Getting that JRPG itch? Feeling the need to grind for hours on end before advancing the storyline? Have the need to do tackle 10, 20, or even 30 side missions that have nothing to do with the main story? If you have experienced any of these symptoms then you might be suffering from acute Japanese Roll Playing Game withdrawal. I prescribe a 60 hour does of Ni No Kuni and you call me when you find your life again. Ni No Kuni is a sprawling JRPG for the PS3 that, while good, is not for everyone.
Ni No Kuni is about a boy named Oliver who loses his mom when she saves him from drowning. In his grief a fairy from another world appears and proclaims that there might be a chance to save his mom if he can save the other world and defeat the Dark Djinn. The story itself is pretty run of the mill, its not bad but it doesn’t have that charm you usually get from anything from Studio Ghibli. And the characters just aren’t that interesting. There is so much exposition in this game that your head will spin long before you reach that halfway point. I know that a lot of JRPG games have a lot of exposition but in this game it just seemed so much more excessive. There’s also the fact that the reveal “surprises” that the player can figure out an hour before they actually do so. Supposedly shocking moments leave you yawn with boredom. I did not care for the story but at the very least it is terrible.
The real meat of this game is the battle and capture system, it’s almost like a mix between Pokemon and Final Fantasy XIII. You control one of three humans in battle and can switch between any of them on the fly. Each human has control of one of three “Familiars” or monsters. All in all you can choose and switch between 12 characters in battle. Once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty fun. All monsters have a sign, which is almost like a type in Pokemon that are stronger and weaker to other signs. In all honesty though you can completely ignore that, I did and I got through the game just fine. The biggest problem I had with the game is the grinding system. For anyone unfamiliar with the term “grinding,” it’s when the player goes around engaging in battles over and over again for the purpose of gaining more levels and making you characters stronger. Now, normally I like grinding in JRPGs but you reach a point in Ni No Kuni where you can’t just grind, you have to find the right monster to grind with. If you don’t find these monsters or know where they are, grinding becomes extremely more difficult. And with a recommended level of 84 to beat the final boss, you NEED to grind.
Studio Ghibli nailed transferring their art style into this game. It’s a visually stunning game and huge with a large variety of environments to gawk over. The colors pop and the graphics are crisp. Music is also a big part of the game, from traveling on the seas to flying dragons, the music matches every scene and really punches home the epic or poignant situations. Voice acting is good, though sometimes a little off beat with what you might expect to hear. I didn’t expect the daughter of a sage that lives in a middle eastern inspired town to have a proper British accent but maybe that’s just me.
While Ni No Kuni is a good game, it’s just doesn’t have that extra push to be great. The visuals and music are stunning, but the story can never see to measure up. There’s plenty to do and you can spend way beyond 60 hours trying to do everything. Sadly, this game is definitely not for everyone. JRPG fans may enjoy it but if that genre isn’t your cup of tea, or you’re looking for a game to test the waters, this game isn’t for you.