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    jp's Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (PS3)

    [July 2, 2020 04:25:33 PM]
    I finished this last night! Yay!

    It took a lot longer than I expected in the end though, which was pretty frustrating. I think I probably spent 4 hours just grinding at the end in order to have a chance at the final battles. Even after all this, I took me three attempts before I was able to beat the final end boss! (I kept on losing during the 3rd battle after defeating the White Witch (1st and 2nd stage))

    Overall I've been super impressed and I'm surprised that, at least in my mind, the game hasn't received more accolades. Perhaps I'm just remembering?

    While it has many "flaws" (for my personal taste) the art direction is superb and the combat system had much more depth than I was expecting - I really enjoyed trying out different spells and tactics during the different boss battles and I had a definite sense of "learning" and "getting better" at the game. The final bits were especially challenging for me since a 1/2 second of distraction could easily lead to a TPK. This is not something I'm used to in RPGs and especially not so in Japanese RPGs. TPKs in a boss battle, sure - but not from your regular random encounters as you move around the world.

    Once I beat the game I did a little bit of pottering about to see if there were a few other fun things I wanted to take a look at. So, I wandered into the Casino! (manned by the undead) I wonder if someone has written a paper or something about why Casinos are so prevalent in JRPGs. They're definitely super common in Dragon Quest games - but, now that I think about it, perhaps I'm biased? (are Casinos in JRPGs a common trope?)

    Due to other academic work (on goals in games), I also noticed something (I find) extra interesting about Ni No Kuni. So, there's a character called Horace who's a ghost and each time you visit a new city you can find him, talk to him, he asks you a riddle/question, you answer, and then he gives you some new spell(s). What's interesting is that you have to type in the answers to his questions/riddles! It's a really "old" mode of interaction that you don't see in modern videogames. The exceptions are those where you type in your character name - but as a regular part of gameplay, it's pretty rare nowadays! So, cool? (and some of the answers were pretty long!)

    During the course of the game you get spells, stories, and information that are all part of a Wizard's book - it's the main place where the game's lore is stored. And the book is beautiful! I wonder/wish they'd publish it as an actual book? Or, if there was a TRPG version of Ni No Kuni - that would be the sourcebook in a 2-book slipcase edition?
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    [June 14, 2020 04:13:32 PM]
    I'm at the 15 hour mark now, and the game keeps on giving. What has surprised me the most is that I had imagined it would be a story-heavy game with uninteresting gameplay, and that has not been the case at all. The gameplay (combat system is mostly what I'm referring to here) continues to get more interesting for me.

    I'm not that excited by the story, to be honest, but I do think the world (and it's characters and quirks) is really interesting and fun. At this point I now have 3 characters in my party and they've added two new commands I can trigger - all defend and all attack. I think this helps a lot! But, I still find that, in tough fights especially, the characters I'm not controlling tend to die pretty fast and it's hard for me to keep on top of things.

    I've also noticed that the game really reminds me of the Dragon Quest games - I don't think it's the aesthetic (Akira Toriyama vs Ghibli?), but the systems? I kind of want to take a look at who's behind this game (at Level 5) to see if there was some cross-over from people from the Dragon Quest team? That would explain a lot, or perhaps it's the combination of the cartoon colorful art style with funny monster names? I don't know what it is. The combat system is definitely NOT it.

    Here's some notable things since I last posted:

    (a) It turns out you can (sometimes) catch monsters! And then train them up, AND they can also evolve! So far I've only evolved a single monster once, but there are clear visual indications that some have both a 3rd level evolution (perhaps more?) as well as branching evolutions. I'll see what happens here as I play since I've resisted looking up info or guides online. The evolution is called "Metamorphose".

    (b) I now have a ship to sail around! This opens up a new continent and islands. Perhaps this is where I'm finding similarities to DQ games? These tend to be very tight in the beginning and then open up into "go wherever" (which is where I often get lost and don't know what to do next). At some point I'm expecting a fly/teleport kind of spell - since it's obvious you may want to visit earlier places and travelling "by foot" would be too annoying. That being said, the game is the very tight in telling you what to do next - so, it's NOT like DQ in that sense.

    (c) There's an entire cooking system - collect ingredients and make stuff in a magic pot. It's not just food, but also includes items. I've only made food/health items. The weird thing is that you're supposed to talk to random people to get recipes, but who knows which NPC. You can experiment and discover stuff - but the recipe you discover is not added to your recipe book which is a bit annoying. There's a ton of ingredients and they're not that easy/accessible which is annoying. Many have to be found in the wild - but they'll only pop 1-2 at a time in a specific location. So, I'm guessing this whole part of the game will get more relevant when I can move around more easily/faster. At this point I'm not trekking back to a faraway earlier location just to get some "spring water" or whatever.
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    [June 8, 2020 07:15:36 PM]
    I'm about 8 hours in and I'm really enjoying it. My vague recollection is that game reviewed poorly, people were impressed with the Ghibli collaboration, and that it was otherwise unremarkable as a game. So, I assumed I'd play a few hours and then move on. And now, I'm not sure that I can (or want to!).

    It's hard to remember the game is a PS3 title. It has not aged AT ALL. I guess this is my way of saying that the art direction was brilliant. The game looks gorgeous, special and very Ghibli. Sure, the in-game cutscenes are different from the not in-game cutscenes...but, that is such a small petty thing because the game looks gorgeous and modern, and fresh, and so on.

    The story, thus far, is not that remarkable and firmly directed at kids. This is fine, it just means that I'm not all that interested in it. However, I've been surprised by how much sophistication there is in the combat gameplay (and some other stuff). So far, I've found the following things interesting/neat:

    a) If you over-level, the random enemies you can run into in both the overworld as well as other areas will try to run away from you! (yay!) I don't think this is the first game I've played that implemented something like this (smart enemy mobs that know when they can't handle it), but it's always nice to see. You can chase them down if you want (or need to - for quests and things)

    b) I did some mage trials - and they really mixed up the gameplay. I had to solve some puzzles and there was a 3-part level in which I had to quickly and accurately control two-different characters at the same time using the left and right thumbsticks. Whoa! It seems like a throwaway thing (and yes, I've seen the gameplay in earlier games - e.g. Cookies & Cream for PS2), but it's a super neat idea that was thematically appropriate (it was a trial of friendship) and refreshing w/r to the regular gameplay.

    c) I really wish that chests would get marked on the map. Especially those I found but couldn't open yet. I'm not looking forward to backtracking just to open them. Also, I've found two locations with a busted up robot - again I wish it would get marked on the map - I I understood the message was "oh, nothing to see here YET".

    d) The combat system keeps on getting more and more interesting - and engaging, the more I play. The boss fights essentially, regular combat is very meh - same system, but no challenge. I've avoided guides and such, so I'm feeling chuffed about the things I've figured out:

    d.1 - You need to pay attention to the boss in order to select the "defend" action. This is super important! And, you can't just defend at any moment because all your actions are on cool-down timers. I think you can switch between characters, but it takes being fast with the menu and is risky to do at the last minute.

    d.2 - You don't have to stand around, in fact you can move around the environment to avoid attacks, run the clock to get your cooldown timer to complete, or try to get better placement against the enemy.

    d.3 - Boss fights are long and only a little bit about attrition. The longer I go, the riskier things become as I start to run out of HP and MP. So, swapping my characters in order to heal becomes critical - and doing so at the wrong moment can easily result in a "game over"

    d.4 - I now have two characters I can change between, but I'm not too comfortable doing that. You can set the "tactics" for the other character, but it seems like it's a pretty coarse thing. The other character, more often than not, dies over the course of the boss battle. So, I'm not sure if I'm doing something wrong here or if I should be micromanaging more carefully?

    Anyways, we'll see where things go!
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    jp's Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (PS3)

    Current Status: Finished playing

    GameLog started on: Saturday 30 May, 2020

    GameLog closed on: Thursday 2 July, 2020

    jp's opinion and rating for this game

    No comment, yet.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstarstar

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