Monday, July 14, 2014

Ni No Kuni: Thoughts from 10 hours in.



 Ni No Kuni from Level-5 and Studio Ghibli was released for PlayStation 3 in the west in January 2013, So naturally I am only just now getting to play it....



As the title indicates I'm around 10 hours in, Which was a surprise when I checked because I thought I was maybe 6 or 7. Nope, 10 hours. Which is a significant chunk of game time for me and to do it within four days of acquiring the game is... unusual.
In itself this is a good sign. I am enjoying the game quite a lot, so here are a revolver's worth of bullet point thoughts I've had in my time with the game.

"Why would you do that to your face?"

1: 

Character names. The game gets a hard Fail. Whatever the approval process for the character names is, it is clearly insufficient. The main character "Oliver" is not a good name. Shortening it to "Ollie" doesn't help. It isn't the worst offense however. The facilitator and lead expositor in the game is a fairy called 'Mr Drippy' which... just... What the hell... his character design is also questionable in that he's got an extreme (albeit, useful under the right circumstances I suppose) piece of body modification in the form of a lantern swinging from a loop though the end of his nose. We are not furnished with a reason or motivation why he's had this genuinely unique piercing ( yet... to be fair ). I get that you're bound to run into issues translating a game from one language to another but is Oliver really the best they could do?
 
Ollie the mighty Wizard...

2:

The delivery of exposition through dialog chops and changes between voiced in game render and blocks of text, with no apparent structure for which bits get voices and which don't. One passage had a single spoken sentence between large sections of text dialog. I don't have an issue with reading, that isn't the problem. jumping from one medium to the other is jarring and puts a nice big dent in the immersion of the game. I get the feeling it may have been a disk space issue and they had to take a machete to the voiced sequences in order to cram it all onto the disk, which if true, betrays a lack or care or thought and planning in that step of the process.

Drippy has a very Welsh accent so the text dialog isn't all bad...

3:

The combat system is basically Poke'mon goes Final Fantasy. Which, depending on your tastes, is either awesome or terrible. Despite some small complaints I'm enjoying it so far. The utilization of 'familiars' to do your fighting takes the 'summon' feature from Final Fantasy and put it centre stage, allowing you to capture, develop and equip the little critters you encounter in the parallel world.
Your familiars have many stats that you can upgrade in many ways.

4:

This game is frigging gorgeous. The simplicity of the visual design is deceptively rich and full of warmth. They've managed to successfully balance simple aesthetics and color selection that does not always work well with cell shaded style animation. Avoiding strong black lining was a solid move.

5:

The soundtrack is outstanding.  Performed by the Tokyo philharmonic orchestra, the audio matches the gorgeous visuals for warmth and amplifies the atmosphere magnificently.

World map

6:

On the world map creatures roam about and if they spot you will chase after you and you'll go into combat mode. After a little while of levelling up weaker enemies will spot you and run away, which I thought was cool. I am an amazingly impatient gamer and having to suffer through random encounters where the victory screen and EXP summaries last twice as long as the combat is not a fun time.
You can name this guy, like all familiars, whatever you want.


Despite my minor gripes with a few trivial elements of the game I'm enjoying it immensely, and look forward to hitting 20 hours with the game, at which point we'll come back for Part 2. For now, on to hour 11....

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