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I’ve been hankering for a JRPG in a bad way. And nothing down the pipeline this generation has filled the hunger. A few games came close. Lost Odyssey was the next Final Fantasy that never was. But otherwise, I’ve been starved. Then Ni No Kuni came along.

                When I heard Level-5 and Studio Ghibli were making a game together, visually, this is the love child I hoped they would conceive. The game is stunning. A constant stream of vibrant colors, which leave you staring at the television and forgetting you’re playing a game. The screens fill you up, and your chest feels like it has been pumped full of wonder.

                While the bursting setting establishes the mood, the fantastical soundtrack embellishes upon it. The songs are sweeping and live in the Studio Ghibli standard that moved me in their films. It is haunting while still blending in child-like wonderment, fitting into the world, art and characters with gorgeous grace.

                Oliver, the main protagonist, is a compelling character. At first I thought he was going to be too childish and the story would never offer any intricacy, but give it time. The story and Oliver pick up and I became very moved by the tale that is anything but simple or ordinary.

                Then there is the complex and simple gameplay.

                The combat is action based with four characters and their familiars, who are Pokemon-like creatures you go around the world collecting and nurturing into powerful assets.  My party members, however, weren’t always as helpful. I didn’t want certain characters to reach the rewarded level breaks that floated down to you during critical points in battle because it usually was a waste. Cheap deaths also occurred while in the midst of casting spells, it never became completely detrimental, but the irritation was enough to make me curse.

                The dungeons can be taxing as well, and the grinding in each one grew close to arbitrary. There’s an ice dungeon that took over twenty deaths to make my way through to the boss. This level of stakes at each battle gives the game both agency and meaninglessness. There’s a certain point where the grinding doesn’t feel like progressing and teeters close to frustrating. But it never felt like too much work, so I think your enjoyment depends on your level of patience.  And you should push through, because exploring this world is just plain fun. There’s a form of transportation toward the middle-late in the game that was one of the most puCurinre and pleasing experiences I’ve had in recent gaming.

                There are also plenty of side quests with hardy rewards to keep you busy and building your collection of familiars adds another layer of depth. I dabbled in both these categories and definitely see the appeal. But the main quest was too alluring for me to stay away for too long.

                I could wine about dungeons, teammate A.I. and a few cheap deaths in the game, and so often, it’s easy to wish for game’s to be different, but sometimes, we have to enjoy the world and the constraints that have been provided for us. And the world that Ni No Kuni has provided is a stunner.