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The stuff of fairy tales
January 31, 2013 6:35 AM   Subscribe

Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is the first major video game to be developed by the legendary animation house Studio Ghibli (previously). Reviews are mostly ecstatic, with praise for its music and graphics. And Brainy Gamer speculates that, like Zelda and The Elder Scrolls before it, the game will be remembered because of its connection to the "perilous realm" that J.R.R. Tolkien described.
posted by jbickers (34 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Just to be clear, Ghible didn't "develop" the game as that word is typically used. They contributed art, but the game was designed by Level 5 and is firmly a Level 5-type RPG, just with really nice animation and music by Joe Hisaishi.
posted by selfnoise at 6:50 AM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mmm. The Escapist's review basically said it falls victim to all of the typical JRPG design issues and is basically for hardcore JRPG fans:
I love grinding. I really do. There's something inherently pleasing about gradually getting stronger and more adept in battle, about seeing those stats edge further and further towards godliness. Many JRPGs require grinding, but Ni no Kuni turns it into a chore, a thankless slog that kills your momentum. Ni no Kuni clings ferociously to every worn-out JRPG trope it can possibly think of - excessive grinding, slow pace, idiotic heroes - and then wraps it all in truly beautiful artwork and character design. Hardcore JRPG fans will love Ni no Kuni despite its clunky quirks, and the game has just enough going for it that almost anyone will enjoy playing for a little while.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:56 AM on January 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, Game Informer wasn't too thrilled about it either, I think they gave it a 7/10.
posted by Brocktoon at 7:00 AM on January 31, 2013


After having a kid you develop the understanding that there are fundamentally two kinds of games, irrespective of genre: the kind you will play half of and then give up on, and the kind you will play 10% of and then occasionally glance at the box in wistful despair. JRPGs are definitely the second kind.
posted by selfnoise at 7:03 AM on January 31, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm about 6 hours in, and I'm *loving* it. The art and story are absolutely beautiful; considering how often JRPGs use cutscenes as your reward, it helps that the cutscenes are really, really good. My big surprise was that the combat is fun and interesting---it starts out oppressively simple, but by hour 3 or so, it ramps up into a very fast-paced series of interesting choices. It's definitely a JRPG, and if you hate JRPGs, you won't like the grinding, but if you like any JRPGs, you're likely to enjoy this one.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:07 AM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


This sounds like a game made directly from my dreams: the team behind Dragon Quest VIII making an unforgivably old-school JRPG with modern touches, wrapped around the gorgeous music of Joe Hisaishi and the otherworldly, magical Studio Ghibli aesthetic. There hasn't been a JRPG world I've wanted to get lost in so thoroughly and spend hundreds of hours in for about a decade (I think yeah, DQVIII was the last one.) The Dark Souls, Mass Effects and Elder Scrolls of the world have definitely triumphed, but I have hope that this is a return to form for the genre. I'm not worried about grindiness: Level-5 has proven time and time again that they know engaging JRPG design better than anyone.
posted by naju at 7:11 AM on January 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm more impressed by dragons dogma and the dark souls style emerging from Japan. (Though DS was stupidly difficult for my clumsy self and required way too much commitment)

I just can't stand stories with squeaky voiced bobble headed children. And the extremely abstracted turn based Rock Paper Scissors battles leave me scratching my head. Seems like I'm in the minority though.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 7:46 AM on January 31, 2013


But does the game allow you to immediately skip all story cutscenes & dialogue, ideally even on first viewing? This is my litmus test for all Japanese games with lots of story. If it doesn't, I don't care how highly acclaimed it is, no dice.
posted by Bwithh at 8:15 AM on January 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


I love the art style of this game and I can even deal with the super sugar coated story line. But my god man, every time I think I want to play a JRPG I'm quickly reminded as to why I don't.

I enjoy the battle systems. I do. But why oh why does it have to be so repetitive? Every single fight has the same exact music and animations. And of course, there are lots and lots of fights. Ready? Fight! Laaa la laaa NICE! Laaa de deeee Phew! That's done! Yay! Take a few steps.... Ready? Fight! Laaa la laaa NICE! Laa de deee Phew! over and over and over and over and over again and again and again! THE SAME THING.

I just don't get it. I want to enjoy it because it can actually be fun. But what kind of numb state of mind do you have to get in to play this crap for hours at a time? Weed is not enough.
posted by Ululator at 8:19 AM on January 31, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm six hours in (about) and having a blast. The Escapist's review is totally off-base so far, but I do have a lot of game left. It might get worse.

Grinding isn't a chore because the combat mechanics pretty fun and dynamic, especially if you try new familiars and don't just do the same shit every battle. Boss fights especially are awesome. And when I think of grinding, I think of having to hit a bunch of random encounters to level up enough to get past a huge obstacle. Haven't run into this yet. I've been fighting battles as they come, not seeking out extra or trying to avoid any, and the difficulty's been level so far.

The pace drags a little, but it isn't bad.
posted by mean cheez at 8:46 AM on January 31, 2013


JRPG combat is often repetitive but I love the hell out of it when it's done right. It's hard to defend in a rational way. Part of it is just that I grew up immersed in the genre and it feels like 'going home' to the classic games I loved, which is an experience that I find ever more valuable in these days where modern gaming and its culture often seems completely foreign to me. Part of it is that there's a unique rhythm to JRPG exploration and combat that I find strangely calming. Part of it is that the limitations and narrow restrictions of JRPG conventions are made to be fucked with, and the way designers subvert mechanics and create new engaging elements out of old ideas is part of the fun. And part of it is the feeling of slow, tangible, earned progress - after spending an interminable time leveling up on weaker enemies, there's a rush to facing a huge, difficult boss, and overcoming it through that earned leveling up of your character and through learning every single inch of the strategy and mechanics involved. Great JRPG boss battles often take 30+ hours to start showing up, but there's nothing else in gaming that compares to them. I guess I'm a sucker for delayed gratification. Though one game idea I would love to see tried out would be like an RPG version of Shadow of the Colossus - basically, leveling up is done in the course of non-combat gameplay, and the only battles you fight are epic, giant boss battles.
posted by naju at 9:23 AM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm glad to read the comments here supporting the game. I was going to get it because Hey! Ghibli! And I've never succeeded in playing a JRPG. Then I read The Escapist review and got all bummed because it seems to just reiterate all the reasons I've never succeeded in playing a JRPG. But then again Hey! Ghibli!

The Metacritic score is 87, which is quite good (top 10%, roughly).

This kind of game is so out of fashion in the US, it seems a minor miracle that it got a US release at all. I'm sort of waiting for it to come down from the $60 list price.
posted by Nelson at 9:26 AM on January 31, 2013


So, I had always thought that the beautiful, strange, hard to describe Wonder Project J series had been Ghibli-stamped long before this, but some quick Google research is making me wonder if that's actually just a rumor that gained traction because the imitation of the art style is so perfect. Still, those games are really, ridiculously pretty and very close in spirit to Ghibli films.

This thing looks beyond wonderful, though. I don't know if games will ever be ready for something like this, but I'd love to see a fully Ghibli produced, relatively nonviolent, relatively antagonist-less, relatively conflict-free adventure game some day.
posted by byanyothername at 9:36 AM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


This looks like the kind of thing I really want to buy used, but with the Ghibli involvement I'm not entirely sure the price is going to go the right direction.

fully Ghibli produced, relatively nonviolent, relatively antagonist-less, relatively conflict-free adventure game

That would be fantastic. On the other hand, imagine Studio Ghibli teaming up with Vanillaware to make a Mononoke Hime game.
posted by darksasami at 10:33 AM on January 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


It is essentially a JRPG-ass JRPG so if you're not down with the conventions and cliches of those, I don't think the Ghibli involvement is going to be enough to make you enjoy it. Having said that, I'd say it's the best traditional (which sidesteps the dark/demon souls/dragon's dogma stuff) JRPG I've played of the ps3/xbox360 generation (leaving out Wii and DS/Vita because I don't own those).

Also the localization is very well done. And exceedingly punny. Each pokemon familiar you get, you can name, and the game will offer you 4 suggested names all of which are punny riffs on the critter's species name.
And there is a boss called "Porco Grosso"

It's not an understatement to say that I thought I had "grown out of" traditional jrpgs until I started playing this. I'm totally loving it.
posted by juv3nal at 10:43 AM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh I'm about 25 hours in and have done a fair amount of grinding, but I've also been ignoring the next plot point because I want to do grinding, so that's not really indicative of how necessary grinding is to proceed.
posted by juv3nal at 11:09 AM on January 31, 2013


This multi commenting is getting silly, but I should note that if you are inclined to like grinding in the slightest, the game makes it really easy to keep wanting to do it because you're keeping a full active set of 3 characters plus 3 familiars per character so pretty much after every second fight someone is levelling up (assuming you're fighting things that you're not way overpowered for).
posted by juv3nal at 11:13 AM on January 31, 2013


I'm about 20 hours in and enjoying it quite a bit, which is a good sign for a JRPG. It was slow going at first. Early on the game seems to be confused at who it's aimed at. The first few hours, with all the tutorial breaks, was spent frequently muttering, "Just get on with it." The tutorials come off like my first JRPG but end up being too simple to teach a newbie to beat the first two bosses. The difficulty jumps from vanilla mobs to boss mobs are huge, which means that you've got to do a little grinding and I feel like I'm dying a bit more fighting bosses than recent JRPGs I've played (even more than the early stages of Persona 3/4).

But, like juv3nal, I'm cool with the grinding because the familiars change it up a lot. Also, the merit card system, which is basically short fetch quests or field map bounty hunts, keeps things interesting. I haven't moved from a town yet without completing all of them and grabbing the resulting battle/exploration buffs.

The art is beautiful. There are moments when the light is right that it's indistinguishable from a Ghibli cartoon. Thus far the story is pretty engaging, the characters are lovable. I'm constantly reminded of Skies of Arcadia, which is one of my favorite JRPGS, because I find myself wanting these people to succeed, especially this naive little kid who just wants to, well... yeah... that's a bit spoilery and a whole bunch of sad.

I have a feeling about where this story is going and I wonder how much of a downer the ending is going to be.
posted by eyeballkid at 11:36 AM on January 31, 2013


Oh, and I'm kicking myself for not getting in on the collector's edition (wanted to play this game since I got my hands on it at E3 last year) because that hardcover Wizard's Companion must be sweet.
posted by eyeballkid at 11:40 AM on January 31, 2013


Wow, this sounds like something worth dusting off and hooking up the PS3 for. (And if I'm going to do that I might as well go ahead and buy Journey and Braid and all those other PS3-only games I've been avoiding buying... dangit.)
posted by rhiannonstone at 11:50 AM on January 31, 2013


traditional (which sidesteps the dark/demon souls/dragon's dogma stuff) JRPG I've played of the ps3/xbox360 generation (leaving out Wii and DS/Vita because I don't own those).

Those are action games.

I gave up on JRPGs after I discovered Baldur's Gate 2 allowed me to make choices both in and out of combat.
Tim Rogers makes the point that the battle systems were originally a placeholder for action that the early systems couldn't handle, so why keep the placeholder? JRPGS have such unengaging gameplay unless they do something different, like Resonance of Fate or World Ends With You.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 1:50 PM on January 31, 2013


That would be fantastic. On the other hand, imagine Studio Ghibli teaming up with Vanillaware to make a Mononoke Hime game.

I am drooling now. Seriously, did you play Muramasa? The cooking/cuisine aspect was absolutely my favorite thing to do in the game. Muramasa is the only game I've ever played where your character cooking and eating is actually pleasurable. I also loveloveloved the cooking minigame in Suikoden 2 and I wish more games would do stuff like this.
posted by byanyothername at 1:57 PM on January 31, 2013


I'm about to start the game now. Some interesting recommendations from Gameological (can anyone comment on Japanese vs English voices?):

Do yourself a favor. As soon as you start playing Ni No Kuni, go into the options menu and turn off the little indicator that tells you where to go next. Turn off the hints, too. And while you’re at it, you might want to have this role-playing game, ported over from Japan, speak to you in its native tongue with English subtitles instead of the soap opera-emotive overdubbing. Ni No Kuni wants to whisk you away into the unfamiliar... It’s a magical game that slowly extends its hand. Take it.
posted by naju at 2:49 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


can anyone comment on Japanese vs English voices
If you speak/understand Japanese, I guess it's a legitimate option, but for me, if it's down to a choice between listening versus reading subtitles, I'd rather listen so I can pay attention to the pretty things going on onscreen.
posted by juv3nal at 3:07 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ululator: "... every time I think I want to play a JRPG I'm quickly reminded as to why I don't ... over and over and over and over and over again and again and again! THE SAME THING."

Can't emphasize how much I agree. I don't know about Ni No Kuni, but if it has a random battle system where you can't see a physical manifestation of whatever you're about to face and the game requires grinding to overcome a boss, I don't see a difference between it and the hundreds of JRPGs past, just in a Ghibli skin.

I don't own a PS3 so I reserve the right to be completely and utterly wrong, but from what I've seen of the game it at least seems like so many of its predecessors.

This ties into the recently released FFVII redux and its addition of a newly added "max everything out" feature. I myself am guilty of having done this in one form or another in several games where I found the regular gameplay elements (like combat) incredibly repetitive and boring and I just wanted to take in the world, the atmosphere, the characters, and most importantly the story to see how it all plays out.

And then of course there's games which are incredibly repetitive in which the activity they ask you to perform is deep, ripe with possibilities as to how the completion of said activity is arrived at.. just overall giving me more options to complete the activity without having to minmax like someone suffering from OCD.
posted by pyrex at 3:50 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm at about 25 hours in, and the only grindy thing I have been doing is seeking out and fighting the same enemies over and over to get them as familiars. Even then, that's only because I choose to (or because of a side-quest).

pyrex: I don't know about Ni No Kuni, but if it has a random battle system where you can't see a physical manifestation of whatever you're about to face and the game requires grinding to overcome a boss, I don't see a difference between it and the hundreds of JRPGs past, just in a Ghibli skin.

You can see an enemy before you get into a fight. It's usually very easy to avoid them if you don't feel like a brawl, and (this delighted me) once you're strong enough that the battles become easy, the enemies run away from you (but most are easy to chase down, if you want). Also, I've never had to grind to be able to beat a boss, but I'm the type of player who throughly explores an area at the soonest opportunity, so I might be naturally getting more XP than the average player.

I don't have that much experience with JRPGs (mostly Final Fantasy and Tales games). Most FFs drive me crazy after a while, Tales games are less frustrating, and Ni No Kuni is the least frustrating of any JPRG I've ever played. (And nearly all of the frustration with Ni No Kuni comes from the AI being downright moronic in boss fights.)

Also, anyone playing this who didn't get the super-special-awesome edition, I'd recommending getting the .pdf of the Wizard's Companion. (Link to Google Doc. Warning: 400 MB file.) Yes, it's available in-game, but it's so much easier to be able to reference it while doing stuff in the game.
posted by Silly Ashles at 4:23 PM on January 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


I really would like to play this and Journey, but I don't own a PS3 and can't justify spending $250 just to play these games. I wish there were a way to solve that problem, short of camping out at a friend's house for several dozen hours of gameplay.
posted by yellowcandy at 8:16 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


I really would like to play this and Journey, but I don't own a PS3 and can't justify spending $250 just to play these games. I wish there were a way to solve that problem, short of camping out at a friend's house for several dozen hours of gameplay.

Yeah between this, Journey, Uncharted and Demons Souls I kinda regret choosing an Xbox.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 8:20 PM on January 31, 2013


Due to problems in translation of the magic book, there are currently no plans to localize the Nintendo DS version.

From the wiki. Sigh. I love good RPGs but I also love hand-helds and not having this on a 3DS is disappointing.
posted by Fizz at 6:36 AM on February 6, 2013


Demons Souls is probably better on PC w/an xbox controller anyway. For resolutions above 720p via DSFix if nothing else. (Provided you can connect your PC to your TV, if you want to play on the couch).
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:38 AM on February 6, 2013


D'oh! Demon's Souls is the first game, and is not on PC, Dark Souls is the second, and is (which is what the fix is for).
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:33 PM on February 6, 2013


The Death of Romance in the Shadow of the Colossus
posted by homunculus at 8:36 PM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Homunculus, that essay probably deserves its own FPP.

I don't usually watch Let's Plays, but I suspect that will be the only and perhaps best way to experience Ni No Kuni.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 8:45 PM on February 15, 2013


Go for it. I don't think I'm the right person to post it since I haven't played the game yet. :(
posted by homunculus at 9:03 PM on February 15, 2013


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