Ni no Kuni or: How I Learned to Stop Moping and Play the Game

Ni No Kuni worldI wasn’t sure that I would be picking up Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch or not.  It had nothing to do with a lack of interest and everything to do with the fact that I couldn’t get the Wizard’s Edition of the game, which left a rather sour taste in my mouth and a large pit in my stomach. If you don’t really care about any of this then just skip down to my impressions of the game.

I should probably try to explain some things first, at least the best that I can.  Originally Ni no Kuni was a Nintendo DS game, which never left Japan. In it you played a young wizard and utilized the touch screen to draw spell glyphs.  In order to help you with this task each game came with a really neat wizard’s companion book that featured tons of info ranging from spell symbols, familiars, items, alchemy, etc. You pretty much needed to use it all the time.  This concept actually resonated with me rather well. I liked the idea of needing to consult your wizard manifesto in order to learn things and solve puzzles.  It kind of gave me the same vibe I got from old copy-protection manuals for Quest for Glory games. Most people probably didn’t care for that but I really dug it.

Read more for my early impressions of Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch!

Any-who, fast forward some time later and the game is remade for PS3, only this time there is no wizard’s companion book and you don’t draw spells. Instead you just pick them off a menu and the book is represented in a cumbersome digital format and only grants you pages of it throughout the game.  However the Wizard’s Edition of the game, for $40 more, came with the beautifully bound wizard’s companion book and some other crap I don’t care so much about (i.e. soundtrack, coin, plush toy, dlc). But that book… I wanted it so badly.  The thing looks gorgeous. I mean, seriously, google it or something — the thing is awesome. The experience may not have been quite the same as with the original game but it was the closest I would get without importing the DS version and learning to read “moonspeak.”  Is that offensive?  I’m not sure, maybe I shouldn’t say that. Google doesn’t really seem any help.

So back to what I was saying… The Wizard’s Edition.  Like all collector’s versions of games it sells out incredibly early and fast, which really pisses me off. However some time a few weeks ago I checked the Namco Bandai store and lo, the WIZARD’S EDITION WAS BACK IN STOCK.  I was flipping the math out. Unfortunately things took a nosedive from there. I waited too long to put my order in (a whole 10 minutes) and the damn thing sold out. Apparently they were gone within a 3 hour period, along with my desire to play this game.  It seems petty, I know, but I tend to be an all or nothing kind of person. Would I have loved to get my hands on that cool book? Yeah. Would it have ended up buried in a bucket with all my other collector’s swag? Sure. Would I have regretted plunking down $40 just for a book? Maybe, I don’t know, but I still wanted that damn thing and even still do.  It still ticks me off that I don’t have it.

So fast forward some time, about a day or so before the game comes out. Still no more Wizard Editions, unless you want to pay 3-5 times as much on ebay or try and import an European copy. Yeah, no thanks.  Eventually I came around and decided to just get the game anyway because I really didn’t have anything better to do. I knew the game was still going to be good, even without my wizards companion book.

ni no kuniGame Impressions

The first thing you notice about the game is how neat it looks. You don’t have to be an anime fanatic to appreciate how nice the art style is, but I guess it must help as the game’s marketing does everything in it’s power to let you know that Studio Ghibli worked on the game. Does that mean something to you? Apparently they made all of those “great” anime movies that get localized over here like Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, etc. I’m not implying any kind of derogatory assessment when I put quotes around the word “great”, it’s just that I have no idea. I’ve never seen any of those before.  My anime knowledge extends as far as Pokemon and Yu-gi-oh. But yeah, the game looks fantastic. They managed to capture the anime art style really well in the game, which I haven’t really seen done as well before.

Ni no Kuni is a JPRG, or Japanese RPG. “Oh, no duh,” you are thinking. It’s also kinda a genre of RPGs, though.  Or isn’t, depending on who you ask. Personally, I think it is, and anything that play similar to these kind of games gets the JRPG label slapped on it. The game borrows several concepts from Pokemon. Along with casting spells the main character can summon familiars into battle. You can catch new familiars, raise their level/stats, bond with them, store them in a container that conveniently shrinks them to the right size, learn new abilities, and even evolve into new forms.  Yeah, it seems to be very “inspired” by pokemon.

The battle system isn’t really turn based, though. Supposedly it’s akin to Final Fantasy XII, but as my brother would probably be the first to tell you: “Graev never played FFXII. He has it. It’s on his shelf. He made me run out on Halloween night to get it, but he has never touched it.” Yeah well, I’m getting to it, okay? So back on track now… When you encounter an enemy on the field or in a dungeony area you enter into combat with them. You can either play as Oliver (The main character) or a familiar.  You actually need to switch out familiars over time when their stamina gauge runs out. Depending on who is out you get a list of actions you can perferm like ATTACK or DEFEND or MAGIC or some kind of special ability. Movement and actions are all handled in real-time. It’s essentially like an MMO. You pick what you want to do and your guy does it. Or like Xenoblade.  Or, apparently, FFXII.

Ni No KuniI’m only 3 or 4 hours in but I’m really enjoying myself. There are also a lot of side quests, from what I hear. Enough to about double the length of the game if you want to do them all. The story is fairly generic. Young kid who is destined to save the world and all that. However it’s presented in an interesting way and all of the characters so far are very interesting. The art style and use of actual bright color (shocking, right?) seems to polarize people. A lot like it, but some find it kiddy and can’t get past their insecurities. It deffinately isn’t a kiddy game, though. It can get a little difficult at times and some of the content matter is more serious than you would think. I mean, the kid’s mom dies and it causes him to set off on a mission to save her soul. What? Don’t give me that look; it’s the basic premise of the game. It happens within the first five minutes. It’s on the back of the damn box, cripes. It’s not a spoiler if it’s used in the game’s marketing, people.

So yeah, in summation: Fun game, great art style, lots of content.

I still want my Wizard’s Book, though. (Insert saddest emoticon you can think of)

  • A lot of the people who actually managed to get their orders in with the restock got emails last night saying the Wizard Edition was oversold and that their orders had to be cancelled, because there are no more left. Pretty much anyone who ordered later than 10 minutes after the restock got the cancellation e-mail. It sounds like they really only had a dozen or so left to be “restocked” when they put it up.

    There’s a huge demand for the Wizard Editions, I think more than Bandai was expecting. It’d be stupid of them not to do a second run, even if it only includes the plushy and the books (the soundtrack, DLC, coin, etc. were part of their obnoxiously stupid “Ninostarter” campaign which they hardly advertised).

    Still, glad you’re enjoying the game. Can’t wait for my copy. I know there’s some scanned copies of the Wizard Companion appearing online now, you could always try printing them out and sticking them in a binder to give yourself a mock physical version.

  • @TheRedComet

    I heard that they sold like 200+ units to some ebay seller named playcanada or something, and in turn they are putting them up at a 400% markup.

  • It might look child friendly, but I doubt a young child can finish this game.
    I heard the difficulty gets quite hard around 2/3 into the game.

    Looks really interesting to me. Glad you enjoy it.

  • I didn’t know about the DS version, Graev! I now feel cheated, because that’s -exactly- what I’ve been wanting either on the DS, Wii, or heck the Wii U! Why they haven’t done some kind of “Rune” or spell-drawing system for a game yet is beyond me. They have the -perfect- systems for it! Arrgh! *hair pull*

  • I’m still kicking myself for missing the first run…I hesitated and then completely forgot about the website preorder.

    The bad thing is that positive word of mouth will keep driving up the price, I shoulda just ordered a pal version on eBay for $220. It’s gone and now they are up at $300-400. =(

    Anyhow, I feel your pain. Good luck on finding one.

  • I’m glad you were able to enjoy this game even without nabbing the wizardry edition, Graev. I’m surprised to hear that you haven’t seen any of Studio Ghibli’s works! Princess Mononoke was one of the reasons I fell in love with anime and is, in my opinion, one of the only pieces of that culture worth watching dubbed, due to the high quality voice-over work. But in retrospect, it does tend to drag on a bit; I tried watching it with my girlfriend recently and we weren’t able to finish it, on account of her falling asleep, multiple times. Instead, I would definitely recommend Howl’s Moving Castle if you ever have a moment and the inclination to watch a Studio Ghibli movie!

  • Cyprus, you should check out Lost Magic. It is (I think) exactly what you wished for.

    After playing LM and reading about NNK coming for the DS, I had my hopes high. But the lack of an (for me) European release was a kick in the teeth. Even though I was planning to pre-order the Wizard’s Edition since half december, I never got to it untill it was too late :x.

    Not sure if I’m willing to grind my face off if I am to believe some reviews :x.

  • Wait, I’m confused. I fully admit I haven’t been playing close attention to the entire development process, but you make it clear here that you are saying the PS3 is a port or remake of the DS version, which is totally wrong from what I remember. They were two completely separate games. Back in like, 2008 or 2009 they announced the PS3 version originally, then later in development sometime they announced they were going to make a DS AND a PS3 version, and they would be using different teams and crafted in different ways, each unique to their own system.

    The DS version was certainly released first, but the PS3 version is certainly not a remake, and in fact has been in development for a LOT longer than the DS version even.

  • Like I said, I tried to explain things the best I could, at least by how I understood them.

    The PS3 version wasn’t even announced until two years after the DS version was. Of course they wouldn’t be the exact same game, seeing as they are on two very different pieces of hardware, but as far as I know they both tell the same story, abliet in different ways. Seeing as you can’t port a DS game to PS3 how is it wrong to say that it was remade for PS3? And nowhere did I say or imply a port, so you might want to slow down on your reading.

    In the end what does it really matter, though? Seems like an odd thing to get hung up on.