Monday night I visited EuroGamer’s Community event (thanks to Tom Champion).
Apart from the drinks and fighting games on display, there was Ni No Kuni. Studio Ghibli’s collaboration with Studio 5 and Namco.
What was it like?
Any game that has Ghibli’s name on it must contain some sort of story and Ni No Kuni doesn’t disappoint in this regard. It’s the tale of Oliver, a young boy who tragically and unexpectedly loses his mother. Naturally, Oliver is devastated but soon finds that his tears bring his favourite toy to life. This toy, now a fairy called Drippy, grants Oliver the power to use magic and transports him to a magical alternate reality. In this new world, the boy sets off to find his mother. This is all told through the use of amazing cut-scenes created by the incredible team at Studio Ghibli and, thanks to the PS3’s Blu-ray capabilities, these are all in crystal clear HD. Gorgeous.
As well as the images on-screen, we’re treated to some fantastic sounding voice acting. There’s a whole range of British voices to be heard here, and when I say British, I mean British. If you’ve got Xenoblade’s cockney ‘geezas’ in mind, forget it. Welsh, Geordie, northern, southern – they’re all here.
In-game, the Ghibli charm doesn’t let-up. Think along the lines of eternal sonata or Dragon Quest VIII and you’ve got a good idea. Big open fields are yours to roam, full of creatures to battle. The cities are expansive and look beautiful. From what I’ve seen, there’s a steam-punk aesthetic within these locations that is striking. The city didn’t just look good but had plenty of alleyways to explore with shops and merchants to deal with. The characters are memorable and ooze personality. Each character can carry up to three ‘familiars’. These cute little creatures can be launched into battle and all have their own abilities, strengths and weaknesses.
Within battle, you’ve got two main areas to focus on. Dishing out orders using the D-pad sees you selecting magic attacks, using items are just straight-up bashing monsters with your weapon of choice. The analogue stick allows you manoeuvre around the enemies. Whilst ‘being allowed to move’ may not sound particularly exciting or interesting, it is important. By positioning yourself properly, you can avoid attacks and hit an enemy’s weak point. This takes a little getting used to – switching between the D-pad and analogue stick on the fly – but feels rewarding and stop the game falling into the traditional RPG trap of ‘press A to win’.
Your companions are computer controlled. You have some control over their actions by giving them some basic commands such as ‘Give it your all’ or ‘Heal me’. From my time with the game, I found that it could be frustrating to see your team-mates stand about seemingly doing nothing, though this could be due to my poor instructions or just downright ignorance of the subtleties of the game’s mechanics. We’ll see.
It’s a safe bet that this’ll be a day-one purchase for me. The world and characters of this game look beautiful, the story seems to have that Ghibli charm and the battles are engaging enough.
I’m sold. Are you?