Friday, February 8, 2013

Ni no Kuni is bringing the airship back

"I want an airship in my game. Not an airship where you just select where you want to go, but one you can actually move around the world in." This was my husband's one stipulation about what an RPG should have. After a bit of discussion, I wasn't sure if such a game existed this-gen (although I think Tales of the Abyss has one). I remember googling "airship JRPG" to try to find a JRPG with whole-world exploration, and not being able to find one (it's not the most searchable topic... so please comment with your favorite explorable JRPGs).

So you can imagine how we've been enjoying Ni no Kuni, the JRPG that incorporates some aspects of old-school design (including a way to explore the world aerially), while at the same time making the genre highly accessible.

And by "accessible," I mean, "a good introduction to JRPGs for this generation." Some JRPGs get difficult very quickly, and require strategies that a 10-year-old might not think of. I'm glad we have games that are difficult, but I still appreciate games that are made with children and adults in mind; Ni no Kuni does this excellently. The pun-filled "pieces of art" quests might go over a few kids' heads, but they made me chuckle. I don't mind that Drippy always tells me how to beat a boss, and I've enjoyed playing on easy to just enjoy the exploration and story.

Being able to explore a world is key to my enjoyment of an RPG. In some games the amount of possible exploration is overwhelming (like Oblivion), but I'd prefer that to a railroaded course like in FFXIII. Repeatable battles still strike me as a way to extend the "fun" content of exploring and story-reading, which makes me wonder if I'd like an RPG that completely got rid of combat (I probably would; I really enjoyed To the Moon).

Combat in Ni no Kuni is what has bothered me the most. In an effort to make the game easy for children to understand, the AI controls are very minimal (but exist!). It's very common for an ally to dump all their MP out on a battle they could have won using only one ability (the alternative is "no abilities"). It's probably a sign that I've matured in my RPG strategies; I doubt I would have cared about ally AI as a teenager.

The lack of AI control is completely forgivable given how well-written and gorgeous the art is. The creatures you fight have funny names like in Pokemon--one chick creature is a "Teeny Bopper" while a cat creature is a "Purrloiner." Yes, it's that kind of humor.

Have you been enjoying Ni No Kuni? I-I think you would probably like it.