Every little thing it does is magic
It takes time to realise exactly what makes Ni No Kuni such a special game. Its mechanics are actually fairly rote to anyone whos played a Japanese RPG before, presenting as it does a pleasant mash-up of Dragon Quest and Pokémon the exploration, combat and item crafting of the former, with the monster raising elements of the latter. However, pour some time into it and youll realise that its sheer artistry both visually and narratively makes it far more than the sum of its parts.
The epic journey follows Oliver, a young boy whose sorrow over his mothers death awakens a fairy, Drippy, from his slumber. Together, they cross into a parallel world where magic is real and the inhabitants strangely mirror the folk of Olivers home town. The quest is simple save the linked realities and Olivers mother may be restored to life. Along the way, the inevitable crew that joins up often prove to be interesting subversions of RPG archetypes, each carrying a particular tragedy with them that adds a heartfelt depth to the story beyond the surface sheen.
What a sheen it is though Ni No Kuni is a wonder to behold. Developed in conjunction with Studio Ghibli (Spirited Away, Ponyo), it succeeds in bringing the acclaimed Japanese animation houses gorgeous work to life. The fully animated cut-scenes alone would be cause for applause but even running around the 3D game world, developer Level 5s stunning art direction and cel-shading techniques perfectly replicates the Ghibli style. Wandering the strange and beautiful environments is a feast for the eyes like no other. The score, composed by Joe Hisaishi, also deserves special attention as close to perfect as a suite of game music gets.
An emotional and impactful journey, Ni No Kuni is a superlative effort that is as much of a thrill for animation and movie fans as it is for gamers.