I have always loved the animations of Studio Ghibli. When I heard that they were involved in the making of Ni No Kuni, I was immediately interested. And let me start off by saying that this is a very pretty game. I love the rich, vibrant colors of the environments. The character designs have that Studio Ghibli charm. The animations of the characters in the game itself is really up to par with the cutscene animation quality. It makes for a game that looks like you’re playing an animated movie.
In my first hour of playing, I found the story line to be very engaging. Your main character is a young boy named Oliver. He suffers a tragic loss early on in the game, and you start on a quest to try to make things right. His quest is aided by Mr. Drippy, a funny little character with a lantern in his nose (no really!). Mr. Drippy is full of odd little phrases, and his Scottish accent makes it even better. My personal favorites so far are when he says “knickers!” (in place of say, “darn it”), and “tidy!” (instead of “nice”).
Now onto some of the game mechanics:
I have often struggled with map orientations in games, and this map system is much easier to work with. A personal pet peeve of mind is when the mini map rotates with your character. In this game, the mini map remains stationary – hallelujah! There are very clear indicators on the map of where you are supposed to go. The world map battles have been updated. They are still random, but you can see the monsters ahead of time. The battle doesn’t engage until you physically touch the monster, or as Mr. Drippy calls them, “beasties”. I feel this is a vast improvement from past rpg shenanigans !
Combat – I like the interesting mix of turn-based combat, and mobility in between your attacks. I like being able to distance myself from a boss in between moves, if needed. Oliver can also use a variety of magic attacks. During a battle, there are orbs that randomly appear, that can partially replenish your HP and MP. I find myself occasionally frustrated with this system. While I appreciate getting some stats back mid-fight, it can be tough to get to the orbs at times. This is especially true at the end of the fight. If there are any orbs left at the end and you can’t get to them, then you are out of luck!
Early on you get a “familiar” who can fight in battles with you. His pre-set name is Mite – but I wasn’t having any of that. I thought Harold sounded better. In fact, I plan on naming all my familiars with old-people names. Just because. Your familiar can level up just like you, and gain more skills. He does have a stamina bar however, and can get too tired to fight. He can be swapped out at any time, and you can go back into the battle yourself.
In the short time I have played Ni No Kuni, I have found it to have likeable characters, beautiful worlds, interesting game play and an engaging story line. I am looking forward to what more this game has to offer.