The lights are on
As a fan of both JRPGs like the Final Fantasy series and Studio Ghibli’s work, Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch seemed like a no brainer for me. Yet when the game came out earlier this year it continued to slip off my must-play list. After setting aside my shiny new PlayStation 4, I finally popped Ni no Kuni into my PS3 and dove into Level-5’s gorgeous world. I’ve sunk about 15 hours into the game, and I’m enjoying the vivid colors, sprawling world, and slowly evolving combat system.
Learn more about the Game Informer Fight For the Top 50 Challenge 2013
When Andrew Reiner mentioned he was championing Ni no Kuni for our Fight for the Top 50 Games of 2013 challenge, I jumped at the opportunity to check it out. Opinions about the game vary wildly in the Game Informer office (read our review here), and I was excited to become a part of that conversation and check out this much-talked about JRPG.
Warning: Slight spoilers inbound.
While the initial plan was to play a day’s worth of these games before weighing in, I knew I would have to clock in some overtime. If I know anything about JRPGs, it’s that mechanics, characters, and the main quest usually get settled after about eight or so hours into the game. I’m happy I stuck with it even longer than that, because Ni no Kuni bored me until about the eight hour mark. Despite the stunning visuals and charming characters, the combat and exploration in the early hours are simple to a fault. Things start to heat up when protagonist Oliver is joined by the second playable character, Esther.
Everything finally started to click into place once I was controlling Oliver, Esther, and their trios of monster familiars. Swapping between these characters, managing their Tactics (AI routines), and embarking on bounty hunts filled in the missing pieces. The familiar system also reminds me of a similar mechanic from Castlevania: Curse of Darkness, which I was a big fan of. I like the concept of raising and evolving these creatures throughout the course of my adventure.
So far Ni no Kuni has managed to keep up that pace. I love the simplistic-yet-satisfying chore of siphoning positive emotions into heartbroken NPCs. I'm happy to welcome a third playable character into my party. I enjoy jogging across vast deserts hunting down special monsters or looking for treasure. I especially like being able to sail the seas in my very own ship. Landing on islands or previously unreachable shores rarely gets old in JRPGs. Eventually obtaining a pet dragon is an enticing carrot-on-a-stick. I even like the surprisingly difficult boss battles, complete with their devastating special attacks. These boss battles have included some very close calls, however, and I my enthusiasm and momentum could’ve taken a hit had I fallen.
I’m having a good time with Ni no Kuni, but I need to play more to make sure it can sustain this high note. I spent nearly 10 hours of the game bouncing between enjoyment and boredom, sticking with it purely out of determination that a better game awaited. I’m happy I did. That being said, a 15-hour time investment in a 60+ hour RPG feels like a drop in the bucket.
I want to beat Ni no Kuni before weighing in completely on its potential spot on our Top 50 Games of 2013 list. And of course, it always comes down to the other game candidates it could be up against. If the next leg of my journey with Oliver and Mr. Drippy packs similar levels of fun as the last five hours, then Ni no Kuni will likely find another supporter in me.