If you are a parent there is this rare conjunction of planets where you and your child are equally enjoying media together. If they are young the media geared towards them is often boring to the adult and as they reach their teen years nothing you do is cool enough for them. If you time it right Ni No Kuni may be one of those games where you can create these magic moments of parent child harmony. Imagine watching a really great movie, but having it last over a period of 30 hours, this is one of the special things that games with good narratives can do.
Granted that Ni No Kuni and Super Hexagon (my last review) are not the grittiest of video games, but I will get to more grown up fare in later posts. Normally JRPGs (Japanese role-playing games) have a pretty limited audience here in the states, but I think Ni No Kuni has some pretty broad appeal which is why I thought we should discuss it.
One of the reasons that Ni No Kuni is really spectacular is the involvement of Studio Ghibli. For those who are unfamiliar with the output of Ghibli I want you to imagine Disney movies with a darker bent and strong female leads that seem more human than their princess counterparts. These are some of my favorite animated movies, but you should screen them first before showing to young children as Japanese standards are slightly different for children and things that are acceptable there may not be as well received in your household. Don’t be scared though, they have produced some amazing stories, are being distributed in the US by Disney and you really should give them a chance.
Content wise Ni No Kuni looks to be a solid G rating, but the ESRB rating is E10 which means that it is recommended for kids 10 and older. Basically the beginning of the game is pretty sad. If your your or your child can handle the end of Iron Giant or say Old Yeller (for us kids that grew up watching Disney specials on Sundays) you should be in good shape.
What Ni No Kuni really has going for it is a grand sense of wonder. Everything looks hand drawn or painted. The sense of scale is skillfully done and you quickly lose yourself in the beauty of the landscapes, buildings and adorable creatures that you interact with. (Even though sometimes you beat them up and they disappear in a puff of smoke) Battling creatures is easy to pick up and you end up collecting creatures you fight with to be your avatars in a fight, a bit like Pokémon but less irritating. The English voice work is excellent with the exception of your main companion who can become slightly grating, but younger kids probably won’t mind.
I keep mentioning children, but it doesn’t really matter how old you are. The game is simply fun to play. You just have to give up the traditional armaments of war video games and feel confident picking up a wand and using an Sesame Street Ernie look-alike to do your dirty work.
Ni No Kuni is available on the Playstation 3 and can be purchased at most online game retailers and your favorite big box store.
Ni No Kuni Trailer
BONUS: About the Ernie comment, look at the orange guy above. Stick a red nose on him and he is totally Ernie.