Ni No Kuni was a game I heard was absolutely incredible in 2013 if you were a fan of traditional RPGs. Now I’ve probably only played from start to finish a handful of RPGs, most of them being Konami’s cult favorite Suikoden series. I’ve never played a Final Fantasy game other then the first two on Gameboy Advane, so I know nothing about Cloud, Aerith, or any of those other spikey haired characters. Kingdom Hearts 1.5 Final Remix was the last RPG I had played before Ni No Kuni and I had a mixed reaction to that, so I wasn’t already with a good attitude when it came to RPGs when I started Ni No Kuni. And low and behold when I started Ni No Kuni, it was slow, boring, and slightly frustrating which threw me off the first 10 hours or so when I was so swamped during the school year. But when summer started I sucked it up and tried another go at it when I had more time. 40 hours later, my mind had completely shifted and Ni No Kuni is definitely one of the greatest RPGs I’ve ever played and I’m the best part is I’m not even close to being done with it.
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The Gameplay’s Slow Start into the Strong Finish
Ni No Kuni starts fairly grueling. Like I said, the first 10 hours were primarily fetch quests and annoying boss battles riddled with slow pacing due to the game teaching you how to play. There was a lot of introduction to the world, a sense of lonliness, traveling by foot, and an annoying grinding system. But like most RPGs, you soon get companions, a fast travel system, and shortcuts to annoying parts of combat. As soon as those kicked in, the game became incredibly pleasing and fun to run around in. Grinding becomes a blast, side quests are a treat, and there’s time to really explore and appreciate the mystical world built aronnd you.
The Visuals and Music Were Phenomenal
Hiyao Miyazaki, best known for his work in the animation studio, Studio Ghibli, had a hand in this incredible game and his dedication to magical worlds is apparent in the setting of this game. His trademark visual style and commitment to hand drawn animated sections riddle this game giving a sense of nostalgia to those who appreciate his films like My Neighbor Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Spirited Away. The worlds are magical and so well done, you become completely immersed in the level of detail the studio Level 5 poured into this game. When you enter a snowy town, you walk around shivering and frosted breath coming out of your mouth. When you’re around a volcano, you’re breathing heavy and your eyes are squinted when around the lava. The backgrounds of towns and dungeons are alive and glistening with wetness or jewels. The monsters and NPCs are simple, but unique and memorable.
And then don’t even get me started on the music. RPGs normally have incredible and memorable music, but Ni No Kuni makes you feel epic, childish, nostalgic, heartbroken, and heroic at the swing of a screen. It helps the contrast of a scorching desert town to a lush forest to an eerie swamp all the more vibrant and colorful.
The Story is Kinda What I Wanted Kingdom Hearts to Be
The story is kind of about how the pure heartedness of a boy can conquer all. Having only played Kingdom Hearts 1 on PS3, it’s a similar tone where the concept of ‘heart’ is a reoccuring and important theme in the game. I’ve heard Kingdom Hearts 2 gets more complex and focuses on the ideals of heart more than the first one, but Ni No Kuni really drives in the concept of how important heart is. When you’re not fighting monsters, you’re helping those in the world regain a part of their heart that makes them function. Restoring courage, love, ambition, and restraint are important and Oliver, the story’s main character is naive and lovable enough to jump on the simple concept. In addition to that, the story is epic and large in scope. You’re trying to save the world from darkness. The villains and you initially think, ‘how can this boy save the world’, but as you progress in the game, you see the ideals Oliver has that makes you really believe he is meant to save the world. Admittingly there aren’t any Game of Thrones or Suikoden levels of betrayal or jaw dropping moments that other RPGs have been known to drop, but Ni No Kuni has enough of other RPG staple elements like colorful NPCs and frightening villains to make due.
This Game is Pretty Much Pokemon
The sheer variety in this game is ridiculous. There are over a 100 of ‘familiars’ to ‘catch’ and fight for you. They evolve, you can pamper them, and you can equip them with items to boost their stats. Some are tanks, others are magic users, others have high attack speed but low defense. With being able to switch out up to 9 different familiars in one battle, the variety is incredibly rewarding to set yourself up with the optimum team. How you want to play is up to you, whether you like having a familiar that can deal 500+ damage in one punch but has the accuracy of landing every 1/5 punches or a fast attack speed familiar that hits for 100 damage that can 5/5 punches. The game makes you switch out familiars after a certain time, so having one OP familiar doesn’t help you in long boss fights. The familiar system is complex, with some familiars leveling faster at early levels and slowing down with others needing to be leveled to near end game for them to really start becoming strong. The strong guys I had in the beginning started falling off in the late game and the weak guys I had in the beginning were carrying me towards the end. Grinding to make a familiar you like but that isn’t that strong is fun and never feels too repetitive or annoying. In fact, it’s one of the stronger and rewarding parts of the game where your initially weak familiar becomes your last successful resort in battles.
The Insane Game Length
I’ve put over 45 hours in completing the main story and it looks like I have another 15 hours to finish all the side quests and post game missions. The game has so much for you to accomplish and I’ve read that obtaining the Platinum 100% trophy can require over 80 hours of gameplay. This game length shouldn’t be too surprising for veteran RPG players, who know the average length to a meaty RPG can average about 50 hours or so. After completing the main story, I have temporarily stopped because I need to fit in some other games, but fully intend on coming back to complete the more obscure quests and fight some endgame bosses.
If you’ve played an RPG you love recently, let me know in the comments. The game has to be really good if I’m to invest X amount of hours in it.I’ve heard Child of Light is pretty good and short. Should I really play FF7 despite knowing the crazy twist ending? I’m currently playing Knights of the Old Republic at a slow but advancing pace.