Apologies for the late recaps! I started working on them really late last night and fell asleep... the sleep was wonderful, though, so I regret nothing!
So last week, I picked up Ni no Kuni, and it is such an amazing game! Obviously, the graphics and design are absolutely beautiful, which was the main draw for me. It's like actually playing and exploring the world of a Ghibli movie! Thankfully, the rest of the game is just as fantastic as the graphics.
My favorite aspect of Ni no Kuni is catching, training and battling with familiars. It's like the Pokemon game I've always dreamed of! The familiars are all really adorable, and I'm beginning to fret that I can only use nine familiars to battle with, because there are just so many awesome familiars to choose from! Right now my favorites are the Purrloiner (a swashbuckling kitty which I named Percival), the Clubber Cub (a tiger that sneezes a lot which I named Tybalt), and the Whambat (a bat that can't seem to fly which I named Belial).
That manta ray familiar is also on my team. He's named Raymond.
I'm very satisfied with the combat mechanics; battles feel fluid and natural while still giving you time to select which move and tactics to employ without feeling rushed. The only bad thing about combat is that your party members don't seem to know what defending is, which can be pretty annoying. They're pretty good about healing themselves, but they also burn through MP rather quickly, so boss fights almost always end up with just Oliver remaining to finish the boss off. So the AI could have used some more work, but aside from that, combat is just about perfect to me.
Some people complain about the amount of grinding that is sometimes necessary to progress, but I haven't really had to grind at all myself. Granted, I spend a lot of time battling enemies anyway in an attempt to catch all the various familiars, so I guess maybe that counts as grinding to some extent. I just never battle for the sake of earning experience, and so far I haven't had to.
Then you have your typical RPG fare, such as sidequests and things, which were implemented rather well in this game, I think. There are a lot of fetch quests, but they never ask you to go too far out of your way or find too many items. It's usually just a single nearby item or two or three items you'll have to find from enemies or something. I haven't come across any really annoying or boring quests, although the quests for the guy that wants you to bring him specific familiars can take a while to do. You'll also have to help a lot of people recover parts of their heart which have been stolen from them by the main antagonist, things such as kindness, bravery, enthusiasm, etc. These quests always make me feel good inside, like I want to go out and help people feel happier.
I'm loving pretty much every aspect of this game, and I'm constantly thinking about it and wanting to play more. We're only little over a month into 2013, and I've already found my contender for Game of the Year. I feel like it'll be difficult to top Ni no Kuni, but there are still a lot of great games to come, so it's definitely possible!
Oh, and I forgot to mention how flipping amazing Drippy is, en't it?