to fit in nice and neatly. There you have it! Players now have in-game access to the book, just as PS3 players do, and they won't be prevented from casting spells be drawing the runes. And for those who desire the original experience as intended, there could be a 3DS version of the "Wizard's Edition" as well. [DS version unboxing by Espelancer] But what of the argument that a currently two-year-old game from a previous generation platform would be a hard sell no matter the pedigree of the parties behind it? If Namco doesn't want to play ball, Level-5 should take its business to a progressive company like XSEED, which has recently shown great willingness in taking chances on niche but highly demanded RPGs on Nintendo consoles. XSEED has already been rewarded for localizing The Last Story, and even Xenoblade Chronicles, which Nintendo of America itself published two years after its Japanese release, has done "quite well" by the company's expectations. If Wrath of the White Witch performs to Namco's satisfaction, there ought to be no reason to hold off on localizing The Jet-Black Mage any longer. But if Witch does not meet its goal, Mage should nonetheless be given a shot for the sake of sharing one of the most beautiful-looking games in recent memory with the rest of the world. We have evidence that low-print software runs can pay off handsomely, just as long as the parties involved keep modest expectations. I just want some Level-5 / Studio Ghibli magic on the go. Is that so much to ask? Am I asking for the sun and the moon? Am I being naive in regards to the nature of big business?
Ni no Kuni DS, please! photo
And here's how to do it
Tomorrow, January 22, Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch finally arrives on US shelves. The PlayStation 3 role-playing game is a collaboration between developer Level-5, and animation house Studio Ghibli -- two companies th...

Ni no Kuni photo
Ni no Kuni

New releases: Ni no Kuni arrives at last

Plus The Cave, ShootMania Storm, and more
Jan 21
// Fraser Brown
It's Monday, and that can only mean one thing: it's the beginning of another week of new releases! And what a great week it is, most notably containing the release of the long awaited Ni no Kuni, Level-5 and Studio Ghibli's ...

Review: Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

Jan 21 // Jim Sterling
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (PlayStation 3)Developer: Level-5Publisher: Namco BandaiReleased: January 22, 2013MSRP: $59.99 Wrath of the White Witch tells the tale of Oliver, a boy from Motor City who, through a tragic family event, finds himself alone and grieving. His misery, however, has the fortunate side effect of lifting the curse on a fairy from another world, the rambunctious Mr. Drippy, who convinces him to become a wizard in an alternative mirror universe where all the important people coincidentally share souls with everybody Oliver knows in his small city block. As is often the way!  The story, afflicted though it is with plot holes, a little creep of a protagonist who says "Jeepers" and "Neato" without a trace of irony, and some of the most passive-aggressive villains in videogame history, is actually quite good. It suffers from a slow start, but once it gets going, the supporting cast and charming world of Ni no Kuni make suffering through Oliver's simpering (and inexplicable American accent in a world of British ones) worth it. Mr. Drippy, while constantly running the risk of being irritating, is actually quite affable, helped in no small part by the relative rarity of hearing a Welshman in a videogame, while the plot twists toward the end are smartly executed, even if they're made a bit obvious before the grand unveiling.  [embed]242794:46466[/embed] As a wizard, Oliver naturally has access to a whole range of spells, for use both within battle and without. The most useful non-combat spells come in the form of the "Take Heart" and "Give Heart" skills, which Oliver employs to undo the work of the villainous Dark Djinn Shadar. Various characters around the world are missing pieces of their heart, lacking qualities such as courage, enthusiasm, and ambition. Fortunately, other inhabitants of the world have an abundance of such qualities, so Oliver must grab a piece of their excess heart and give it to Shadar's victims. While there are many important "Brokenhearted" characters, many incidental NPCs also require help, and visiting towns to collect emotions can become a huge game in its own right. Not the most exciting game, maybe, but helping out the Brokenhearted can be rewarded with merit stamps, which one can trade for a number of helpful passive abilities.  Other spells grant players the power to build bridges, open locks, light dark tunnels, and even float. Some of them don't have much practical use at all, while others have specific uses that you may not even discover while playing the first time. Oliver's magical wizard book, accessible in the main menu, contains details on all these spells, as well as summaries of equipment, lore, monsters, and even a heaping of fairy tales if you ever get too bored. The amount of effort poured into realizing the world of Ni no Kuni is extraordinary, and it's a good thing too, because Ni no Kuni's is a very nice world to be in.  Of course, getting into battles is the main draw of Ni no Kuni, and fans of grinding, leveling, and hectic combat will be served more than their fair share of pleasure. Combat is reminiscent of the Tales series of games, with real-time movement of the battle arena and skills that cool down after use. During the game's plodding opening hours, this system at first looks rather brainless, but eventually opens up to become astonishingly tactical, with the player eventually learning how to command the party, initiate synchronized blocks in time to weather powerful boss attacks, and -- of course -- make good use of familiars.  While Oliver and his eventual party of allies all boast a range of combat skills, one quickly finds they're not quite strong enough to handle the creatures of the world. However, they possess the ability to capture and train the very monsters they're fighting as friendly familiars, with up to three creatures per party member used in battle. These familiars can be swapped in and out at will, and each one has its own strengths, weaknesses, and attacks. With three party members boasting three familiars each, one can have a party of twelve in any given fight, though familiars all share the same health meter as their master. Utilizing the right familiars, swapping them out before they get too tired, and keeping everybody healthy is no small task, and the battles are paced quickly enough to where the combat can feel like total chaos. However, it's a carefully controlled chaos, and a player with a clear mind will be able to swap between allies, switch out familiars, and know when to use the human characters' abilities at just the right time. Once you realize that it's a game about using everything you have, rather than trying to rely on one tactic and one familiar, you start to truly appreciate the depth on display. Each human hero and familiar is leveled up independently, gaining stat boosts and new skills as they rack up experience points. Once familiars reach certain levels, they can be "metamorphosed" into new and powerful forms, though they will lose all their experience and begin anew at level one. So it is that Ni no Kuni becomes a game all about leveling. You level up your familiar to get it to the point where it has to start again from scratch, then level it up some more so it can start from scratch again. Every familiar has three forms (the final form being one of two unique variants selected by the player), and if you aim to have a strong party, ready to face the sudden difficulty jumps presented by boss encounters, you better be prepared to grind like a workhorse.  While not quite as ludicrously involved as games like Disgaea, it's fair to say that Ni no Kuni is certainly on the high end of the time demanding ratio. You'll be needing to maintain a party of twelve fighters, and most players will be swapping familiars out of the stable as they discover new and better ones, so the game is a constant struggle to keep fighting fit. Familiars gain experience whether they're in battle or not, so they can be taken into a fight against tough monsters to jump a few levels, but even so, this is a game about constant training, and no small amount of patience. Each boss assumes you've spent an hour or so building up your skills specifically for that one fight, and wastes no time in demolishing you if you've not done so. For some, this is going to be a real chore, but for others, I dare say I've just described Heaven.  I'm somewhere in the middle. I can appreciate a good grindfest, but I find Ni no Kuni sometimes takes it to extremes. This is already a long game, and when every new area of the map requires a few hours of training to survive, progression slows to a crawl and threatens to become an excruciating bore. It's a good job the world is so adorable, the monsters original and amusing, and the actual payoff for the hard work feeling like a true reward. Not to mention, there's plenty of additional content to break up the monotony and keep one invested.  Still, this is a game that thrashes and bites when you try to hug it, fighting your love every step of the way. Just saving up enough gold to have an acceptable level of revival items and equipment is a grind in and of itself. You don't unlock the power to fast travel until twenty hours in, and it takes even longer than that to get the dragon and fly across the map. Wrath of the White Witch's grind-heavy structure can feel imbalanced and overzealous, its demands on the player's time occasional disrespectful. At times, I got so sick of the game, and of hearing Oliver screaming "Neato," that I was furiously criticizing the protagonist's gormless face. Such is the maddening nature of Ni no Kuni -- compelling its victims to hurl insults at a digital thirteen-year-old.  Fight it does, but loving I remain. It's one of those games you always start playing enthusiastically, and leave feeling broken and drained. You'll be cursing, you'll be tired, but even though you shut down the game in a bedraggled, dejected state, it'll only take a few minutes before you realize how much of a blast you were actually having, and after a break from the slog, you'll be chomping at the bit for more. Never has a game made me so tired and so excited at the same time. It is a strange, perverse ambivalence, to say the least. While sharing many similarities with the likes of Tales, Pokémon, and Persona, White Witch reminds me most evocatively of Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King, a comparison I mean as one of the highest possible compliments. From its gorgeous cel-shading, involved alchemy system, delightfully awful love of puns ("Your Meowjesty!"), and time-sink capabilities, playing Ni no Kuni regularly feels like one of my favorite JRPGs has come back from the dead. Of course, it's hardly surprising when you know Level-5 worked on both games, but seeing so much of DQ VIII living on through this title is something very special indeed.  The aforementioned cel-shading alone is enough to draw accolades, and any review not dedicating at least a paragraph to its beauty would be performing a disservice. Featuring artwork from the beloved Studio Ghibli, Ni no Kuni is an absolute treasure for the eyes, with fluid animations, amazing creature designs, and some of the most gorgeous, colorful environments you could hope to see in a game. While many games have been praised for looking like an actual cartoon, few titles can hope to come as close as this. It really does feel like you're wandering around in a living, breathing cartoon, and even thirty hours into the adventure, I was still having my breath taken away by its visual splendor.  This is to say nothing of the music, brought to us by Joe Hisaishi and the Tokyo Philharmonic. Packed with memorable tunes (the world map theme is stuck in my head as I type this) and elegant arrangements, there is a reason why expectant fans have been talking up the soundtrack in the weeks leading to launch. As with so much of the game, its orchestral qualities and sense of fun really put me in mind of Dragon Quest VIII, and that will never be a bad thing.  Wrath of the White Witch is a love letter to the classic Japanese role-playing game. It draws its elements from the best and the brightest of the genre, mimicking everything from Pokémon to Grandia with a knowing wink and no small amount of affection. It takes all these inspirations and blends them in a way entirely unique to itself, giving fans of traditional RPGs -- a rarity in the modern world -- something they've been starved of for a very long time.  It has its problems, of course. The abrupt difficulty spikes can feel like an ambush, and the amount of time it absorbs borders on the imposing. Yet, as annoying as it can be, it can never be said that Ni no Kuni is badly put together. It's as structurally sound as a game can get, something made all the more impressive by how messy and sloppy the combat looks before you start to realize quite how clever it actually is. And even those negatives can be intense positives to the right person in the right mood.  If you're a lover of games that require you to put in before you get out, and you recall the glory days of the Eastern RPG, where experience points were the lifeblood and the grind was king, you have literally no decent excuse for not finding a way to play Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. A classic of the modern age, built entirely from classics of the past, it's advised you get comfortable, cancel all your plans, and prepare to enjoy a game that will dominate your life for the next few months. 
Ni no Kuni reviewed! photo
Put your Ni Nos to the grindstone
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch could have easily been called Japanese Role-Playing Games: The Official Videogame, for it plays out like an overview of the entire genre as much as it does a game in its own right.  I...

Ni no Kuni photo
Ni no Kuni

Ni no Kuni arrives on PSN next week as a digital release

Level-5 on your hard drive
Jan 19
// Kyle MacGregor
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is almost finally here. The long-awaited game may be arriving exclusively on PlayStation 3 next week, but that doesn't mean players won't have a choice of where to grab it. The PlaySt...

Behind the music of Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

Composer Joe Hisaishi discusses his involvement with the project
Jan 09
// Kyle MacGregor
Now that Ni no Kuni is just weeks away from release, Level-5 is back with the third in its series of behind-the-scenes developer diaries. This time around they've sat down with composer Joe Hisaishi to discuss the ...

Ni no Kuni hit with week-long delay in Europe

You'll get a freebie for your trouble
Jan 08
// Jordan Devore
One of the year's first big games, Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, has been pushed back a week in Europe and Australasia due to logistical reasons. Originally scheduled to release on January 25, 2013, Level-5's lovely R...
Xmas Cards photo
Xmas Cards

Check out several sites and companies' Christmas cards

From Ronimo, LEVEL-5, Shinesparkers, and Team Bobo
Dec 25
// Tony Ponce
Every year, game companies and other game sites like to send out holiday cards to their various contacts -- not that out of the ordinary. Sometimes these cards are your basic season's greetings, but other times they go above ...

Ni no Kuni dev endeavors for games to transcend film

A deeper look at Studio Ghibli's involvement with Ni No Kuni
Dec 19
// Kyle MacGregor
It appears that Level-5 has some pretty lofty aspirations with Ni no Kuni. In this follow-up to the title's initial developer diary, Animation Director Yoshiuki Momose discusses the collaborative effort behind...

Go behind the scenes of Ni no Kuni at Level-5's HQ

Can it be January 25 yet?
Dec 06
// Jordan Devore
Level-5 and Namco Bandai have a new behind-the-scenes video covering development on Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, which shows off the former's lovely office. This doesn't get as in-depth as you might like, but it is ...

The DTOID Show: Hitman, Tomb Raider & Writer Rumble!

Plus: I want to play Ni No Kuni let me play it now please
Dec 05
// Max Scoville
Okay, secret confession -- today's Destructoid Show was actually shot yesterday. Because today, we have to go on a field trip to preview a bunch of games. If the news seems a little less fresh than usual, that's probably why....
Demos photo

Ni no Kuni gets a demo on December 4

Europe follows Dec 5
Dec 03
// Dale North
Upcoming Namco Bandai and Level-5 game Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch gets a PlayStation Network demo this week, December 4. Europe follows with the same demo dropping on December 5.  The demo takes you through two...

TGS: Level-5 discuss its partnership with Studio Ghibli

Sep 20 // Allistair Pinsof
Akihiro Hino, Level-5 president and general director of Ni no Kuni, said he looks up to Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. Even as a creative partner, he couldn’t keep himself from geeking out when they met. “I met him a couple times over the course of the project and even asked to take pictures for a keepsake,” Hino said. When he first approached Ghibli, the animation studio was still working on Howl’s Moving Castle. The stars wouldn’t align for a partnership until years later, after Level-5 made a blueprint for the story and game. “Regardless, we talked on a very casual basis and were very friendly,” Hino said. “Miyazaki can seem tough as a director, but as a person he is a very nice man. As a creator, [working on the game] was a very emotional experience that I treasure very much.” After Ni no Kuni came out on the DS in late 2010, many RPG fans in the West expected it was only a matter of time until it came overseas. Yet, that day never came. Some assumed it was due to it not having an audience or Level-5 being too busy localizing other games -- they are, after all, always years behind on bringing the Layton games over. But, nope, it was none of these things. It was because of the darn book that came with the game. “It was too difficult to package it with the book and sell it overseas. That was the biggest reason why it wasn’t brought overseas,” Hino said, adding that translating the virtual book for the PlayStation 3 entry wasn’t a cakewalk. “In all honesty there are instances where I regret including the book but it’s a bridge connecting the imaginary world to the real world in Ni no Kuni. It did take a lot of time to localize because we put a lot of care into it, but reading the book itself will help you grasp the world of Ni no Kuni.” Studio Ghibli didn’t simply dump assets into Level-5’s FTP folder and call it a day. Game director Ken Motomura said he worked with Ghibli every day, swapping storyboards, directing motion capture, and reviewing how things turned out in post-production. Hino worked with Ghibli on the staging and theatrical direction of the game’s dialog and animated sequences. “We couldn’t have reached this universe on our own,” Hino said. The staging and artistic elements of the project brought the most hardship to the project, from Level-5’s side. It was a learning experience, according to Hino. The small elements Level-5 often ignored in a scene suddenly were examined with an animator’s eye by Ghibli. A pristine stack of dishes in the background of one scene suddenly became a more detailed, messy background element that made the world feel more realistic and lived-in. If given a chance, Level-5 would love to make Laputa: Castle in the Sky into a videogame. Wouldn’t that be something? Too bad it’s not their call. “Personally, I’d love to work on bringing existing Ghibli properties to games but it’s up to them,” Hino said. “I’d personally like to pursue and hopefully negotiate over the course of years [to come].” Here's hoping that Ni no Kuni does well enough internationally so that day may come soon rather than not at all.

Despite being one of the biggest influences on Japanese game development, we are only now getting a videogame out of Studio Ghibli. I am grateful that Ghibli chose to partner with Level-5, but I am also curious as to why a...

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