Ni No Kuni Review: A Sincere Heart
Ni No Kuni may have some issues that become a little more apparent later in the game, but this is still the best JRPG of the current generation.
I stepped into Ni No Kuni not entirely sure what I was getting myself into. An Rpg featuring children instead of deranged confusing adults, A system that in a lot of ways is like Pokémon yet at the same time has absorbed different ideas that have been sitting in games like Final Fantasy 12, and an “epic story” of how a young boy would save the world when in truth all he actually wanted was to save his mother. Ni No Kuni has some faults, but its visual display, its actual child like sincerity, and unexpected quirks have a firm grip on my unexpecting heart. It’s a world where children can save the world, not everything necessarily needs to be stated, and magic is not only powerful but visually beautiful.
Following the usual rounds of the hero’s path we find a young boy named Oliver sitting in small city America acting all cute and adorable to everyone in town. He’ll pick up food for his mother, help his best friend mess around with strange secret contraptions in the hopes of achieving some simple childhood dream, and will find ways to not tell lies while still doing things he probably shouldn’t. Disaster strikes, Oliver almost dies, and his mother saves him at the cost of her own life. Oliver finds himself alone, miserable, close to broken hearted when his best friend Mr. Drippy ( a doll) is suddenly brought to life and exclaims that Oliver is a wizard. Only the pure hearted could have undone the curse that Mr. Drippy was apparently entrapped in, then asks Oliver to enter his world to hopefully save everyone because he is now the chosen one.”Ollie-boy” is then sent on a journey, a journey that if the cards are played right will save Mr. Drippy’s friends and hopefully save Oliver’s mother with magic to spare. With wand in hand Oliver casts a magic spell to enter a world filled with wonder and whimsy. The world of Ni No Kuni.
Before I started my magical adventure I decided I would need an army or a really good team. With “Ken Grify Jr.“ in hand along with “Hulk“ I began scouring the Kingdom of Ding Dong Dell for any items or monsters that could help me attain my perfect magician destiny. Sadly I lacked the ability to capture any monster I fought, but a lemur was given to me before I entered the first dungeon… I decided to call him “Wesley Snipes”. So with Ken, Wes, and Hulk in hand I set about saving the world. Ding Dong Dell’s King, a delightfully over sized cat has sadly been cursed in a similar fashion to Mr. Drippy, he has become “broken hearted” as in a piece of his heart has been stolen by the great Dark Djinn Shadar. Ollie-boy whips out his wand with spell book in hand and does a quick spell to take the overabundance of heart in one of the kings subjects to repair the damage done to his holy meow-ness. The king then stands up immediately and decrees he has a gift for Oliver ( a wand, which was the reason as to why we came here to begin with) but will need to fight the Mouse King in order to obtain it.
Within Ding Dong Dell’s dungeon I am finally able to put Kuni’s fighting mechanics to the test. Much like Pokémon each familiar ( monster) is given a few tricks that he can perform along with spells that Oliver himself is able to perform. Yes, unlike Pokémon the main character can be used entirely in battle( Be careful though, he starts out with meager stats). What really blew me away in the combat however were the things that couldn’t be controlled by U.I. or their command lists. The unexpected level of complication in their fighting and dodging abilities. Grify needs to be up in everyone’s face so it can peck, Hulk starts out as something like a swordsman, but as he grows and levels up I see him hopping around while dodging incoming attacks as it reads what the opponent is doing, and Wesley snipes basically was acting like Blade. Later in the game Snipes was facing a boss type monster with its two minions, Wesley jumped over the first ones attack, dodged the second ones attack that was aiming lower to the ground, and began pummeling the leader as I instructed. Hulk would occasionally use his shield to block incoming attacks, do a running slash to get closer to an enemy then hop left or right if it saw a move coming that it somehow knew how to avoid. I have no clue how these mechanics work, whether its tied to certain stat attributes ( maybe their celestial mark?) or if it’s just luck because I have heard other reviews say that it never once happened for them ( maybe they weren’t observant). The only true gripe I have with this fighting system is that not all of Oliver’s spells ( say Quake for example) that are unlocked by doing additional quests are not usable in any way, shape, or form. In fact, some spells are only used for certain quests or for some kind of justification inside the story , then we never hear or see them ever again. The spells are a huge, wondrous part of Ni No Kuni, and they should have all been treated with more emphasis inside how the world works.
The end of the dungeon treated myself with another cut scene of our holy Meow-ness staring down lord high mouse with wands out and spells being prepared. His royal Meow-ness is then knocked out and we are forced to take his place. I’m not quite sure why Ollie-boy needed to fight the mouse entirely at this point since the king had already collected the wand, and this can be seen as an issue throughout the entire game. Not everything that needs to be stated is actually stated while the feel and gist of the situation is always present. If this were a game like say Final Fantasy 13, then I would say that this is a blatantly huge issue that is harming the crux of the game and its story, but with Ni No Kuni I am taking a different stance.
This is a game that was made for children, we are just lucky enough to enjoy the ride. The more complicated tones of any modern RPG have been confusing us all for years. We can never truly understand why any of it is going on or why it is that everyone is talking about lightness, darkness, or their overabundance of weird crystals. Ni No Kuni I think chose to skip all of that nonsense and decided to focus more on making sure that the game itself actually works. We travel the world, watch Ollie-boy heal some hearts, play a few fun hands of platoon, face some great evil that is harming the land, then hope everything will turn out alright for Oliver and his new found friends. While I wish some of these more subtle details had been further explained or stated ( because I guarantee they have them written down somewhere ) it is not a game breaker when compared to how much in this game Level 5 managed to do right. Ni No Kuni is an actual world filled with hilarious characters, memorable quests, and actual moments of excitement. Perhaps Studio Ghibli next time around should be given control over the story along with the animation, but none the less Ni No Kuni is the best Modern Day JRPG.
Now if you’ll excuse me, a monster called “the incredible Ulk” is terrorizing Ding Dong Dell and my team of quirky celebrities is feeling the need to deliver some justice.