“Japanese RPG”, when used nowadays, is a term that makes often makes gamer cringe. This generation of games has not been to kind to the fabled genre that brought us series like Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy, and the Tales series. But worry not, JRPG faithful, Level-5 and Namco Bandai are making sure that Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch brings back all those great joys of 16-bit RPGs with a little help from the friends at Studio Ghibli.
Level-5 should be well known to those of the Professor Layton series on DS, or the Dark Cloud series way back when on the PS2, but their pedigree is nothing to scoff at. Sure, they’re relatively new to the industry as opposed to Square-Enix and other famed Japanese developers, but their quality really shines through in their work. And if the latest demo is anything to show for it, Ni no Kuni really looks to continue that trend of just quality production and storytelling.
Ni no Kuni is one boy’s (Oliver) journey to reclaim his mother (Arie), who recently died saving him. He’s joined by his newly, come-to-life cohort Drippy, who is “Lord High Lord” of the fairies and various other familiars and friends. Ni no Kuni is a parallel world from Oliver’s, so most of the people and creatures he’s meeting are simply alternate versions from his world.
But, as one would imagine in a game like this, it’s never as easy as it seems as the villainous Shadar is out to ensure Oliver’s heart is tainted and he is unable to complete his quest of reviving his mother.
It sounds like a basic premise, nothing to “out of this world, nor changing the game” but let’s be honest, JRPGs rarely are the place to go for that. You go to JRPGs for character driven stories with competent battle structures; and Ni no Kuni has both! With the help of Studio Ghibli’s art, and a unique battle setup, Kuni’s world comes to life, only so you can easily battle and destroy its inhabitants. And it all just looks so glorious in motion. Being that it is localized the lip-synching isn’t top-notch, but the voice acting and animations are just incredible to view. From the anime sequences, to the lush environments and character movements, it’s stunning at times!
For those of you who are sticklers for voice acting, you should know Level-5 have a quality teams behind the Englsih cast, but Japanese voice track is also there for you, so rest easy. The cast and even script oozes personality, and looks to deliver a tale that will continuously pick you up, kick you down, make you weep and then wash, rinse, repeat for your entire journey. Quite frankly, I’m in the mood for that, so I welcome whatever Ni no Kuni can offer, and Studio Ghibli’s involvement only reaffirms my joy.
With a little over a month before its release, Level-5 and Namco Bandai have released a demo over PSN for you to check out two boss battles offered within; each at varying times in the game’s setting. The first is in an area known as the Deep Dark Wood and has you taking down a Forest Guardian in the chapter “An Errand for Old Father Oak”. Unsurprisingly your task is easy (since it IS near the start of the game) but it’s helpful in teaching you several nuances of the combat found within. The real test of challenge comes in its second offering: a chapter entitled “Eruption Interruption” that has Oliver, Drippy, and new cohort Esther, trekking a volcano to prevent its eruption. Once you reach the peak, you and your team face off against Moltan, a fire-cloaked lion who literally climbs from the lava below and can utterly dominate you if you’re unprepared.
Both boss battles offer their own stances on combat, and really help you understand what Ni no Kuni will offer come January next year. Level-5 really has something great in their hands right now, and though the wait has been seemingly too long, it’ll be all too nice to finally sit down with their latest work and see all it as to offer. Look for Ni no Kuni on shelves January 22nd 2013 (January 25th for our European friends), (they will be offering several Ni no Kuni editions for you via various retailers) and check back with Front Towards Gamer for our full review soon enough!
As an added bonus, be sure to check out Paul Neafsey’s interview from NYCC with Namco Bandai’s Dennis Lee as he tells us all about Ni no Kuni: