The world of Ni No Kuni is whimsical, beautiful, and sometimes scary. The mere fact that the game features a number of old school JRPG tropes is enough to frighten even some of the hardiest of gamers, who are used to modern conveniences like fast travel from the start.
Having acclimated myself to Level-5's newest instant JRPG classic, I'm ready to provide a short starter guide for the first 10-20 hours or so, for people who may be scared off from tackling this beast.
Release this game from its shrink-wrap, read these tips, and get ready for an amazing journey.
Tame non-story spoilers incoming. I’d recommend saving this article if you get stuck, and need a quick reference:
While you're wandering the world map, press X in peculiar spots (like patches of forest) to look for hidden items. If you need to locate the areas you've already found secret items in, go to the "Regions of the World" section of your Wizard's Companion. Specifically in regards to forests, if you see a patch of them, always explore it to find a potential hidden hamlet.
Speaking of items on the world map, always grab the twinkling stars whenever you can. The sparkles are items, and like pots in towns, they'll reappear every 10-60 minutes.
Do not be afraid to grind. Grind near a town and fight enemies as much as you can. Try to pick up health and mana orbs in combat, and if you need it, head into town to use the inn to restore all of your stats, then go back to grinding. You shouldn't need to grind in the first 15 hours or so, but it's an option.
Speaking of Inns, always stay at least once to gain extra story in your Wizard's Companion book.
When enemies start to run away from you on sight, you'll know you've saturated all the EXP you can from an area.
If you die in combat, you'll lose 10% of your total cash after continuing. Although you can lower this rate to 5% later in the game, don't be afraid to spend some of your money before you go into a dungeon -- in case you die. Of course, you could just reload a recent save to avoid any loss of money.
Like any JRPG, you should save a lot. Save before entering an area you haven't been before. Save near a town on the world map. When a story character asks you to "prepare yourself" before entering an area, save it.
Always, always do errands and bounty hunts as soon as they become available in every town. Doing them as soon as they become available rewards tenfold with items that will be relevant as soon as they're acquired, rather than waiting to finish them and getting inadequate gear.
The stamp rewards from finishing errands are invaluable, and hoarding stamp cards early is a great way to get amazing perks like extra experience later in the game. It's important to note that errands are often incredibly easy, and you'll almost always happen upon a bounty location while roaming to your next story location anyway.
If you're put off by all the walking, you'll gain the ability to fast travel around 20 hours in, and flight capabilities on the world map after that. For the first 20 hours, focus on completing errands in local areas so you don't have to do much backtracking. You can always do errands at a later date if you really need to, and always view their status on the journal portion of the main menu.
About four hours into the game, the game teaches you how to "take pieces of heart" from NPCs who show up with a green dot on your map, which help you solve errands and story quests. In every town, always press R1 to open the map, and survey the area for flashing green and blue dots.
Once Oliver gains a familiar, he should never engage in direct combat with his wand. Ever. Always use your creatures in combat whenever possible or Oliver's spells.
You can't beat every fight with just one familiar, however, as there is a limited amount of time that it can fight at once. A common strategy is to switch back to Oliver when your pet's stamina is in the red zone, and run around the outside of the map, circle strafing until they can fight again.
But this doesn't mean Oliver is useless -- quite the opposite in fact. Oliver can heal your party with Healing Touch, and use powerful magic while circle strafing and avoiding damage. Against boss characters, try spamming his ice and fire spell when you have some free mana -- just keep some available in case you need to use Healing Touch.
The first familiar you get, Mitey, is not only incredibly cute, but he's also the clear-cut best familiar for quite a while. If you feed him his favorite food consistently (chocolate), he'll have enough power to take down pretty much everyone in the first 10 hours almost single-handedly. Use him to level up the first few story related familiars you get. You'll earn Mitey almost immediately after you leave Motorville, your next one in the first few hours in the first town, and you'll net another two (and your first human party member) in the first ten hours or so.
Speaking of food, keep those familiars full. Every fight will drop their fullness rating by one, which is almost a grind in a grind, when you level them up and lower their fullness to boost their stats.
Always wait to metamorph familiars if you can. If you morph them into their next form immediately, they'll lose a lot of their potential. For instance, a level 20 Mitey will carry over less stats than a level 40 Mitey when he morphs into his next form at level 1.
Take a look at your familiars on the status screen, and notice their symbols -- the red and orange colored sun, the yellow and blue moon, and the white and blue star. In terms of combat, sun beats moon, moon beats star, and star beats sun. You'll do extra damage to enemies who are weak to your symbol. Use this to your advantage by surveying your enemy before you send your familiars out to battle. In most fights on the world map in the first 10 hours of the game or so, this doesn't really matter that much.
Use L2 and R2 to switch between menus -- don't bother with the d-pad initially. It's much easier and more accurate to switch between combat abilities this way.
Resist the urge to run around in combat, early in the game. Although it may seem cool, taking a more direct approach to combat and just mashing the X button to attack is often the best strategy before you start gaining party members. If you run around too much enemies will just beat on you.
However, like an MMO, free-running does play a critical role in pretty much every fight in the game past a certain point. You can use it to avoid dangerous hazards (like a pit of poison), and attacks that enemies make from the front (like a flame breath). In boss fights, always remain aware of your surroundings and keep moving.
The circle button cancels commands in combat. This is crucial when the game requires you to make a split second defensive stance to avoid a powerful boss attack. If you're in the middle of doing something, press circle, press L2 or R2 to switch to defend, and press X.
You can cancel enemy tricks (abilities) and counter their attacks with the correct timing. When an enemy is using a trick, try pummeling them to stun and stop the trick -- just keep in mind this isn't a guaranteed stop. Alternatively, you can quickly cancel and defend to stay on the safe side. To counter, choose an enemy, target them, choose attack, and wait until a bubble appears near your character to press the X button and initiate the counter.
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