The time is right for JRPG fans. Bandai Namco and Level-5 have prepared Ni no Kuni II, a high-profile game with lots of love and major production values packed into it. But what if this is your first exposure to the series? Maybe you have never heard about Ni no Kuni before. Let’s go over everything you need to know about the games.
Who made Ni no Kuni?
Ni no Kuni is notable because of all the pieces that come together to make these JRPGs. Basically, a lot of major names in the industry have worked to create each of these titles. Let’s go over everyone who matters and makes these games possible.
Akihiro Hino, the president and CEO of Level-5, was the writer for Ni no Kuni: Dominion of the Dark Djinn, the writer and producer for Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch and the writer and general director for Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom. He’s known for plenty of amazing games. But since his impact on the story may be what matters to people most here, you may be pleased to know he was the writer on Dark Cloud, Dark Cloud 2, Rogue Galaxy and many of the Professor Layton games.
Studio Ghibli and some of its more notable staff members also have a huge impact on the Ni no Kuni. Studio Ghibli produced all of the animated segments in Ni no Kuni: Dominion of the Dark Djinn and Wrath of the White Witch. While Level-5’s Toshihiro Kuriaki worked on the art, Studio Ghibli’s Yoshiyuki Momose worked on character designs for each Ni no Kuni game so far. Even Ni no Kuni II, which has no involvement from the animation studio, has Momose working on the character design. This means all of the games have the same sort of look that resembles titles like My Neighbor Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle, Kiki’s Delivery Service and Spirited Away.
Finally, the music has some amazing power behind it. Joe Hisaishi, a composer known for his work with Studio Ghibli and Beat Takeshi Kitano, worked on the music for each Ni no Kuni game. Rei Kondoh, who is known for soundtracks for Capcom games like Okami, Devil May Cry 4 and Dragon’s Dogma, was also involved with the soundtracks for Ni no Kuni: Dominion of the Dark Djinn and Wrath of the White Witch.
Why is it called Ni no Kuni?
If you literally translate “Ni no Kuni,” you get “second country.” This is fitting, because each Ni no Kuni game takes us to the same parallel world. In some instances, the games were even referred to as “The Another World.”
In the series, there is our actual, human world and this whole other world that has ties to our own. This means there are instances where people from one may end up in the other. But, it also means that people in this more fanciful world can share souls with people in our own world. We have have counterparts in this other reality. This means that what happens to someone in one world can affect the other.
Depending on the game, this can become a gameplay element. Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, as an example, often involves the hero going from his normal world to the other world via the Gateway spell.
Why are there two versions of the first game?
Ni no Kuni may be a series that confuses people. Here’s why. There are three games, but the most recent title is only Ni no Kuni II. This is because the game first came out on the Nintendo DS in Japan, then a more elaborate retelling of it with some different mechanics came out on the PlayStation 3 worldwide later.
The story of both games is mostly the same. A young boy named Oliver is grieving after the death of his mother. She saved his life when he was drowning, but her heart problems were exacerbated by the rescue and lead to her demise. As he is crying over her, a doll she had given him comes to life. It turns out Oliver’s tears revived this fairy, named Drippy. Drippy tells Oliver if he comes to this other world and fights the evil wizard, Shadar, he may be able to rescue the great sage Alicia, who is Oliver’s mother’s soulmate, and maybe bring his mother Allie back. Oliver heads to this other world to make things right there, simultaneously making his own world a little brighter by aiding people’s soulmates.
While playing both the DS and PlayStation 3 versions of Ni no Kuni, people can tame and train familiars. These are allies that help characters, with each character able to have one or more on hand depending on the person. In the DS version of the game, the battle system is turn-based, you can arrange the characters on the bottom screen between rounds and you have only one human ally and their familiars. The PlayStation 3 version is a bit more complicated. When a fight begins, each human character sends out one of their familiars. They fight enemies, and you can dictate the actions of the human characters or familiars while they fight. Each fight is basically a real-time strategy game.
The most notable difference between the two, aside from the extra story and gameplay content, is the drawing of spells. The game comes with Wizard Companion, an actual book that shows you the different kinds of magic Oliver can use. You have to consult it to know how to draw the spells on the handheld’s touchscreen. It is an interesting concept, but does mean you may always have to have the book on hand when you play.
And what about Ni no Kuni II?
Ni no Kuni II changes things up quite a bit in a number of ways. While the original Ni no Kuni involved taking trips to our normal world, the focus is on this fantasy world in the new installment. There are also plenty of gameplay changes.
An active battle system is present in Ni no Kuni II. Players see enemies on the field and can touch them to start a fight. They are then able to switch between one of three human party members at a time while pressing buttons to attack or unleash special skills. Familiars are replaced with Higgledies, little spirits that tend to act of their own volition most of the time in fights.
There are also other gameplay systems that have to do with managing a kingdom. Skirmishes are real-time strategy situations where King Evan is surrounded by small armies and uses them to attack other small armies in the field. You also have your own kingdom to create, manage and grow.