If you’ve ever loved a Studio Ghibli film and you’re a bit of a nut for video games, you’re in for a right treat because Level-5 (Professor Layton developers) have teamed up with Studio Ghibli to create a game so charming you’ll often want to eat your own head.
The first half hour had my jaw lolling recklessly even though i rarely touched a button. Straight away i was immersed in the world of Ghibli, the traditionally animated familiar cut-scenes blending almost seamlessly into the game engine. This is a beautiful, beautiful game. When i first took control of Oliver (our protagonist) my head exploded with joy; i was invested and involved in this Ghibli story.
You control young Oliver who travels to the parallel world of Ni Nu Kuni because it needs saving, he has a fairy sidekick and can summon and collect ‘familiars’ who will fight for him as well as having an ever expanding array of magic spells to cast. Oliver must travel around and fix the broken-hearted people of this world who were damned by an evil Djinn and build his powers to become strong enough to finally take down this Japanese devil and his mysterious mistress and restore peace and happiness to the world. Standard. Awesome.
As far as genre goes, it’s pretty much a full-on Japanese RPG; wrapped up in a wondrous tale of magic and nefarious goings-on, you level up your characters, buy them equipment to make them better, take on ‘quests’, and grind your way through many enemy encounters with its core battle mechanic of sending out orders to your character in a roughly turn-based fashion.
The mechanics are solidly old school with some fat trimming to bring them up to speed with the modern world and overall they work very very well. The battles are difficult to explain and a definite learning curve to climb; the amount of nuances to the battling that i’ve stumbled haplessy on so far are clues to the potential of deep mastery, but persevere and improve i will, as this game has me at it’s mercy with it’s presentation and story; this is a filmatic experience and must be followed to it’s conclusion.
Ni No Kuni is a beautiful game that stands out from the crowd, it’s brave and faithful to its style, it focuses strongly on the importance of story but manages to fit plenty of charming side-quests that don’t really distract. The game-play genre is niche but well re-factored for the less hard-core to be able to pick it up. We also can’t forget that its essentially another Ghibli film wrapped in up button presses and interactivity; the ‘Ghibliness’ is woven through every aspect and not just plopped on top of something generic. I’d like to see more games doing even one of the things i mentioned above, this game’s got ‘em all.
I can’t recommend it enough. If you love Ghibli: get this game. If you like Ghibli: get this game. If you’re looking for something different: get this game. If you like good games: Get this game.
Think that covered it.