Ni No Kuni is a charming JRPG developed by Level 5, makers of the Professor Layton and Yo-kai Watch games, made in collaboration with the ever wonderful Studio Ghibli, creators of films like My Neighbour Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away and many more.
Set in a parallel world to our own, filled with magic, cute creatures, wizards, fairies and anthropomorphic cat people. You play as Oliver, a child with a penchant for adventure.
Very early on Oliver becomes an orphan. As he mourns his mother he takes solace in trying to save a magical parallel world, and possibly his dear old mum in the process, guided along the way by the ‘Lord High Lord of the Fairies’, Mr. Drippy.
So far characters are interesting, with what feels like a lot of depth yet to be explored. Voice acting is strong in the English dub, and as a Brit it’s a delight to hear a Welsh character, outside of the Welsh/Irish/Scottish mix possessed by all serfdom in typical high fantasy.
The main thrust of the game are the creatures, or familiars, that inhabit the world, along with your taming and battling of them. Familiars are a wizard’s best friend and aid you in battle, coming in many shapes and sizes, with various forms to metamorphose into.
Collecting, training and evolving your familiars is a real pleasure. They all boast unique design, varying skill sets and delightfully punny names.
Boss design is also great, they are all distinct and suit the environment you fight them in perfectly.
It’s these boss fights where the combat system really shows it’s depth: hot-swapping between your defensive/offensive/support familiars when appropriate and dodging larger attacks around the combat area, whilst looking for tells and learning when to defend against big arena-wide attacks.
However, these staged fights also display the holes in Ni No Kuni most prominently. Controlling multiple party members in a snap can be tricky and they can be tremendously stupid when left to their own devices.
Notably, changing to a familiar who is weak to fire on a fire themed boss. Although this is somewhat remedied later in the game with some handy shortcuts.
It’s a small but frustrating niggle which the story is more than able to make up for. With some genuine moments of emotion and hints at a possible twist or two on the horizon my interest is certainly piqued.
Overall, Ni No Kuni is a beautifully presented JRPG, with interesting characters and a stunning world to explore. Creature design is distinct and varied and the storyline can really pull you in, making spending dozens of hours with Oliver and his friends a breeze.