Ni no Kuni - First Impressions
When you hear the name Ghibli, you think of beautiful stories, top-notch animation, memorable characters and sweet soundtracks. When you hear ‘Ghibli’ and ‘game’ in the same sentence, you know it’s going to be something good. And good it is.
Ni no Kuni - Wrath of The White Witch has everything you’d expect from Ghibli in a tidy package presented in RPG form with help from Level-5. The moment the intro started playing, I was hooked.
If anything, Ni no Kuni is a game I want to keep playing just for the story and some will argue that’s the way it should be with RPGs. For me, a good RPG consists of an engaging storyline with a solid battle system - an even mix of both without either hogging the spotlight. I don’t need to tell you that Ni no Kuni is a fantastic story, so I’ll be talking to you about the gameplay instead.
For those who don’t know, Ni no Kuni’s battle system is in real-time (rather than turn based like most RPGs) whilst utilizing menu options as you move and dodge attacks. Moving with the left analogue stick and selecting menu items with the D-pad at the same time requires use of your thumb and forefinger to operate (or some other weird finger contortion). It may not sound ideal to some, but I’m finding it easy enough.
As far as fighting goes, your character fights but mostly makes use of ‘familiars’ - creatures that are summoned with from your heart using magic. This isn’t an entirely new concept (still waiting for a Jade Cocoon 3) but it adds a strategic element to your battles.
Since your summoned familiars are summoned from your heart, each creature you send to battle shares your HP and MP, meaning you have to think a little harder about which creature to send out and what you want them to do. If your familiar dies, you die. Each of your familiars have different stats - some are better for defense, some better for evasiveness, etc. and you can raise the stats of your creatures to a certain extent. Each familiar will have different skills, strengths and weaknesses.
During battle you can also find random HP and MP orbs appear on the ground which you can pick up to replenish your health or magic. I’ve found that picking up every orb I see can be crucial not only for the purpose of fighting but also solving puzzles outside of battles as well. There are some spells you can use outside of a battle which will consume MP. If you’re out of MP and you don’t have any items to recover with (which can be expensive early game), you have little choice than to enter a battle for the chance of gaining more MP orbs, or leave the area entirely to purchase items, stay at an Inn or find a save point.
If you die in battle, it’s game over (duh). Once you die, you’re presented with the option to continue, in which doing so will cost you all the money your character has (ouch) or return to the title screen and load from your last save. Picking the latter option has no impact on your character and will save you from losing all that hard earned cash.
Outside of battles there are many areas to explore and optional side-quests to complete. Completing quests earn you very helpful rewards and stamps on a card. Once you receive a certain amount of stamps on a card, you begin a fresh card. Each completed card you have helps you claim additional rewards later on. The quests can range from searching for people/items to bounty hunts (please kill X monster at Y place).
If there was anything I’d change, it would probably be the HP and MP being shared, however this makes you think a little harder about what you need to do in order to win your fights. Besides that, it’s a very fun game.
Ni no Kuni might not be for everyone, but if you’re looking for a game with a good story, I would definitely recommend you give it a shot.