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Ni no Kuni (DS) hands-on impression…again

By Janelle | September 29, 2010 at 8:55 am

I was fortunate enough to be able to revisit Ni no Kuni at the Level-5 booth this year, before it hits store shelves this Christmas. The demo I played last year was there again, Level-5 added a new scenario with more game mechanics, and had real copies of the Magic Master spellbook on hand to be used with the demo. I had a great time with last year’s demo, so I was looking forward to more Ni no Kuni. Sadly, the demo experience didn’t hold up as well this time around.

In the new scenario, Oliver, Shizuku and a girl named Marl approached the waterside town of…Bikini? Huh. They were looking for an item called “Genki Syrup” that could help cure Oliver’s sick Imagine, a summoned heart creature thing. Upon entering the town, a shady-looking merchant offered to sell the party a mysterious pot, for the fine price of a single gold piece. I agreed to buy it, but the pot couldn’t be opened. After some humming and hawing, the party realizes “Oh yeah, Oliver has a magic book! Maybe there’s something in there that can help us open this mysterious pot!” And then Shizuku said “Yeah, Oliver! Open the Magic Master book to Chapter 2 (around page 61) and tell us what the magic words to open the pot are!” A text entry prompt appeared.


Some time ago, I wrote an editorial about Ni no Kuni‘s spellbook, the problems it might create, and how I hoped the spellbook might be used. I was hoping for something a little less…gimmicky. Needing to consult a magic book for a key phrase to open a magic pot to advance the story is mildly annoying, but to have the characters throwing out page numbers and chapters in the dialogue is weird. And without that phrase, there was no way to advance the game. It didn’t even seem like there was a way to back out of the prompt and try again another time, which means that you really must cart the spellbook around when you play Ni no Kuni, lest you get stuck.

That’s not to say that the book is all bad. The book itself was really beautiful, and had lots of illustrations and flavor text written in character. But I didn’t have time to get a good enough look at the rest of the book, besides an index of some alchemy ingredients, to tell what other functions it might have in the game.

After Oliver opened the magic pot with the magic phrase, a genie popped out. After pulling all manner of unintended objects from his pot, he challenged the party to a fight. Oliver, Marl and Shizuku could be dragged around a nine-square grid to protect each other from attacks. Certain attacks would only hit certain parts of the grid, so where to position them was an important decision. Each could use various spells, special skills, items and attacks. The genie went down pretty quickly, but not without a few low-HP scares.

After the battle, the genie gave a tutorial on the alchemy system. Things could be combined in the pot to create new items. It was possible to work from a set recipe, or to just combine whatever and see what came out. He provided the recipe for the Genki Syrup, and after making it, I gave it to the sick Imagine. Before I could do any unguided alchemy or explore the rest of the town, though, my time with the demo was already up.

Ni no Kuni
still looked great and sounded great. It was still expressive and charming, and had really fun battles. But this year’s demo just didn’t provide the right conditions or enough time to really give me a good look at what was new. Being able to take a long, hard look at the spellbook and the game in conjunction with the spellbook would have done wonders for the demo, really giving an impression of the final product. But since I couldn’t get a good look at either of those things, the only impression I took from this year’s demo was that Ni no Kuni is the same cool game I saw last year, but with an additional, really expensive anti-download gimmick disguised as a slick magic tome.

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Topics: Ni no Kuni: Shikkoku no Madoushi, Ninokuni, Previews