Welcome to a new set of features we will be running through March and April. The feature is called "That Blew My Mind". I asked the team to consider a moment or moments in their favourite pieces of entertainment that really blew their minds. Here is the first of those pieces, courtesy of Vincent - Ed
With the impending release of Ni no Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom, I thought it was high time I reflect on my experience with the first game. Without any further ado, here are five things that blew my mind in Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch.
1. The soundtrack
The music was written by Studio Ghibli's Joe Hisaishi and Rei Kondoh, and performed by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra. Joe decided to do the soundtrack after witnessing the passion Level-5 showed for the project. He wrote 21 tracks across seven days and was encouraged by the complexity of his composition. The music perfectly compliments the fantasy setting. The score never feels out of place in the game. The main theme, "Kokoro no Kakera", also won the award for Original/Adapted Song at the 13th National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers. The inclusion of piano, lute, sitar, whistle and the tabla truly made the score something special. To me, a game's soundtrack is one of the most important aspects. I enjoy Ni no Kuni's soundtrack so much that it's my go-to playlist on my work computer.
2. Art style
Speaking of Studio Ghibli, they weren't only involved with the game's score. The famed Japanese animation studio also helped with the cutscenes and animation. Studio Ghibli's Yoshiyuki Momose served as the game's director of animation. He was also assigned to character designs and storyboard drawings. As with all Ghibli productions, their attention to detail shines through in Ni no Kuni. After consulting the graphical assets Level-5 had made so far, Toshio Suzuki (Studio Ghibli president), informed them that some of their designs were either too cute or creepy. Level-5 reassessed their concepts and remade them to better fit in with Studio Ghibli's art direction and style.
This was a major event and the results are evident in the game. The amazing way the animated cutscenes play out, to the way everything moves in the game is nothing short of amazing. Even in 2018, the game is still gorgeous. The sprawling hills, the vast ocean, the clear skies, busy cities, a small fishing hamlet, every location was handled and made with the utmost of care.
3. The Familiars
In Ni no Kuni, you could capture creatures known as Familiars. They could be trained and evolved a la Pokemon. Capturing and evolving these cute little creatures only serves as half of the appeal. They could be leveled up, equipped with different items and fed treats to modify and boost their stats. Tinkering with my team of Familiars to get them to do maximum damage or max out their magic power was great. I remember hunting down a Dinoceros for about 3 hours. Once evolved, this is one of the strongest Familiars in the game. When I eventually captured one, I literally jumped with joy. In order to capture a Familiar, you have to beat it and hope it gives you a chance to tame it. It's pretty much up to the RNG gods, but once you manage to capture that one specific creature, you will have a great sense of accomplishment.
4. Wizard's Companion
The Wizard's Companion is a book built into the PS3 game of Ni no Kuni. A physical copy could be specially ordered for the PS3 version of the game. It features small descriptions of the Familiars, crafting recipes, list of equipment, a world map, magic spells and even a collection of short stories relevant to the game world. The reason it's one of my favorite things in Ni no Kuni is due to the stellar way the book is presented in the game. Admittedly, I spent a ridiculous amount of time with the book while playing. I would have loved to have gotten my hands on a physical copy but Level-5 did such a wonderful job incorporating it into the game, the feeling of want soon vanished. Not only is the Wizard's Companion a great in-game manual, it also serves a great purpose in the overall plot of Wrath of the White Witch. Like I said before, the attention to detail in the game is amazing.
This is probably my favorite thing about Ni no Kuni. The story sees Oliver, the main protagonist, set out on an adventure to try and bring back his deceased mother. The game touches on themes like death and acceptance of loss. As someone who went through a similar tragedy a few weeks prior to starting the game (I only managed to play through it in November 2017), the story resonated with me on a deep and emotional level. Unlike some games, where the story is just used to drive the game forward, Ni no Kuni takes the time to explore its characters and their surroundings. This method of storytelling pulls you in and make you care for its characters and world. Each supporting character is well written and fleshed out with their own backstories. Not only does it tell a great story, in a way, it teaches you ways to cope with a tragedy. Ni no Kuni never throws its core themes out the window, in fact, it embraces them and shows us that even when tragedy strikes, you can come back from it and make a full recovery.
If ever a game should be used in the "games as art" argument, Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch would make a great point on so many different levels. These are just 5 aspects of the game, but all put together and you can hopefully see why the experience blew my mind..
Kingdom Hearts devotee, From Software fanboy and aspiring Audiophile (the good kind that believes in FLAC files). Vincent enjoys writing about games almost as much as playing them.
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