Gamer's Notebook

Gamer's Notebook

Pioneers of animation save the RPG in Ni No Kuni

By Chris O'Neal 01/31/2013

 

• Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch $59.99 for PS3.

• Dead Space 3 will be released on Feb. 5 for multiple platforms.


There once was a land that produced many of the childhood time-sinks we’ve grown up remembering as the best games ever. This land, known in its mystical tongue as Japan, gave us the role playing games of our dreams. As of late, like a magical island cursed by a witch, the Japanese RPG machine hasn’t been producing the quality we’ve come to expect. JRPGs seemed to be disappearing from all the lands. Until two heroes came together — two heroes bent on saving the world of the JRPG. The game, Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, might just be the hero that Gotham (and the rest of us) needs.

Studio Ghibli, master anime producers of such films as Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle, teamed up with Professor Layton, producing Level 5 to create a video game that was both beautifully animated and professionally playable. Ni No Kuni is the RPG you’ve been waiting for — classic elements and fixtures of tradition meet brave choices, and landscapes bordering on the line of high art welcome you to the world of Anytown, USA.

Ni No Kuni follows a young boy named Oliver, a young American who comes across a magical land inhabited by magical people. The boy is good and kind and, over time, begins to exhibit powers he acquires from the magical people residing in the magical land. Using these powers for good and to right wrongs, Oliver captures creatures and trains them to fight for him, he makes deliveries and brings courage and hope back to the depressed folk that for some reason litter the land, and he even takes time to have tea with an old person.

In between all of this tasking is an in-depth battle system that requires the capture and training of enemy combatants. Think a little bit of Pokemon; every minor enemy can be caught and trained to do battle for you. The more you use these creatures, the stronger they become, until you’re merely the puppet master sending wave after wave of former baddies out to do your bidding.

Packed in this world open for exploration is a story one would expect from a Studio Ghibli production. Full of whimsy and mysticism, Ni No Kuni explores a part of the human psyche that is rarely touched by Western media. The classic hero’s journey takes on a distinctly Eastern philosophy that requires a little attention and a lot of awe. Ni No Kuni, clocking in at more than 40 hours of game play, is a worthy investment for the adventure seeker. Get your hands on this Playstation 3 exclusive. Now.

On the completely opposite end of the spectrum is the third installment to an action/horror series that makes no apologies for being rather straightforward. You shoot, you run, you die (a lot). Dead Space 3’s demo says a lot about what to expect from the full release, and it looks as though a friend would be your best accessory.

Dead Space follows engineer Isaac Clarke on his romp through a nightmarish world of aliens, zero gravity and religious zealots. On his previous journeys, Isaac has been belabored by pseudo-demons and his own cracking mental state, but this time around, Isaac faces an enemy more dead spacier.

With the introduction of a cooperative mode, Dead Space 3 opens up the realm of psychosis by enabling certain elements to occur only to the individual rather than to the whole. Newly introduced John Carver, Isaac’s Necromorph-stomping buddy, suffers from the same psychic dementia that Isaac himself is put through. If Carver notices something — say, for instance, a toy soldier — Isaac may not see it. In effect, as your partner is swinging wildly at invisible monsters, he or she may not just be fooling around but, rather, saving your life.

Chris O’Neal is leaving on a jet plane and is very well aware of when he’ll be back again. Follow him on Twitter @Agentoneal.

 

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