Review by nedley09
If you're a fan of classic, time-consuming, grinding role-playing experiences, and you're not excited right now, you need to work on that because Ni no Kuni will blow you away with its visuals and storyline.
From the moment this game starts, it is impossible to forget how beautiful this game looks and how well the characters are designed. The first half hour - which is almost entirely non-interactive cut scenes - has the same emotional impact that Final Fantasy VII spent almost its entire run-time building up to. I don't want to ruin anything in this game because this is one that players should play without knowing what happens first.
There are very few games that look as good as Ni no Kuni. It's simply astounding how faithfully the game recreates Studio Ghibli trademark style through the in-game visuals. There are so many small touches that further elevate the game, like how miserable Oliver looks when he's shivering in the snow wearing normal clothes. The top notch animation really helps sell you on the characters' humanity. What makes the game so powerful is a combination of things. The characters are so beautifully designed and animated that it's so easy to sympathize with them. The character behaviors are so believable and full of life. The dialogue is very well written and paced just perfectly.
Each character has vastly different statistics and skills sets, and can be further customized by feeding them treats and equipping them with weapons. The hero himself, Oliver, is quite weak in combat, but is the only one who can use items and cast powerful magic. The trick here is that players can only have one familiar or Oliver in battle at any single time.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of Ni no Kuni is the Wizard's Companion--an in-game book you have to consult frequently in order to solve puzzles or learn about enemies. It serves as a great way to immerse you in the world, and you'll find yourself wishing you had a physical copy on hand because it's simply amazing how well it is designed.
The stamina system plays an important role in battles. Each Familiar runs on a stamina meter when active on the battlefield, and you have to switch between them to give them time to recharge. This adds more tension when in combat, but it's never frustrating as you're always given a fair warning to avoid a mishap.
It's a linear story with some optional side quests for bounties or helping out townsfolk with their day-to-day problems. Each town has more powerful equipment to buy than the last, and players will use each town as a base to attack a handful of story dungeons from, before being directed to the next town. There's some nice puzzles scattered throughout the towns and dungeons to break up the combat, too, which helps keep environments interesting and encourages players to explore. Once you hit a certain stage in the game, you acquire a companion, too, at which point the battle system develops even more depth and subtlety which makes the game even more interesting.
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Product Release: Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (US, 01/22/13)
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