Ollie my boy, We’ve got work to do, Tidy. I would quite happily write a review entitled Drippy: The best side kick ever invented, but I fear alienating some readers.
Ollie has recently lost his mother (No spoiler alert here! Why? Because that fact is made clear in the trailer!) and refuses to leave his room. He, like any young boy in his situation, has found it hard to stop crying into his teddy, a small button moon-esque creature with button eyes and limbs made of rope, until the teddy magically comes to life and immediately tells young Ollie to stop crying and get over the fact that his mum is dead. Drippy is not subtle in any way, shape or form.After a few insults here and there Drippy finally tells Oliver that there is a way to save his mother and to do that he must follow him to his world, something (worryingly) Oliver does with very little questioning.
Welcome to Ni No Kuni, or in it’s purest translation ‘The Another World’. If you haven’t been taken in by the stunning animation so far, the world map will be sure to do the trick. It is a beautiful world full of lush grass, the bluest oceans and the brightest sky. It is a world that every gamer dreams of finding (minus the villainous types) and it has enough secrets to keep you going for a 100 hours or so. From the opening village of Ding Dong Dell to the dreary marshlands of Hamelin, there is never a time where you aren’t captivated by its awe. Just try not to stare so long that you are ambushed by the enemies that crawl the landscapes.
For those of you familiar with Level 5’s other work, Dragon Quest, you will notice a striking familiarity. Almost all of the common enemies are adorable creatures and thankfully any harrowing stress felt about killing them is removed within the first fight when Drippy informs you that you only knock them out. The creatures are separated into 14 different types, ranging from Aquatica (Water) to Vermes (Insects). Early on all of the creatures you encounter will, if close enough, chase you down like you are a truck driver chasing a free steak dinner, but as with all RPG’s every chance to increase your characters level should be met with open arms.
As with more recent RPGs, the turn based system has evolved. You will have a choice of which ‘Familiar’ (more on those in a bit) or character you want to send out in battle; once that decision is made you can then chose a command. Once this command has been issued a small clock appears over that speech bubble and it is unavailable until until the clock has made one full rotation, the speed depending on the level of the command. This doesn’t mean you can’t use your character/familiar, as long as a command is highlighted then it can be used. Better still, the clock only exists for the character in question. If you are tactical enough you should be able chain your moves together via other characters and give the enemies a beating they didn’t see coming. As with a similar monster catching game with a similar system, different type familiars are better against certain opponents, for example an ‘Aquatica’ type will serve you well on ‘ol’ smokey’. The catch here is you cannot send your familiar out and expect them to win the battle for you. They have their own clock that counts down and when it is up your little critter needs to recharge. It is always a good idea to recall them and send out another familiar rather than running around the field and putting more pressure on your allies.
The battle system really is like the off-side rule, it’s overly complicated on paper yet simple to execute. After your first few battles you will feel confident in using the system and getting the best out of your familiars. The familiars are little creatures that can be found out on the world map and in dungeons. They are your army in the war against the hired assassin Shadar. Ollie is a magician not a fighter and when it comes to a lot of the battles in Ni No Kuni he is used for nothing more than healing and grabbing Golden Glims. There is no beating around the bush here, the familiars are very similar to Pokemon. They even have a special stone which can force an evolve although they do not evolve naturally. You have to keep them happy by feeding them, this also increases their stats, and you can also teach them new moves as they level up. There are 450 different familiars, with this figure including all 4 stages of evolution (start – middle – Male/Female), and if you are a platinum trophy hunter you better work on getting them all.
All though this sounds like a carbon copy of Pokemon please don’t be fooled, this is more like dragon quest than anything else, it is a true RPG. It has a wealth of weapons and armour not only for Ollie and his human friends but for the familiars too. There is also an alchemy pot which allows you to create rare and wonderful items and various modes of transport, one of which a friendly dragon that soars through the sky in an awe inspiring manner.
Ni No Kuni is oozing a rich story that is woven between two worlds, it has an orchestral score to match that of the Final Fantasy series and on top of all that it is the first game to use Studio Ghibli’s animation. There are few moments in Ni No Kuni that disappoint, in fact many surprise you and it is worth persevering through even its toughest difficulty spikes and the repetitive nature of the ‘give heart/take heart’ quests. The only thing I could ask for now is a sequel.