COULD IT BE MAGIC?
While Level-5's taste for scale remains - there are over 300 Imagines to collect, 100 side quests, Wi-Fi battling and a tag mode - Studio Ghibli curb their meaner tendencies. This isn't the same Level-5 who made us cry in Dragon Quest IX's hidden dungeons. Sure, Ghibli are a family outfit and want every customer to see the fiction through to completion.
But what we demand from films and games, in accessibility terms, is very different, and the contention bubbles up here. But this upset is more down to form than an ideological split. Their methods are different, but both aim for the same goal. Both are master world builders, holding their work to the highest technical standards.
Characters are a brave stab at translating 2D designs into 3D form and brim with tics and quirks. The way aardvark sidekick Shizuku stumbles behind is adorable, and the 2D backgrounds could be cels from Ghibli's reels. Oh, and Joe Hisaishi's epic score practically is a film soundtrack.
And there's that book: the fantasy vision of Ghibli married to the playful ambitions of Level-5. It blurs the real and the digital in a way few games can. It's about as portable as a fridge, but since when has magic been neat and cosy? Ni no Kuni may not be the best RPG on DS, but it is certainly one of the best experiences on DS. Where others coast by on automatic, Level-5 embrace the joy of manual. In every sense of the word.
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Not a full on masterpiece, but a beautiful novelty. We can only imagine how good it would be in our mother tongue. Unless Nintendo want to localise, that is...
- Plenty of stuff to do
- Fantastic Hisaishi score
- Ghibli and Level-5 is the best it gets on DS
- Magic is a little bit of a let down
- Quite an easy game
- Lots of reading