[Review] Ni no Kuni (& Gold Hurly Familiar Give Away)

I'll try to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible for those who haven't played the game yet... I'll make another post with rants and a few in-depth hints for those that are interested later on. ;>

I've put a good 75+ hours into the game now (tho I think around 5 hours of those are just me leaving the PS3 on while doing other stuff. ;>) and finished the main story. I still got quite a bit of the post-end content left to finish (monster hunts, quests, catching all familiars just because I can...) and not one minute of it felt like wasted time.

I love this game. A lot. But I have to admit that this game has its flaws. Most of them are no big deal and if you're able to overlook them you'll have plenty of fun with this game.

By now everyone who's heard about this game should know what it's about - a boy who gets sucked into a great adventure in another world in order to save his mum. Said boy, Oliver, turns out to be rather great at magic and might just be able to defeat the evil wizard Shadar, also known as the dark djinn who breaks people's hearts. It's your task now to heal all those broken hearts with you magic, make allies, learn awesome spells and save both your world and the other world. 

It's a great adventure and a rather satisfying story. There were a few (slightly predictable) twists to spice things up and the ending was nice, heartwarming and cute.

Yes, this game definitely felt like being sucked into a Ghibli movie, not just because it looks like one. (I wish they would have been in charge of the writing as well tho, parts of the dialogue and pacing of storytelling just felt oddly done to me... but oh well.)

My biggest issue with the game is probably how easy it is. I'm not talking about the battles tho, as these can be challenging (or frustrating) even when you set the game's difficulty to "easy" - I actually played the whole game on that difficulty and still found myself in a pinch in a normal fight, from time to time, but then again... I'm not really that great at real-timey stuff that requires a quick reaction (did I mention how amusing it is to watch me play a fps game? orz), the fact that I had just finished FF9 the day before we started playing Ni no Kuni helped a lot tho, as I find the two game's battle systems strangely similar.

While you can't move around in FF9, the game also halts the battle while you browse in the sub menus of your spells and such, which is good for people like me who get easily overwhelmed in the heat of a battle, it always helped me calm down a little to have as much time as I want to choose which spell or item to use or which monster I want to attack. While lots of people keep complaining about the battle system, I quite liked it. Especially the boss battles were a loooot of fun! You have to stop and think about what to do next and also quickly react to avoid a huge attack or to heal some damage dealt. You have to switch between characters and familiars to get the best results... I didn't do that for most of the first half of the game, unless a familiar was crushing on me and I had to switch to Esther to catch it. The battles got a whole lot more fun after I started switching between characters more. 

A lot of people also complained about the A.I. of the other party members, but I didn't run into any of the problems people constantly mentioned (mainly being: Esther dying and Esther using too much MP) - just give Esther a good familiar with high attack and decent defense stats... well, okay, I've gotta admit, I gave her the pre-order exclusive Griffy familiar and that made her actually my highest damage dealer throughout the whole game. XD

Anyway, back to my big issue about the game being easy...

You get to do a lot of stuff in this game, a lot of it is optional too and some of the main story line quests would make for some awesome puzzles, but instead of giving you a puzzle to solve, the game just tells you what to do and you do it.

"The door's locked, man. Don't you have a spell for that? Use your Spring Lock spell on the door, Oliver! Oh and look, there's a broken bridge, maybe your Rejuvinate spell can fix it." Thank you, Drippy but couldn't you have let me thought about it on my own? Well, on a few occasions the game does let you figure out which spell to use by yourself... but most of the time you're already being told what to do beforehand. You can even turn on a little star on the map that shows you where to go next all the time. I like a star showing me where to head to next, but I don't like a star spoiling my quest of finding a person that got information about something I need. I mean, yes, please do tell me which part of the world I need to get to next, little star, but you shouldn't tell me that the dude next to the fountain is the guy I need to talk to (this is just a made-up example, don't worry! ;>) ... somehow this game feels like a very long tutorial for almost the first half of the game. But it's one of the most fun tutorials I've played. :>

You'll also have to do a lot of running around in this game at first (it gets less later on). But as a Doctor Who fan I don't mind an awful lot of running anyway and when you look around these cities you're running through in the game, you can see why the developers would want to force you to run around a little more and just indulge yourself in this utterly beautiful game world. The game's textures look really great, some of the cities have such a hand-drawn vibe, it's incredible. The celshaded 3D models of the characters look stunning as well and I really hope this style will be used more often in the future. 

I'm usually really picky when it comes to endings, especially video game endings tend to leave me disappointed. I've at times delayed playing the end of a game for weeks in fear of disappointment... ;_; Ni no Kuni's ending was satisfying as it was and I'm glad I finished the game this quickly, though I would have wished for it to be a little longer.... which is a rare thing for me to say nowadays. Usually I stay away from games that take more than twenty hours to finish. But right now I can see me going back to Ni no Kuni from time to time to finish all the post-end content, catch all the different familiars and evolve all of them to complete the Pokedex creature compendium. 8) I'd like to go back to that world every once in a while. (And play some more platoon - that game has got me addicted.)

Would be nice if there'd be a second game, maybe set in yet another world, connected to the other two (yes, I love me some nice confusing parallel universe mind fuck!) with a few new characters and an handsome grown up Oliver :>, new familiars, more challenging puzzles and a lot more voice acting! Yes, more voice acting would be nice, because the game had some pretty damn good voice acting. The English dub had hilarious British accents for some characters, the Japanese dub was just as brilliant... well, in those parts of the game that actually had some voice acting, sadly there was very little of them. I didn't mind that there weren't that many Ghibli drawn scenes, the amount seemed just right to me and the celshading animation did look great on it's own, but the lack of voices in most of them did bother me. I would have liked to hear the voices of those characters a lot more, as I think they'd probably have grown a lot more on me if I could have heard them more. 

The game's music was rather nice, but it wasn't particulary memorable... it felt right to me while playing the game and I didn't get the urge to listen to other music like some people did. But it also didn't strike me as the best game music ever either. 

All in all I had a lot of fun with Ni no Kuni and it did indeed live up to my excitement besides it's flaws. It might not be Level-5 at it's best, but it's still Level-5 and it feels to me like the love child of a Pokemon game and a Ghibli movie. It won't push Atelier Meruru from my personal JRPG number one spot (which Meruru kinda shares with Persona 4, but err, yeah..) but Ni no Kuni will definitely be one of my favourite JRPGs for a long time, if not for all time. :)

Now that that's said, it's time for the...

Just leave a post, somehow stating that you want the DLC code and if there's more than one person interested, I'll throw the names in a hat and pick a winner next week. :) Note: The DLC only works with US versions of the game and you can only get the DLC from the US PSN store (the EU stores got Hurly as a free DLC anyway) .


  1. Ah, glad to hear you enjoyed the experience. I'd definitely check it out myself if I owned a PS3. Someday!

  2. Excellent overview of the game. One I plan to get sometime in the next few weeks, but don't have yet. Wading through a handful of other fairly big titles right now. :)

  3. if this is still going i'd gladly take the dlc. i just got the game

  4. Send me a mail to milki[at]hotmail.de and that code is yours.. 8)