The long awaited Ni No Kuni has finally made its way to PS3 in America with its beautiful artsyle and the perfect touch of Studio Ghibli. It has been dubbed to be the savior of Japanese Role Play gaming by many but does this really hold up?
To Start things off what is the first thing you notice about Ni No Kuni? Of course the artstyle. The Cell Shaded artstyle is gorgeuos and because of this, the game will never age. It is nothing less than brilliant. It actually reminds me of Skyward Sword if it looked really good. There has been too many times that I just stop to look at the lush surroundings. The characters, buildings, water, is all stunning. Even when you enter a town you actually feel like the town is inhabitated because the buildings can look huge with a great sense of style to them. At times it looks like you are coming straight from Pixar or Anime. Some cutscenes are done by Studio Ghibli as well which is one of the highlights in this game.
Beyond the graphics how does Ni No Kuni fair though? What about the story and gameplay? The story is about a young boy who sets off on an adventure to capture poket sized monsters to fight off other pocket sized monsters where you will level them up, learn new moves, and even metamorphise your monsters (Familiars). Does this ring any kind of bell? Why yes, sounds a lot like Pokemon doesn't it? That is because this game is very similar to pokemon but also distinguishes it's self in being different. I will get into all of this in just a moment but first liet me explain the story.
The story of Ni No Kuni is about a Young Boy who just lost his mom. She dies early in the game and shortly afterwards the boy (Oliver AKA Ollie) is crying in one of his friends houses and brings a stuffed animal that his mom made him to life. This little creature goes by the name of Drippy. He explains that he is a fairy and that he needs Ollie to save his world and in the process may even be able to bring his mom back to life. The thing is Drippy has a heavy welsche accent. Drippy brings the story alive with his witty humor and heavy accent. The game just has this charm about it and Drippy would be the comedian. Ollie and Drippy goes to this parallel world to set on in this beautiful Journey to defeat the one by the name of Shadar who has wrecked the world with something called Broken Heartedness. This is a central point in the game. People who are broken Hearted has something mentally wrong with them wether they have lost confidence, will power, or courage. Ollie becomes a Wizard so helping people with there broken hearts is something only he can fix. They also did a great job at adding simple puns in dialogue throughout the game that adds the charm. For example in the first town you go to, the king is a Cat so when he speaks he may say something like "purrrfect". just simple little things like this really adds to the over all charm. The voice acting along with the story is both good but it doesn't come without annoyances. The first thing is even though the voice acting is excellent you will actually very rarely hear characters talk. Sometimes they have a quick conversation and then immediately switch back to dialogue. Something that is annoying but nothing game breaking. And even though the game has a charm to it with an emotional beginning to the game the game quickly loses much of the story. You never really get into the characters heads and just feel for them other than a few points in the game. It just doesn't seem to be deep enough but the charm does help the story carry out through the game. Wether it be Shadar or Ollie, you just don't get much story out of anybody. The story is more of the adventure unfolding before you which is perfect for this world in ways.
The gameplay as I touched upon a little bit previously comes with using little creatures called familiars. The battle system works like free running but chosing your attacks as you dodge enemies attacks. It can be sloppy at times but it is fun. You will start off with just Ollie and one familiar but eventually will be able to capture other familiars which is annoying all on it's own and I will get to that in just one minute. You will eventually get Swaine and Esther as partners who can also carry up to 3 familiars themselves. So by then you will have 3 characters with 3 familars each. Here is the catch though, all of your and your character shares the same HP and Magic points. It is a different approach but works. They also all share the same EXP at the end of each battle which seems a little odd. Throughout the battles though every once and a while little orbs will hit the ground. Green, blue, and yellow. Green is health, blue is magic, and yellow is a special attack. Each character and familiar has there own special devastating attack but you will rarely get these orbs but are very benificial in boss battles. The downside to these yellow orbs is once you pick them up you can no longer defend yourself. A fault in the game that has caused me dieing in tough boss battles at times. Once you die you have to pay 10% of your total coins to continue. The way you metamorphise your familiars is a little different as well. Once you reach a certain level with your familiar you give them a drop for their second evolution which sets them back to level 1 once again. It actually makes them weaker than what they was but by the time you reach that level again you will be stronger than before. Still i find it pointless to go back to level 1. The last evolution comes from a Jumbo Drop and you then choose between the two evolutions that you want. One may be stronger in attack while the other is better on defense. Just small things like that. Now on to catching familiars. This is the thing that really got to me the most throughout this game. You can't simply just catch a familiar. No you have to defeat a familiar and hope that it was "impressed" by you. Which happens very rarely. I looked it up and it was around a 6% chance of being impressed and some familiars even lower. It is very annoying finding a rare familiar and then beating it and not getting a chance to catch it. what makes it even worst is that Esther is the only character that can tame them with her music, so if she faints then you are just out of luck which has happened to me. Why? Because the AI is pretty dumb. Swaine and Esther just die non stop due to their stupidity of using every ounce of there magic and then attacking with themselves instead of using there familiars. You can tell them to not use there magics but then they just smack people with there own characters at times and not even use their familiars. I've literally seen them run around doing nothing at times. Regardless of all this though the gameplay is actually very fun at times. The fighting mechanics work and in boss battles they can be brilliant. Don't expect your partners to survive but you and Ollie will have a fun battle none the less.
So all in all this game is a great game and if you like games like Pokemon you will probably like this game. it is humurous, charming, and beautiful. It can lack at times with gameplay but none the less is one of the best JRPG games I've played. It is not the savior of JRPG games but something that any JRPG fan would love. Whether you want this game for it's charming story or fun gameplay this is a great game and highly recomended by me.
Graphics/Artstyle - 10
Gameplay - 7.5
Story - 8.5
Voice Acting/Dialogue - 8.0
Overall - 8.5