Ni no Kuni is a game that sells itself. Level-5, Studio Ghibli, old-school Japanese RPG presentation. Sold.
Perhaps I don’t speak for everyone here, but I’d still be invested in playing the game even if game critic #41 told me it doesn’t play very well, because the world of Ni no Kuni is so darn charming and colorful that I’m willing to put up with some minor gripes and boring combat.
Luckily, I didn’t have to put up with any noticeable flaws at all. This is game critic #153 telling you this game is pretty much what you expect and that’s not a bad thing at all.
With art direction and animation by Japanese anime juggernaut Studio Ghibli and everything else handled by Level-5, one of the last Japanese companies keeping the Japanese-style RPG alive as we know it, Ni no Kuni is somewhat of a dream come true for fans of Japanese entertainment.
Anyone familiar with the revered output of either will immediately recognize the elements each company put into the game. You have the large, ambitious overworld and complex battle system (30+ tutorials near the beginning), often found in Level-5 games, right beside the adorable, fantastical creature design of Ghibli.
Despite being able to immediately recognize signature traits between the two companies, Ni no Kuni doesn’t bring any specific project to mind in either’s catalog. The world is far too fantastical and the atmosphere too carefree to be comparable to Howl’s Moving Castle or Princess Mononoke. And, the game is far too accessible and traditional to be comparable to Rogue Galaxy or Dark Cloud 2, though Dragon Quest VIII comes close.
The demo I played was identical to the gamescom build, outside some minor improvements to the localization. It contained two sections: One at the very start of the adventure and another a couple hours in with a level 20 character. Between the two, I got a good grasp of the combat and scenario variety that will appear in the final release.
I’m not very enthusiastic about the game’s combat, but I’m not quite down on it, either. After seeing videos of it, I assumed it would be a real-time button mashfest like other Namco RPGs (see: Tales series and Eternal Sonata). The battles play out in real time and give you control over your character, but it feels much slower and strategic because the game pauses whenever you decide to take action. You also have a lot of characters to juggle, since each member of your party can act as well as summon a familiar (think Pokémon) to join the fight. Each familiar has certain elemental strengths, so it helps to summon an ice-friendly one to battle a fire-centric boss.
In motion, Ni no Kuni looks stunning even after becoming so familiar with its visuals over the past couple years. When the camera draws close to the characters, the lack of detail sinks in but you’ll rarely have this happen. This is the type of nitpicky complaint that can only come from the rest of the game looking so good. The music, British voice acting, and dialogue add to the charm of the game that focuses on a much milder, kid-friendly story and aesthetic than recent RPGs. There are no brooding teenagers or giant armored mechs with swords here. Instead you have wizards, cute animals, and possessed creatures that would feel right at home in most Ghibli productions.
As much as I adore Level-5’s ambitious, colorful take on the traditional Japanese RPG, I’m not always keen on the games that the developer puts out. Sometimes they lose me and I feared that Ni no Kuni would be one of those times. There is nothing that blows me away about this game beyond the visuals, but it seems like it will contain the slight but charming wondrous adventure that I wanted Blue Dragon to deliver so badly, years ago.
Everything from the hand-drawn mini-map to enemy design is so charmingly twee. After all, this is a game where there is a place called Ding Dong Dell, a character called Drippy, and an item called Gold Glim. If you can get behind that, you may just find a new RPG favorite in Ni no Kuni.
|4:30 PM on 02.12.2013|
Ni No Kuni is offering a free Draggle familiar DLC today
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...more
|10:15 AM on 02.04.2013|
Ni no Kuni is #1 in the UK, sold out in many shops
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 ...more
|1:15 PM on 01.30.2013|
Dear Ni no Kuni fans, your help is urgently required!
Seriously guys ... do you know where we can find something brown and sticky? Brown and sticky?more
|5:55 PM on 01.25.2013|
Namco Bandai responds to Ni no Kuni LE order issues
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 ...more
|3:15 PM on 01.25.2013|
Ni no Kuni Wizard's Edition orders issues abound [update]
[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...more
|7:30 PM on 01.23.2013|
I helped a girl take a piss in Ni No Kuni
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...more
|12:30 PM on 01.21.2013|
Review: Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
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...more
|9:00 PM on 01.09.2013|
Behind the music of Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
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 ...more
|12:00 PM on 01.08.2013|
Ni no Kuni hit with week-long delay in Europe
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...more
|9:00 PM on 12.19.2012|
Ni no Kuni dev endeavors for games to transcend film
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...more
|4:30 PM on 05.17.2013|
Dust: An Elysian Tail arrives on Steam next Friday
Dust: An Elysian Tail designer Dean Dodrill has slapped a May 24th release date on the Steam version of his acclaimed, previously-Xbox-exclusive 2D action game. This is only coming to Windows for the time being, but Dodrill h...more
|8:00 PM on 05.16.2013|
Diablo III uses the PlayStation 4 touchpad for inventory
In this video, Blizzard describes the work that's been gone into tweaking Diablo III for console gamers. In a strange turn of events, I feel as if every new detail we hear about the reworked title for PlayStation 3 and PS4 s...more
|4:30 PM on 05.16.2013|
Shin Megami Tensei IV video showcases English voicework
Shin Megami Tensei IV hits shelves in Japan next week and its North American release is right around the corner. To celebrate several more weeks of waiting Atlus USA has decided to drop a trailer to remind everyone that we h...more