An incredibly colourful role playing game, Ni No Kuni follows the tale of a young boy named Oliver. When Oliver's Mom dies in an accident that Oliver's convinced was his fault, he becomes something of a recluse, hiding in his bedroom, and refusing to come out, as he clutches the cuddly toy his Mom made for him. But then, something magical happens. The toy comes to life. It turns out that far from simply being a toy, the doll is actually called Drippy, Lord High Lord of the Fairies. Banished from a parallel world for daring to stand up to the evil Shadar, it turns out that Oliver and Drippy's worlds are joined together, with people on either side having a doppelgänger on the other, and sharing a soul. It turns out Oliver's Mom is a spitting image of someone from Drippy's world called the Great Sage Alicia - who also happens to have been recently imprisoned in something called the Soulsnare, breaking the link between the two worlds. If Oliver can defeat Shadar, there's a chance he could free Alicia too - and get his Mom back.
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Dealing with an emotional topic in a tactful way, Ni No Kuni is an incredible game that should hold a lot of appeal to children. As accessible and enjoyable as the best family films, Ni No Kuni is a journey into a world of wonder, as your children explore the other world, coming across all sorts of colourful characters, defeating giant monsters, and putting right Shadar's wrongdoings, as they journey to save Oliver's mom.
Most of your time with Ni No Kuni will be split between two main types of play - either helping out villagers and completing quests, or battling other creatures in battles. With hundreds of quests on offer, ranging from searching a town to find a mother's truant children, or hunting down ingredients for a spectacular curry, it's safe to say there's plenty to keep children occupied here. But the battles themselves offer a lot more depth than you may expect.
A mixture of real time and turn based battles, there's less of a call in Ni No Kuni for lightning fast reactions than there are in other games, although you will still have to keep your wits about you if you want to defeat the strongest monsters. Luckily, with two difficulty settings on offer, which you can switch between at any time, younger children shouldn't struggle too much once they've got the hang of the battles. Letting you choose a type of attack to do - either a normal attack, or a spell, your character will automatically follow your instructions for the next few seconds, before you get chance to choose their next move. It's fairly straightforward, but it may be a bit complex for younger children - if your child has experience with similar games like Pokemon, or any of the "Tales of" series, they should be at home here.
In fact, one of the most appealing things to children will be the game's Pokemon style collectathon, where you can occasionally have the chance of befriending the enemies you defeat in battle. Letting you give them nicknames, feed them to boost their stats, and even evolve them into stronger forms, your familiars, as they're known, will join your team, and fight alongside you, bringing the best of Pokemon to Ni No Kuni.
Beyond the battles, the only other obstacle to younger children is the incredible amount of reading required. As only some of the game is voiced, there's a lot of reading to be done if you want to follow the story, or even know what you have to do next. One of the more confusing sentences reads "It will not serve to tell you which of the virtues the subject has in excess, but it should still prove exceedingly useful nonetheless", although this is an abnormally complex sentence. Most of the game should be fine if your child's a mildly confident reader - although some of the spellings of the things Drippy says, as he has a Welsh accent, are a little bit odd - like "youer".
As a game aimed at the family market, there's little for parents to be overly concerned about in Ni No Kuni. While characters will hit each other with swords, or shoot with guns during in battles, the weapons don't impact in the way a real weapon would, with no cuts and bruises, and no blood to be seen. In fact, one of the main characters, Drippy, makes a point of explaining that when you defeat an enemy, you aren't killing it, you're just "sending it somewhere they can't bother you". Similarly, with the protagonist being somewhere around ten years old, there's nothing in the way of swearing, and certainly no sexual content.
Format Reviewed: Playstation 3