Ni No Kuni PS3 Review

Ni No Kuni Cover

I don’t even know where to start with this review of Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, because I haven’t written one for some time and I have a deep, profound love for this game, its artistry, and its story. One of the first RPGs I played was Final Fantasy IX, and I was really fond of the way you could travel on the world and find little easter eggs scattered throughout. And, as you know, I am a huge fan of Miyazaki’s storytelling because it’s often challenging (From Up on Poppy Hill) without being dumbed down. Not to mention, the more traditional style of animation is something I prefer given the feel of painted landscapes, etc.

The story is about Oliver, a young boy who’s lost his mother. To rescue her, he travels to another world with the guidance of a fairy named Drippy, to battle alongside his wizard’s familiars. The game mechanics are easy enough to learn and there’s an incentive for leveling, for your familiars grow in power and might alongside you.

NNK Battle

Since you have the option of switching out familiars, you can alter how challenging the game is when you explore the world and change your battle style on-the-fly. Learning spells and alchemical formulas, finishing sidequests, and advancing the story is evenly spaced so you don’t “forget” where you are in the story. The animation and world exploration is, by far, one of my favorite parts of this game because playing it is like being immersed into a Studio Ghibli film that lingers on…and it’s quite delicious.

I don’t want to give too many spoilers on this, partly because I’m only a third of the way in, but if you like Studio Ghibli, Kingdom Hearts, or Final Fantasy IX and older games in that franchise I really think you’ll dig this game and enjoy the experience. It just hit a “Greatest Hits” status, too, so the price has dropped considerably.

Level thee well!

First Thoughts on Skyrim

gaming avatar

Thanks to Amazon’s lightning deals on Black Friday, I was able to pick up the legendary edition of Skyrim for $30. I hadn’t played the game yet for a few reasons. One, buying games when they debut is pretty costly. And two? Time, really. But, with it being so cold outside, I figured an hour or two would be a good mental break.

My fear with this game, is that I’d get immersed in the world of Skryim and then never leave. I’m not going to have that problem, though, not with this epic sweeping game. After playing for two hours last night in first person, I realized that a) I really don’t like playing first person in general and b) even with switching to third, the non-linear form of storytelling offers a more well-rounded game experience. This game is impressive on many levels. Graphics, the depth and breadth of character options, an expansive bestiary — the only problem I had was readability and the way the fonts appeared on my screen.

Non-linear, non-sequential storytelling is extremely complex to put together. Many games use sidequests or miniquests to flesh out the primary storyline. Of course, it depends upon the scope of the game. In general, there’s often a stricter limit on how far you can go off the beaten path and, more importantly when. Skyrim doesn’t have that problem, because its construction gives me the illusion that it doesn’t matter what choices I make and when, the story will proceed the way “I” want it to. I’m in deep appreciation of how far off the beaten path I can go. There is no pathing issues in this game, either, where I can’t go up a ridge because that’s not the gameplay area I’m supposed to be in.

In short, Skyrim is an extraordinarily detailed, fully submersible gameplay experience down to the last tankard. I have had experience with non-linear games in the past, like Final Fantasy XIII-2 and its time-travel storyline (props to Square Enix!) before, but this is a whole new level of insanity and awesome. I can only imagine the months spent slaving away…

It’ll take me forever and a day to get through everything and even then I know I’m likely going to miss something. If you haven’t played and want to pick up a copy, I would say that “YES! It is new gamer-friendly.” This game is more about strategy than up up down down left right A A B B Select Start. Highly recommend the guidebook, though, for if you go too fast in the beginning you’ll gloss over some of the training or, if you’re like me, get worried that you missed something.

Cabbages and carrots FTW.

    Mood: Winter blues. Yep.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: A couple of cups of coffee.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Sigh
    In My Ears: Coldplay! Ironically enough…
    Game Last Played: Battle Nations
    Book Last Read: An encyclopedia on gemstones
    Movie Last Viewed: BLACK FOREST
    Latest Artistic Project: *Still* *still* *still* need to take pictures… It’s on the list!
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Last Man Zombie Standing
    Latest Game Release: Freedom Flyer
    What I’m Working On: Primarily tie-in games work and novels.


Instead, a Niggly Dragon Age Question

What does one do when one’s brain has left the building? Get intrinsically, monumentally, paltry questions stuck in one’s head, of course! So, instead of a blog post, a question.

Why do darkspawn carry money? If they are killers, who don’t care about the trappings of life in Ferelden (or beyond), then why can you loot their corpuscles — I mean, that is to say, corpses — and find pittance of coin on them? Do they psychically draw these coins to them just to subtly piss off villagers and townsfolk? Or are they sifting through valuables and money is a token of their kills? So, for every coin they have. . .

Like I said. I had a question. It wasn’t necessarily a good one, though.

    Mood: Write. Write. MUST WRITE. Write. Write. MUST.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Methinks, perchance, I have losteth track.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Walkin’ on through the streets. Uh-huh.
    In My Ears: The screams of a thousand somethings or others.
    Game Last Played: Dragon Age: Origins
    Movie Last Viewed: Looper
    Latest Artistic Project: In progress!
    Latest Release: “Fangs and Formaldehyde” from the New Hero anthology through Stone Skin Press

Progress! Reward. Dragon Age: Origins Replay

Re-aligning my schedule means that I’m also plotting out free time and marketing-related activities. With the weather getting colder, my work-outs remain inside the house rather than outside, and time spent with friends and family is typically holiday-or-hobby related. I had a little slip-up last week, where I delved into Whiny Mc Whine Whine Pants once again, which is why I need to acquire and cross-stitch this sign as soon as humanly possible.

However, there was progress made and a direction forward. This, my friends, is the beginning of the slow ride back up to the top of my winding rollercoaster. Though the motor be broken, the wheels rusted or bent, and the cart a little wobbly — the important thing is that it *is* moving again after a period of required maintenance. The creative life is full of ups, downs, and sideways turns; some things are in your control, some aren’t. Understand that? And you’ll weather any storm. Seriously.

But life isn’t all about blue roses (that’s a blog post for another time, by the way), one also needs to balance out work with turning-off-brain-activities. So, I’m replaying Dragon Age: Origins as a male elf assassin named Thorsgaard. (And the Mabari hound is named Loki.) I like Dragon Age because there isn’t one path to interpersonal relationships with the other characters; some are extremely faceted and the female characters DO stand out in their own right. That’s important to me for a lot of reasons, because when you treat ANY gender/sex/etc. as its stereotype, whether that view originate from your own mind or not, it makes the game/story/whatever perpetuate older viewpoints that aren’t realistic anymore.

[Insert a lament of seriously missing Kurt Vonnegut.]

We’re experiencing, right now, a cultural evolution because we communicate faster together than ever before. This won’t last, sadly, if the economics of the internet outweigh the ability to express ourselves freely — something I do think will still happen down the road if technology and methods of delivering content don’t continue to evolve faster than businesses can keep up. Sooner or later, we’ll reach the point where the two converge. After all, we have seen this sort of thing before.

Anyway, apologies for the sidebar, but I feel contemporary game design plays into that concept. Dragon Age: Origins is a re-playable game for me because of its nuanced and complex storytelling approach. It’s not the linear story that draws me to the property; it’s the facets, split plot lines, multiple origins, and the way characters approach the different sexes/races. Even so, I have a lot of freedom to get out of the game what I’m comfortable with. I know some were appalled that a male character made some advances on another male (or vice versa) to which my response is: get over it. That’s realistic and could easily happen in real life. Have you ever been hit on by a member of the opposite sex you couldn’t stand? Yeah, that can happen, too. Why wouldn’t a storyteller provide that as an option in a game — especially one that’s meant for a large audience?

I should also point out, that the ability to save at any time during a game is a huge deal for me. After all, I can break out ye olde timer and gauge playtime accordingly. I foresee a lot of words in my future. Hee.

The only trouble is, playing Dragon Age: Origins has given me other ideas for dark fantasy stories of the original, sure, but also of the Dragon Age and Ravenloft varieties. What can I say? I like my fantasy to have a little necromancy. There are a lot of dead things in the world, not all of which are human.

    Mood: It’s the Eve of Halloween. What’s not to love?
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Must. Continue. Movement.
    In My Ears: The screams of darkspawn as I slay them mercilessly.
    Game Last Played: Dragon Age: Origins
    Movie Last Viewed: The Raven
    Latest Artistic Project: In progress!
    Latest Release: “Fangs and Formaldehyde” from the New Hero anthology through Stone Skin Press

Love My Nintendo DS and Square Enix

Blue Nintendo DSMany of you probably know that I’m a game designer in addition to being a writer. I haven’t designed any PC or console games yet. So far, I’ve worked on a lot of setting design for several games by Abstract Nova Entertainment in addition to various other assignments for the hobby games industry. As you might imagine, in order for me to design games and fulfill different assignments, I need to play them. I also like to sit down and play because I don’t have fun in a bar anymore. (That was a different, younger me.) Instead, I’ll fight boss battles and roll dice to have fun, sans hangover and drain on my pocketbook.

If you get me started on talking about video games, you’ll probably hear me regale you with sordid and adventurous tales of my efforts playing the Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts series created by Square Enix. I love Final Fantasy! I even put up with the massive amounts of leveling that’s often required to beat the game and get the special uber-weapon.

Final Fantasy IIIRight now I’m at the end of Final Fantasy III on the DS. I’m at level 53, got through five of the six boss battles that’s required to beat the game and then *poof* my characters encountered the dreaded mega-flare. So, I have to start the boss battles all over again. (I’m still a little whiny about that.)

Part of the reason why I like the Final Fantasy series is because it has great story elements. Most of the time, the story is very cohesive and has something for everyone — including romance. *coughs* Not Final Fantasy XII!!! *end cough* In Final Fantasy III, you play the Warriors of the Light who need to bring balance to the world because there’s too much darkness. As you progress through the story, you learn that previously there was too much light and the Warriors of the Dark needed to save the world from certain destruction in the past.

It’s no secret that I love to read about different cultures and world myths. I love the infusion of East Asian myth and philosophy that are infused into the games that Square Enix provides. (Not to mention, I am kind of a min/maxer and believe you me, these games facilitate that.) I’m hoping that one day the IP will open up and they’ll allow writers to pitch short stories or novels set in the world of Final Fantasy, because I’d love to write more stories about these characters. Not to mention, the soundtracks to these games are a-w-e-s-o-m-e.

The best part about my Nintendo DS, though, is that it offers more than just games. From recipe books to physical training and mind puzzles, whenever I get bored waiting at an appointment or just need to take a break, I can pop out my DS and play for a few minutes to take a break. It’s also a really nice way for me to get off the computer when I need to, so when I do get back online I can focus like I’ve never focused before.

Well, I suppose I should get back to writing. *cracks whip* How else will I feed my Final Fantasy addiction?!?!




Monica Valentinelli >

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