12 Things You Should Know About The Stellar, Stunning Ni No Kuni

You are perhaps wondering whether or not you should play Ni no Kuni, the RPG by Level-5 and Studio Ghibli that comes out today on PlayStation 3. Let me put it simply: Yes. Ni no Kuni is a fantastic game.

Although I haven't played enough to feel comfortable writing up a full review — I'm around 14 hours in so far, and taking my time — I think it's safe to say that yes, if you are a fan of role-playing games, or Studio Ghibli movies, or fun, this is an experience worth having.

(While it's possible that something somehow ruins the game later on, it's worth playing even just for the 14 hours of greatness that I've experienced thus far.)

That's the short version. Now for some more impressions, in bullet-pointed form because really, bullet points are just too convenient not to use. Here are 12 things you should know about Ni no Kuni:

  1. The first thing you'll notice about Ni no Kuni is just how gorgeous it is. That part's obvious. But what you might not notice right away is that the soundtrack, performed by the Tokyo Philharmonic Chorus, is just as powerful and welcoming as the Ghibli-crafted animation. Many Japanese RPGs come with great music, but Ni no Kuni comes with an actual score — instead of following a few catchy melodies, the horns and harps swell up and down as you walk through the world, meandering as if they're going on their own adventure with you. It feels like you're roaming through a movie.

  2. You play as Oliver, a little kid who goes through some serious tragedy and winds up travelling to a new world, where he has to become a wizard in order to defeat the evil Dark Djinn Shadar and yada yada yada. So he has to go off and find a bunch of Great Sages to get more powerful and really this is all well and good but it doesn't really matter all that much because the appeal of this game lies in the adventure, not the excuse you need to go on that adventure. So, yes, Oliver needs a reason to fight his way through deserts and forests and rumbling volcanos, but the sights and sounds justify themselves. Ni no Kuni's world is surreal and wonderful, well worth the trip.

  3. The voice-acting is phenomenal, good enough to make me consider reconsidering my opinion on English voice acting in Japanese RPGs. Mr. Drippy's Welsh scrawl steals the show, but all of the performances are extremely well done. Children in video games are usually annoying. Oliver is not. He feels and sounds like a real human being, and even when you might get sick of his naivety, his blind, innocent courage is appealing in a "wow, I wish I could do that" sort of way. As always, Level-5 has done excellent work with the localisation. Hope you like animal puns.

  4. You get your very own book filled with wizarding spells, interesting stories, and even a made-up language that actually asks you to pull out a pen and paper IRL so you can decipher Special Wizard Code. Lucky pre-orderers get a physical version of this book, but you can see all of it in-game. Part strategy guide, part Easter Egg-filled lore tome, it's the type of thing that can steal an hour or two of your time.
  5. The attention to detail is awe-inspiring: Oliver's cape swirls and flows in the wind. When you get large objects, your tiny companion Drippy will carry them over his head. One town you visit has enacted a law that everyone is required to wear a bathing suit at all times — so naturally, your characters swap into bathing suits every time they visit.
  6. Really, Ni no Kuni is a lot like Dragon Quest VIII in many ways, from silly animal puns to crafting cauldrons. In many ways it's even better.
  7. One of the bosses is a genie that must have been inspired by Robin Williams's memorable performance in Aladdin. As you fight him, he'll pull out random objects from a giant cauldron: melons, parasols, ladies' undergarments. Whimsy!
  8. So yes, Ni no Kuni is very good at making you feel like you're on an adventure, a whimsical adventure filled with personality and charm. When I run down the mental checklist of everything I'd want in a JRPG: sharp writing, clever characters, addictive combat, a fulfilling world, and lots of interesting things to see and do, Ni no Kuni hits every mark.
  9. There are tons and tons of sidequests. You can help a traveller find his diary, track down powerful enemies for bounties, and go convince pigeons to rejoin their master. You can learn useful spells from a ghost wizard. You can bring lunch to a hungry worker in the forest. These sidequests help boost your party and give you an excuse to go out and level up...
  10. ...Which is good, because combat is tough, and you'll need to keep battling monsters in order to keep your party up to speed. There are a lot of tough bosses.
  11. The combat, by the way, is bloody brilliant, a blend of turn-based and real-time battle systems that feels fast-paced and intense. It's sort of a cross between Dragon Quest, Tales, and Pokemon. You collect creatures, level them up, and equip them. During combat, you can move around the battlefield in real time, dodge enemy attacks, and try to get into good position to use physical attacks or spells against your opponents. Optimal strategy against tough enemies requires a lot of speed on the player's part. It can be really frustrating when you're casting a spell and an enemy catches you off guard just before you get a chance to defend, but the satisfaction of taking down gruelling bosses is totally worth the risk.

  12. There's a cow queen, and everyone calls her "Your Moojesty". This is very important.


    I might buy a PS3 for this.

      I did and do not regret it at all :)

      And luckily there are a few other PS3 Exclusives that should make it worth your while also!

      Also its a good excuse to get a BluRay player if you dont already have one.

        True, especially with The Last of Us and Sly 4 coming out now, and all the old stuff that was missed.

        Yeah I really want to play Valkyria Chronicles as well. With the 12 gig slim down to $250... well its harder to control myself everyday!

    Ugh! It's taken them years, but this is finally one of two games I would buy a PS3 for. I could hold out hope for the Nintendo direct tonight right? Right??

    Yeah.. guess ill have to buy a PS3 -_-

      The other one is...?

        I'm guessing 'Last Guardian'.

          Yea I could see that, I'm definitely looking forward to it.

          Although all the unchartered games are pretty awesome reasons to buy a PS3, infamous 1+2, MGS, heavy rain. There's more than a few good reasons already.

          (note: I do not work for sony)

            Yeah if you worked for sony you would have said something about PS Move and how unique and wonderful it is and only mentioned crappy party games.

            Lol! Yeah, the "Unchartered" games are about an Indiana Jones-esque travel agent trying their damndest to book boats and planes and elephants and stuff before time runs out! XD

              lol nice, you made a joke out of a spelling mistake!

                lol nice, you said the thing that he did!

    I was very curious about this game but unsure of the combat.

    Point 11 about the combat sold me on this. Ka-ching!

      Try the demo if you're worried. I personally think it's the best combat system out of any JRPG I've ever played... Wait make that any RPG I've played.

    I probably wont have my wizard edition from the US until end of next week :(

      Out of interest which edition did you get? The one that was only available from the Namco Bandai store? Also if so how?

        Yep that one. Using a mail forwarding service to get it to me.

    I just bought one of the last Wizard editions from Zaavi like a week ago and am steadily getting more and more pumped to play this game.

    There hasn't been a real JRPG that I would have rated highly this whole generation since Lost Odyssey. A number of average games but none that were outstanding.

      Any idea when it's going to come out? They were sending me "sorry it hasn't shipped yet emails" for a while.... now it says 25th... but the standard version lists 1st of Feb (or 2nd...?).
      I was surprised the shipping was so cheap ($2!)

      Can't wait to play it =)

        Zavvi ships when they feel like shipping, but the AU release date is the 31st and the UK is the 1st.

        The Playstation Store had it listed for release on 25 Jan, so I preordered it to play over the long weekend, but my receipt says it's release date is 30 Jan :(

          It got pushed back a week for Europe and Australia, release date is now the 1st of Feb.

    I'm kind of keen to play this game, but I hear its big on the grind. This was in a review that still gave the game 9/10, but I have too much on for games that don't respect my time.

    The buzz around this in the west is surprising given that it was pretty much a flop in Japan. Did Level-5 maybe make a JRPG that appeals to the west more than to the east?

      only the PS3 version had slow sales in Japan, it came out much earlier on DS (2010) which sold very well, and Japan tends to prefer portable gaming vs console

    Just picked it up at lunchtime! Got the US version from Shin Tokyo. Just standard edition - I didn't see any of the special edition there. Hopefully will get a chance to try it tonight, otherwise tomorrow night.

    Anyone who wants the Wizard's Edition version of this, pop on over to the German Amazon (google translate does a great job of translating enough so you can get your US account linked to it) and order it from there. They have stock left and not only is the Book in english, but also the rest of the game as well since it has english/japanese audio and 6 or 7 different subtitle packs. I ordered mine last week and even though the delivery date is a bit into next month, i'm willing to wait for this awesome game

    $55 from the US PSN store. Now just to download the 16gb.

    I don't get paid until February... No preorder for me. :(

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