I am champing at the bit, foaming at the mouth, sitting on the edge of my seat, barely breathing properly, raring to go, ready and willing, and/or hot to trot to experience Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. If all those crazy synonyms don’t make it clear, I am extremely excited over this JRPG from Level-5 and Studio Ghibli. And it stems more from the Level-5 aspect than the Studio Ghibli, which might surprise some people. Sure, I love Spirited Away and Kiki’s Delivery Service and the amount of wonder and childlike imagination they give off, but I love Rogue Galaxy, Dark Cloud 2, and Dragon Quest VIII ten times more. To be honest, those are three RPGs that really shaped my late teens and early 20s.
Let’s go through them in the order I devoured them.
Dark Cloud 2 really is its own game more than a sequel to a sub-par Zelda wannabe. Which I had and played at some time. Never got very far in it though, but it at least was something to do on my PlayStation 2 other than watching Metropolis over and over. But the sequel…oh man. It was just stuffed with gameplay mechanics, most of which were intuitive and fun and worth the work. Not Spheda though. You had the Georama system, which allowed Max to rebuild villages to your taste. Then you had randomly created dungeons, a camera to snap photos for inventions, breakable weapons, a ride-pod thing named Steve who you can upgrade, and action-based combat. Also, fishing. Plus, colorful settings and a light-hearted story, with some cheese to it. It was a game my sister also fell into, and we’d play together on her save since she disliked the battles, but loved exploring and building towns. Though I never beat it, I do mean to…one day.
I ended up picking up Dragon Quest VIII right as I moved out of my parents’ home and to my own apartment after college and getting my first job in northern New Jersey. It was exciting times, but also poor times, and I ended up not getting cable or Internet installed in my place for two and a half months. This meant a lot of DVD watching and digesting books, but also some serious time spent playing JRPGs, like DQVIII. Which was perfect for eating away at time, with so much to do and see and explore and collect: alchemy recipes, monsters, mini coins, and so on. Funnily enough, I was actually playing DQVIII when the cable guy showed up to install stuff, and he asked me some questions about it, whether it was any good or not. I told him it was brimming with things to do, as well as just a pure joy to explore. That remains true to this day.
Lastly, Rogue Galaxy, a game I’d venture to call underrated. Yes, it has terribly long and drawn out cutscenes, but that’s JRPGs for you. Everything else more than makes up for its sluggish pace at times. You have bounty hunts and skill trees to fill out, as well as a sickeningly deep weapon alchemy system. Oh, and a bug battling championship called the Insectron. All of which I ate up. The combat is all right and has its moments, but towards the end I just found myself able to efficiently spam special moves and clear out enemies in one go. Y’know, I’m just gonna give Rogue Galaxy its own post one day soon so y’all can learn what you missed out on, like a race of shark-people.
In short, Level-5 packs their games full of Stuff, and I love that. It’s not enough that there’s a lengthy plot to follow, but give me miscellaneous tasks and side projects, and I’m in it for the long haul. Looks like Ni no Kuni is following this tradition with familiars to collect, parts of a magical book to piece together, merits to earn from side quests, alchemy, and on and on and on. Plus, it looks fantastic thanks to Studio Ghibli’s involvement, and really presents a magical world that one wants to be in, even if it’s filled with talking cats and cows.
So yeah, I like Level-5′s games a lot. If you need more evidence of my appreciation and confidence in what Level-5 puts out, then there is this: I am buying a PlayStation 3 this weekend so that I can play Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. Specifically, the special classic white bundle Sony recently announced. White for the White Witch. Oh man, I totally fell for it. Too late now.