Japanese Role Playing Games have always been a niche genre. Even when they managed to gain some mainstream acclaim they couldn’t stay there for a prolonged period of time. The most famous series in this genre, Final Fantasy, has stayed away from its roots for a while now. The latest installment in the series looks more like a linear action game than a traditional RPG. Fans of this genre were introduced to JRPG’s back in the late 80′s and early 90′s. If you wanted to buy a game that provided hours of gameplay and a story that seemed straight out of a medieval fantasy world you had to shell out some serious cash. A game like Phantasy Star II which was branded as the most advanced game of its time cost at least $74.99, that would probably translate to a $100 dlls game these days (taking in to account inflation). The genre slowly disappeared as years went by. Final Fantasy contributed with this by changing its style and becoming more of a western game in the process. With Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch we finally get a modern JRPG that sticks to the basics and adds graphics and sound that represent the actual era of video games. This is what many fans have been waiting from a Final Fantasy game and have only gotten from games like Last Story and Xenoblade, games that were released for the Wii, a system that is far the powerhouse that the PS3 and Xbox 360 are.
Ni No Kuni tells the story of Oliver, a kid that travels to an imaginary parallel world full of strange characters and settings. I won’t spoil the story by going in to detail, but lets say that all the usual suspects are here. An evil witch, kings, castles, dungeons, monsters, desert worlds, ice lands, fire, etc. Gameplay is a mix between Pokemon (Monster Training) and The “Tales of Symphonia” Series. So you know you are in for a deep gameplay experience that requires you to invest some time leveling up your monsters and learning new more powerful spells. JRPG’s are known for their vast over world maps and Ni No Kuni isn’t the exception giving us one of the most interesting beautiful lands in video game history. This brings me to the graphics. Level 5 teamed up with Academy Award Winner (Spirited Away) Studio Ghibli, famed for its anime style movies and beautiful animations. This gives the game a look that makes you feel as if you were playing a cartoon. To say that this game is gorgeous would be an understatement. Another thing that JRPG’s always brought to the table was great music. Most of the most memorable music in video game history comes from RPG’s. With Ni No Kuni we get famed Anime Music composer Joe Hisaishi to do the job. The thing that makes the soundtrack even more memorable is that it was recorded with a real orchestra (instead of the midi based keyboards we usually get), the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra.
The game screams high production values in every single area giving every JRPG fan what they’ve waited for. Games like Last Story and Xenoblade are great but were released on a dated system. Ni No Kuni on the other hand uses the power of the PS3 and not only gives us a beautiful game, it makes use of its full specs giving us one of the best graphics the system has to offer. The story isn’t half bad either, its engaging, fun and magical, just the right amount of seriousness needed to make the game playable for all ages. Ni No Kuni isn’t easy, it demands the player to fully explore the possibilities it offers and make the best use of them. I’ll go ahead and call Ni No Kuni the game I wanted Final Fantasy XIII to be. Ni No Kuni is a game that no fan of JRPG’s should miss. It may be a little difficult to grasp for Mass Effect and Skyrim fans, but to old school folk, its a blessing of a game. Loved it!