Ni no Kuni


Level 5 and studio Ghibli seem to have many things in common – stories about children exploring mystical spaces with anthropomorphic animals, large-eyed familiars for comic relief and climaxes that mostly are about resolving emotional turmoil – granted, most JRPGs fit into some of those descriptions but it seemed like Level 5 and Ghibli would have a particularly easy time getting along. Problem is, it does not feel like Level 5 have anything interesting to add – Ni no Kuni is a collection of short segments of animated brilliance between longer segments of a rather uninteresting JRPG. This is probably a very personal choice but the even though the story structures are similar, Ghibli (specifically Hayao Miyazaki’s works) have always approached the earnest stories about children with care leaving a profound sense of wonder, whereas Level 5 tend to be campy and resorting to obvious emotional plays with little depth.

The game itself is a standard JRPG that is a lot slower and less interesting than it needs to be. There are usually one too many menus between the things you want to do. In theory the battle system is timing-based since you can interrupt attacks and direct teammates to take advantage of enemies’ weaknesses, in reality you rarely have enough time once the attacks start and your teammates do whatever they want no matter what you tell them. Ostensibly not random-encounter-based, most enemies will be unavoidable so you’re forced to fight anyway. Backtracking is always a chore, and the entire fighting/leveling/equipment system does not do anything new or interesting. I always want to like Level 5 – games more than I end up doing, last time it was the spacefaring pirateship- explorer game Rogue Galaxy which was enough of a reminder of Skies of Arcadia to be exciting. Like Ni no Kuni, it turned out to have a story with weird pacing and without any interesting purpose, and similar issues – although it did solve the problem of your teammates using up precious resources so I’m not sure why they backtracked on that.

Now, despite all those issues it’s not a bad game – just not a particularly original one (say what you will about the Final Fantasies, they usually come up with crazy and interesting ways to mix up the core gameplay). It creates passable JRPG busywork and usually looks gorgeous, it has the good sense to allow you to keep the original Japanese voices and the translators have done a phenomenal job on all the in-jokes and names. It may be very suitable for a younger audience, but it’s a bit sad that that has to be the verdict when Ghibli has made so many movies that transcend age and are wonderful for everyone.

Posted on Oct 02/13 by Saint and filed under Reflections | No Comments »