20 Things You Should Know About The Next Big Console JRPG

Pickings are slim for JRPG fans. Xenoblade and The Last Story have both come and gone, and while our handhelds are getting some Persona and Paper Mario action soon, there aren't a lot of big console JRPGs on the horizon for the near future.

Until January. That's when America will finally be able to get its paws on Ni no Kuni, a gorgeous animated JRPG developed by Level-5 and Studio Ghibli, the talented animation house behind films like Howl's Moving Castle and My neighbour Totoro.

I played 20 minutes of Ni no Kuni at a Namco event in New York City yesterday. This is only the second time I've played it, but I'm already in love. It's a gorgeous, charming game that looks to be one of the PlayStation 3's last great RPGs.

Here are 20 things you should know about it:

1) It's a traditional Japanese role-playing game. You walk around from place to place, helping people out and fighting through dungeons in pursuit of a larger goal (in this case: to save your mother). So this means...

2) ...there's a world map. You know how much I love world maps. It also means...

3) ...combat is turn-based. You can give orders to your characters or switch to their familiars, which are basically summonable monsters that can do all the dirty work for you. There are spells, items, hit points, magic points, and all that jazz. Standard stuff.

4) Unlike most JRPGs, Ni no Kuni promises to make you actually hit the defend button sometimes. If it looks like a baddie is about to cast some powerful spell or hammer you with a giant sword, you can switch to defend mode and nullify the damage.

5) You can also move around the battlefield, which is essential if you want to stay healthy. In the demo I played, my character had no healing spells and very few items. Fortunately, enemies drop green health orbs and blue magic orbs as you smack them around. You can't move while attacking, but you can switch between the two modes rather quickly.

6) Gold orbs will drop during boss fights. These will charge up your character and let him or her execute a special attack.

7) The boss I fought was a creature named the Guardian of Woods. He basically looked like a giant Bulbasaur. Nasty thing.

8) By the way, I was fighting this guardian on the orders of Old Father Oak, a giant tree with a duck mouth. The guardian was corrupted by an evil dude named Shadar or something like that. So we had to go clear out the evil by whacking him a few times.

9) My companion, a strange doll-like creature named Mr. Drippy, seemed to have a bit of an attitude problem. He called Old Father Oak names like Barkface. It was adorably impudent.

10) I explored two areas: the Deep Dark Woods and the Whispering Waterfalls. Very linear paths; no random encounters. You'll see enemies on the screen as you explore. You can surprise them for a brief advantage in battle. If they hit you from behind, you'll be briefly stunned when you enter combat.

11) When we beat the boss and got back to ol' Treebeard, he thanked us and gave us a Telling Stone. A Telling Stone, in the world of Ni no Kuni, is a tablet with a face. It's basically a combination tutorial/collectors' compendium/monster guide.

12) Old Father Oak also gave us two spells: one called Take Heart and one called Give Heart. More on these in a bit.

13) Once we had said goodbye to the giant tree, we exited the woods and made our way to the world map. Again, I love world maps. That said...

14) ...this world map is nothing short of stunning. I stopped playing for a few minutes just to look around at all of the beautiful vistas.

15) Anyway. Once my eyes had popped back into their sockets, I wandered over to my next destination: a city called — wait for it — Ding Dong Dell.

16) You should know that there is a city named Ding Dong Dell.

17) There was a crowd of people gathering around the gates of Ding Dong Dell. They couldn't get in. One of the guards was being a jerk or something. And his partner, who happened to be hopping around My companion Drippy pointed out that the guard on the left was all out of enthusiasm, and that the guard on the right was full of enthusiasm, so maybe I should find some way to transfer the enthusiasm from one guard to the other.

18) Since this is a JRPG, we clearly had to use the spells we just got by finishing that dungeon. So we cast Take Heart on the right guard, taking some of his enthusiasm, and we cast Give Heart on the left guard, passing that enthusiasm along to him.

19) Yes, the game puts a lot of emphasis on the word enthusiasm.

20) Occasional mawkishness aside, this game is gorgeous and dreamy and totally enticing. I want more. It's out for PlayStation 3 on January 22. Start counting down the days.


    Can't wait for this.

    Squenix should get Level 5 to do the next Final Fantasy, maybe it'll recapture the magic.

      Or create Final Quest: Dragon Fantasy.

      oh man yes

      White Knight Chronicles....

      Level 5 were flawless with Dark Cloud, Dark Chronicle and Rogue Galaxy... but now...

      Lucky Layton cancels it out

    Between this and Okami HD, I believe there will be a ps3 sitting next to my xbox pretty soon!

      Also Valkyria Chronicles is less than $20 and is amazing.

    Well I dunno about you guys but we're finally getting a local release of Tales of Graces F in Aus next week.

      Why didn't you import...?

        Local version is the same as the european special edition so there's extra goodies to be had. Otherwise I would've imported.

      I thought everyone had imported that one already. It's pretty cool, though such long wait times for a local version are horrendous, especially when an English language version is readily available.

      Also as far as console JRPGs go Mugen Souls is being released in October, though I'm probably the only person in the country looking forward to that one.

        Got mine preordered on the NISA store ;)

        Preordered wizard edition of Ni No Kuni off zavvi too for that matter.

          How do you get around the 70+ quid they want for shipping?
          I went to preorder it a while back expecting shipping to be the usual one or two pound and was shocked it was more than the game itself!

    It's not Turn Based. It's the same basic combat as FF12, but when you switch to your Imajinn's you don't have to worry about Oliver, and vice versa.

    And seriously, it's one of the most epic world maps I've ever seen. It's zoomed out and that music... It's fucking amazing.

    As someone who loves JRPGs and just completed the awful, dreary, tired ugly mess that was Last Story this week, I cant begin to express how excited I am for this!


    So I hear there is a city called Ding Dong Dell?

    So looking forward to this.

    I have the japanese version and I've completed it, I've played most of Level 5's PlayStation games and I can say that this is my favourite JRPG of this generation bar non.

    I don't even understand Japanese and it was still great to watch the cutscenes and stuff.

      Have you played Xenoblade? :P

      That's my favourite JRPG this generation so I'm wondering how Ni No Kuni holds up compared to it. Ni No Kuni seems more 'traditional' though and my favourite 'traditional' JRPG this gen would probably be Lost Odyssey.

      When you say cutscenes do you just mean in-game one or is there actually a decent amount of animated ones? Oh and how long is the game roughly?

      Sorry for all the questions. I haven't read much about the game or spoken to anyone who's actually played it before :).

        I'm with you on that. Lost Odyssey is the best JRPG of the gen. We need more of that.
        I skipped Xenoblade, but might give it a go in HD next-gen, or on emulator.

    Oh wow, this is gorgeous. Like DQ8 only better.

    Currently loving the hell out of Xenoblade; just got Last Story and am nonplussed by it so far. (As a JRPG Cliche Drinking Game, though, it's a good way to get drunk fast. "Find kids hiding throughout the city? Oh yeah, THAT'S a drink.")

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