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Studio Ghibli and level 5 have brought us a wonderful JRPG with a heartfelt story and charming animated story scenes and great battle system ideas.

 

Ni No Kuni brings many of the things that old school JRPG fans love as well as giving us a creative real-time battle system which I find fun to use and quite tactical.

Ni No Kuni's story takes place in two different worlds,one of them is a world that resembles a 1950ish version of our world and when you're in this 1950's style world you'll be in a quaint little town called 'Motorville' and the other world is a fantasy world named 'Ni No Kuni' that's parallel to the world you begin in.

Much of the story is presented with anime scenes that look like they're from a studio Ghibli anime film and it works wonderfully well to make Oliver and his mother feel like they're real people with the types of lives/problems normal everyday people have.

The story is about how a 13-year-old boy named Oliver whom he and another boy were playing around with a motorized vehicle one night and Oliver ends up in the lake and Oliver's mother discovers Oliver isn't at home like he's supposed to be,she goes searching for him and sees him drowning so she goes into the lake and saves Oliver and everything seems well OK but Oliver's mother suddenly dies after this because she has a weak heart.

Oliver is obviously devastated about losing his mother and he feels guilty,however a strange doll Oliver's mother gave to him comes to life and it tells Oliver there's a way to bring his mother back if they travel to Ni No Kuni and find a person who shares their soul with Oliver's mother.

Oliver jumps at the opportunity that could bring his mother back.Meanwhile,a mysterious person has been watching Oliver and is happy Oliver has entered Ni No Kuni and I like how the story makes you guess at who this person is,it makes you guess are they good or evil? is this person the white witch like the title suggests?

The story becomes more than about Oliver trying to bring his mother back of course because like in most RPGs he'll find himself in a situation where him and a group of characters he's with will need to try to save the world(Ni No Kuni)as well as help people in the world he comes from(I won't say why because it's a spoiler)but the story scenes that are related to it are quite emotional and surprising.

The doll accompanies Oliver on his journey and the doll's name is Drippy and Drippy is quite a charming character and knows all about Ni No Kuni.Drippy is a party member but you cannot control him in battle and he cannot damage enemies(although he tries to attack them)but he occasionally casts healing spells when your party members are low in HP.The other characters who join Oliver include a blonde-haired girl who's around Oliver's age named Esther and a man who's a thief but who acts like a sailor named Swaine as well as a prince.You'll meet some other characters who are friends but whom won't join your party or who will join your party but won't fight in battle.

Of course the story will slowly reveal who the bad guys are and what their motives are and it does a good job of revealing it slowly and pacing it with the main plot/side stories.

The story has more than one love story and they're presented in a charming way and one of them is quite emotional too and the story has some good moral lessons as to why we can't have everything we want and the story also has a darker side and isn't always charming and Oliver will need to learn how to use magic and learn how to use it well enough to defeat powerful bad guys.

What makes the story enjoyable isn't just because of what it's about,but it's how it's presented with charming dialogue and
story scenes as well as emotional story scenes,like I've said the studio Ghilbi animated story scenes give the story more feeling to it and make you care about Oliver and his mother and combine that with interesting/heart felt side stories and a touch of mystery and it makes for an enjoyable story experience.

The battle system allows you to use creatures referred to as 'familiars' which you catch or are given to you that you can level up and equip with weapons and armor and you can also use your human party members whom have certain advantage/disadvantages compared with familiars,for example Oliver and Esther can cast spells that are very powerful and more so than those of the familiars but Oliver and Esther can be Koed much more easily than a familiar can.On the other hand,the familiars when leveled up highly and when equipped with good armor can withstand a lot more punishment than human characters and with the exception of Swaine in some instances many familiars are capable of doing much more physical damage than Oliver and Esther can and when they perform basic attacks it doesn't require any MP and for long boss battles where it's possible to run out of MP and it makes utilizing them in battle quite important.

Since the battle system is real-time,you control one character and the AI controls the rest.The AI is good for the most part although it does make some silly decisions at times such as when even I tell my AI controlled party members to use all out defense(meaning I want it to defend and heal)it won't heal my characters when they're low on HP.When I tell the AI to all out attack they do as asked without any problems but the all out attack or all out defense orders last for a temporary period and when you haven't ordered them to all out attack/defend the AI can make some pretty bad decisions,especially when my party members have lots of HP but they won't focus on being aggressive.

I understand the AI isn't supposed to do everything for me and I appreciate the fact it usually lets using buffs or attack spells for me to do,but it would be nice if the AI members would cast a healing spell when my party members are low on HP so I don't have to switch to the character and manually do it myself.

The all out attack and all out defend commands can be done with the press of a button and it's a nice feature because you're switching between all out attack and all out defense regularly it can make the boss battles become intense as you see them charging up a powerful attack and you switch to all out defense so they defend(block)the attack and usually focus on healing.And knowing when to take a risk and use all out attack can make battles tense as some bosses can inflict a lot of damage to all your party members with one attack if you're not defending.

You can manually make a character defend by choosing the defend command.As you would expect,there's commands for attack(basic attack)defend,spells.Some spells damage every enemy,some spells allow you to summon and often you'll be switching between characters/familiars so you can make use of the best spell for a situation and it makes the battles feel epic.Of course there's a command that allows you to use items.

Even though the battles are in real-time,there's a timer for how much time a party member has to attack or for how long they can defend.You can cancel commands such as attack commands which is useful,for example if one of your party members is in the middle of an attack command and you see an enemy charging up a powerful attack you can cancel their attack command and instruct them to defend.

You can have 3 human party members and each human party member can have 3 familiars with them,so technically you can use 9 different party members in a battle.You can also bring 3 reserve familiars with you and you can switch a 4th human party member(who also can bring 3 familiars with them) with another human party member.So technically your party will consist of 19 party members,9 of which you can use in a single battle.

There's hundreds of familiars that you can catch and they have a wide range of advantages/disadvantages,for example familiars from the volcanic area are vulnerable to ice magic.Some familiars have powerful attacks but move around slowly(and keep in mind it's possible for them to miss with an attack if the enemy moves and some enemies move around a lot)and some familiars have great healing abilities but are not good with physical attacking.

In battle,your party members and enemies can run around a battle area and like I said it's possible to run out of the way of certain attacks/spells but doing so means you cannot attack the enemy either.

I've mentioned how Ni No Kuni brings many of the things that old school JRPG fans love,well this includes a world map with diverse regions,towns to visit,towns people you can talk to and whom you can so quests for.The game has lots of side quests (over 100)and 40 or so creature hunts to do.The side quests can be simple errands but can be also defeating secret and powerful bosses.You can also learn new spells which aren't side quests but still something to discover.There's also alchemy so you can create useful items without having to buy them.

The game's difficulty level can spike up quite a bit at times,the enemies are easy for the first 10-15 hours but then you can face some enemies/bosses who can do lots of damage to your party,even if you do lots of level grinding.

For a bit of variation there's even environments in which you travel around in 2D style but it's quite charming and there's only a small amount of it.

You can also return to Motorville during most times in the game by casting a spell that will instantly take you there and it's nice being able to switch between a 1950's version of our world and a fantasy world,even though Motorville doesn't have much to explore but you can still go inside some of it's buildings where as Ni No Kuni is huge and has lots to explore and sometimes you'll be required to return to Motorville for some quests/story moments.

You can also use magic outside of battle and sometimes you will need to for puzzles in dungeons or to make people help you(you can take courage,enthusiasm from certain people and give it to another person who you want to do something for you).

The art style for the game is lovely.Motorville has a nice 1950 style look with 1950 style cars driving past.I like the town in the snowy region in Ni No Kuni called Yule that has people wearing fur coats and living in igloos and having fires inside their igloo(sometimes they're cooking things in pots).Hamlet is an industrial style city with a yellowish sky and it blends well together.Of course there's the more traditional little towns you'd see in a fantasy world and they have nice details such as watermills or people's homes.There's also arabian style villages.There's also some Sci Fi style environments too.I love the tropical village named Castaway cove and I love how some of the forest areas have autumn colored leaves.

 

I love when you see Ni No Kuni from above when you're riding the dragon because you're not too high up like when you're on an airship so the world below still looks fairly big and detailed and you can see sand dunes in the desert or high snowy mountains or the autumn style leaves or tropical areas.

I also love the aurora style sky effect when you're in Yule.

For some of the story scenes,there's some nice story book style scenes that use hand style coloring and it goes well for one of the love stories in the game and the music for these scenes is quite charming and especially suits the love story scene.

I like how the localized version of the game still offers Japanese voice overs(which I usually prefer)but with English subtitles.The music for the game suits the environments/story moments quite well(is delicate when it needs to be,charming when you want more of a lighthearted feel).

Overall,if you've been turned off JRPGs during the 7th gen,perhaps you'd want to give Ni No Kuni a try because it brings back many of the things old school JRPGs love such as charming dialogue/story/art style as well as a story you care about that's easy to get into without the intense Sci Fi,religious,political stuff that many other 7th gen JRPGs use.Ni No Kuni reminds me of the SNES/Playstation One JRPGs because of it's charm and JRPG fans should at least give Ni No Kuni a try,it's easily one of the best JRPGs of the 7th generation and can hold it's own against the best JRPGs of past generations.

 

 

 

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