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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Review: 'Ni No Kuni' First 10 Hours - #Pokemon Meets 'Wild Arms'

Ni No Kuni is a very large game. With that I've decided to break my review up into several parts, the first one being my experience through the first ten hours.

I've grinded my characters, met the Sheikh of Spice, learned quite a few magic spells, and of course perfected the ability to capture and train Familiars. In this short amount of time I have seen gameplay elements from nearly every great role-playing game to date: The Legend of ZeldaWild Arms, Final Fantasy, and of course Pokemon.

And that's only naming a few. It's been an engrossing, engaging, and epic journey to save the world that I can't wait to continue.

At the ten hour mark my main character is level 21, romping around the desert with his three main Familiars - Turd, Mankey, and Mo Hawken. I have picked up a second character for my party as well, and we are off to the next area. This is going to the third main section of the map and I'm fairly certain I haven't even scratched the surface.

You might be asking yourself why it has taken me ten hours to do virtually nothing, and I completely understand your confusion. When it comes to role-playing games I like to take my time. This genre isn't about button-mashing your way through the next cutscene. It's about finishing NPC errands, touring the world around you, and in the case of Ni No Kuni collecting every freaking creature available.

In every town there is a place called 'Swift Solutions' where you can pick up Bounty Hunts, check on citizen errands, and claim your 'Merit Awards'. These Merit Awards are given to you by completing a 'Merit Stamp Card', which consists of 10 stamps. Think of it like a 'Buy 10 Get 1 Free' stamp card at your local deli, only instead of buying all the salami you're given stamps by completing errands.

Once you have collected 10 stamps you can trade in your Merit Stamp Card(s) for special abilities. These range from being able to walk faster on the world map to having more health drop during battle. I haven't unlocked all of them yet so I'm sure there are more powerful abilities at a later point.

It's these Merit Stamp Cards and town errands that keep dragging me away from my main mission. Especially the recent Bounty Hunts and tasks that require me to capture a specific Familiar. Yes, it's nearly exactly like Pokemon where each enemy you battle has the potential to be captured and trained to fight. If there's a side quest that will give me both Merit Stamps and a new Familiar you can bet your ass I'm going to spend the next while completing it.

Each Familiar you have in your party (up to three at this point) levels up two ways: experience points gained from battle and by eating food in the 'Creature Cage'. This is a menu option that lets you feed your Familiars and eventually metamorphose into new, stronger creatures. Just keep in mind that when you decide to upgrade them they will drop to level 1, though once leveled again they are insanely stronger than their previous version.

At the level 10 mark I have 25 percent of the 'Wizards Companion' complete, 13 percent of the 'Creature Compendium' complete, 12 percent 'Task' completion, one 1/100 'Hidden Treasures' found, and still haven't unlocked 2 other categories.

To say Ni No Kuni is a massive game wouldn't be doing it justice. What's pulled me in even stronger than the tight gameplay, side quests, and Familiar capturing however are the graphics. Ni No Kuni is stunning. By far one of the best looking role-playing games I've ever played. Now keep in mind it's a different type of art, not to be compared with other greats like Final Fantasy XIII. If you've ever played Wind Waker you'll understand (and most likely appreciate) the art direction.

Nearly every area looks and feels completely different, whether it be in the middle of an arid desert or within the fertile ground of Golden Grove. Character animations are equally crisp, with the English localization also being top notch. It's very obvious that Level-5 and Studio Ghibli put a lot of time and effort into making a product they would be proud of.

I'll hopefully go more into the battle system in the next update. As of right now all I have learned is that it's a combination between active and turn-based, you can switch lead characters by simply pressing 'L1' which is also the same button used to send in another Familiar, HP and MP pick-me-ups drop randomly in battle, and each creature has an elemental weakness. I'm right on the verge of really understanding the ins-and-outs of the system. While I'm not quite there yet, I have managed to finish a few battle flawlessly and when it works it absolutely works.

Until next time my friends!
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