Monday, February 25, 2013

Ni No Kuni Mini-Review



You had me at hello, Ni No Kuni. You had me at hello. How could I possibly resist you? I love Japanese RPG's. I love Studio Ghibli. And you're both: a Japanese RPG with animation and character design by Studio Ghibli. So I bought the game on the day that it came out in stores, and yes, it cost me a little more, but I have not been disappointed.


Okay, you're not perfect. The only thing that's wrong with you, Ni No Kuni, is that your music is, at times, a little off. Yes, I know, the music is by the famous Joe Hisaishi, and for the most part, it's quite good. But the opening title sequence begins awkwardly and there are moments when you're walking around town just shopping when the music crescendos in a completely inappropriate way. All in all, it's not a biggie, just a little weird.

Gameplay meanwhile is a mashup of the best RPG's have to offer. You've got Pokemon monster collection. You've got real time combat like FFXIII. You've got alchemy a la Skyrim. Nothing new here, but it all comes together in a compelling package, well-crafted, addictive, and simply fun.

Every RPG relinquishes control at some point in the game, letting you finally do what you want, go where you want, and play the game precisely the way you want to. When you did this, Ni No Kuni, it was a great moment: I had a boat and all three characters, nine familiars, magic spells, alchemy, and two worlds to explore. The game is rich, and it's beautiful.

Right now, I'm almost at the end of the game, but instead of rushing to the final battle, I've taken pause. Because I'm an emotional wreck. Ni No Kuni, you threw me a curveball in the story, and it stunned me. I'm still recovering. I thought Ni No Kuni was just a cute little game, but it's about grief, dealing with death, and despair, as well as hope and sacrifice and friendship.

Ni No Kuni is a great game, but not because of the excellent and addictive gameplay. Like all the great RPG games before it, it's the story that makes the difference. And with Ni No Kuni, the story isn't that far from a great Studio Ghibli movie. If you love Studio Ghibli, Japanese RPG's or both, don't you dare miss this game.

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