What do you get when you make a crossover between Pokemon', Final Fantasy and The Legend of Zelda? It's Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, while it is not copying them there is an essence of their presence within the game. Level 5 (Dark cloud, Professor Layton series) and Studio Ghibli (Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro) have teamed up to remake this game which was originally release in Japan for the DS 2010.
Ni No Kuni's storyline was created by Studio Ghibli, it follows 13-year old Oliver who due to unfortunate circumstances loses his mother, locks himself in his room for days, and cries, eventually he cries onto a doll his mother made for him, these tears break the curse put on the doll, it comes to life and addresses himself as Drippy lord high lord of the faeries. He tells Oliver that he is the one who is destined to defeat Shadar, a malicious jinn who contorts the other world Drippy resided in and crushes all those that oppose him, he then goes onto to explain that in his world there is a duplicate of everyone in Oliver's world, and that his mothers soul mate was a Sage who tried -and failed- to stand up and defeat Shadar, he trapped her in a soulsnare, and if Oliver can free her, it may bring his mother back in his own world.
This is the basis of the story but it is a very large story with cutscenes after cutscenes playing, however this will not get boring as the obscurity of it and the characters believability will keep you in-grossed and not bored, after all Studio Ghibli know how to tell a good story at a fantastic pace.
So why does it seem like Pokemon', Final Fantasy and The Legend of Zelda?, well gameplay can be broken down into different sections: Cities, Wilderness, Battle, Side-quests, Dungeons.
In the towns of the game you will run about one end to the other, fulfilling certain needs in order to progress in the story and advance, this is where Final Fantasy comes into it, this will have you going to different towns, backtracking, locating people who are hiding and so on.
Outside of each city is the wilderness, a lonesome place you will walk to get from one city to the next, this is where creatures will attack and engage in battle, this is also Final fantasy like, but also like the older Zelda games.
The battles are the most complex part of the game, you can fight by using Oliver, familiars, or other party members, or their familiars. If you chose Oliver you are best using magic as physical attacks are weak, you will rarely use him though, if you want to use physical attacks then you're best using a Familiar. Familiars are creatures you can catch, you will get a starter but soon after you can catch all the different types in the wilderness, train them up and use them -Pokemon's element-. The fighting style is not exactly turn-based but it is not run around freely and press x to attack each time either. It's both. Say you want to attack, chose the attack option, chose who you want to attack, then for about five seconds your familiar will attack the chosen target automatically, depending on it's attack, evasion, accuracy and evasion it will all determine, how much damage it did, how likely it is to avoid attacks, block attacks, and take less damage from attacks. You can cancel at any time you wish and defend if they are going to do a special move on you, run away, switch to someone else, do a special, use provisions, heal etc.
Within the cities you will find people who need your help, these quests come in all different kinds, catch specific kinds of familiars, show me a spell, get me these ingredients, but the most common is the heart quests. Shadar takes peoples hearts and leaves them broken heated, there are numerous types that can be missing from a person, courage, kindness, restraint, enthusiasm etc. To complete these you have to find someone who has more than enough of the required kind. Take a piece of their heart and give it to the one who needs it. There are also other side-quests known as bounty hunts, these are creatures that are out in the wilderness that you need to take down, kind of like mini-bosses.
Dungeons, in some areas of the game you will be in places some call dungeons, while it may be outside and not have any floors there is still some truth to this. These places will have an ultimate goal and location, but the map will not be filled out, as you explore you will map it out yourself -like a maze- in here you will find save points that heal and restore your magic, monsters and a boss at the end, this again is where the vibes of Zelda and Final Fantasy come from.
Ni No Kuni (lit. Second Country -some fans call it: The Another World-) is beautiful, the first cinematic cutscene can clearly be identified as Studio Ghibli, it has that magical yet relate-able look to it, the cutscenes are gorgeous and with splendid voice acting to complement it runs smoothly and is truly captivating. As for in game visual they too are stunning, rather than it being soft textures it is very rough, the tones do not blend but it fits perfect for this game as it feels less like a game and more like controlling an anime or animation. The overall feel to the game is incredible, from bright sunny villages, to gloomy Victorian streets, to wintery landscapes, this game has not been afraid to cram as many different locations, moods and atmospheres into it, and it paid off, it all fits in well and nothing seems out of place.
If you are a fan of any of the games, films, companies, ideas mentioned above, possess a PS3 and have yet to play this game, get your head checked, there may be something wrong.
This game has a distinct feel to it that no other game could mimic without completely copying it. I sincerely hope that games like Ni No Kuni will continue to be made by these wonderful creators as they have shown game developers that there is still a big wide marker for JRPG's and it is not us that are at fault, we are not bored of them, it is them for not believing in themselves and their ideas, stop playing it safe guys, take a leap.