The splendid new role-playing game Ni no Kuni is, in many ways, a game about stories. It's a fairy tale of the purest sort, full of morals and messages, overflowing with heart. So it's fitting that within the game lies a book filled with richly-drawn fairy tales.
Early in the story, the protagonist Oliver is given a tome called the Wizard's Companion. You can read the entire book from within the game, and in it you'll find a ton of stuff, from information about alchemy, to stories from the various cities, to (Jason tells me) an entirely new language to decipher. And best of all, the Wizard's Companion contains a bunch of wonderfully well-written fairy tales.
Here's the first one you'll probably read, titled "The Cowardly Prince and the Lion". Chris grabbed images from the in-game book. Enjoy:
In a great write-up of the game, The Brainy Gamer's Michael Abbott talks about how Ni no Kuni so expertly channels the storytelling power of the fairy tale.
Like the video games we play, "fairy tale" is fraught with misconceptions, perceived by many as mindless frivolity aimed at children and adolescents. But we should know better. Like Grimm's Fairy Tales (actual title: Children's and Household Tales), our wildly imaginative games are accessible by children, but they also function on a deeper level where adults may unpack metaphorical connections to themes that challenge and captivate us, no matter our age. The melancholy, for example, that casts its shadow over the apparently childlike world of Wind Waker may not be apparent to children, but it's there if you're mature enough to see it.
When those curious academics look back at our fairy tale games, I believe they will recognise Ni no Kuni as a significant achievement. Few games have captured the once-upon-a-time magic and fanciful spirit of fairy tale so completely. Menacing darkness - a mother's death, an abandoned child, and an evil spirit bent on destroying him - underlies a bright enchanted universe of eccentric fairies, cat-kings, and cow-queens. A boy overcomes his fears. A perilous journey is undertaken.
It's fitting that a game written with such obvious reverence for fairy tales itself contains so many good fairy tales. The "Wizard's Edition" of Ni no Kuni comes with a printed copy of the Wizard's Companion — now that I've played it, I can see why people were so upset that the Wizard's Edition hit a production snafu and they might not get their copies. I'd totally pay extra for a copy of the tome from the game. But I'll also settle for the digital version, which I swear I'll read if I can ever stop playing the game long enough.