Ni no Kuni is a turn based RPG from videogame developer Level Five and in collaboration with legendary animation company Studio Ghibli. The game stars Oliver, a young boy who recently lost his mother in a tragic accident on a quest to the titular Ni no Kuni in an attempt to bring her back. On his quest he finds that this second world has many similarities to his own…
The DS version of the game come with a Magic Master – a book stuffed full of spells, information, and stories about the world of Ni no Kuni. However this is more than fluff; Oliver carries an identical one in the game and the player should consider theirs a prop replica – when Shizuku asks Oliver to scribe a particular rune from his Magic Master the player must search through their own book for the correct spell. This has lead to some accusations of it being little more than a glorified copy protection device, but this couldn't be further from the truth. For those that can read it, the Magic Master is filled with relevant plot-enhancing information, cleverly hidden in illustrations and tales of old. There are additional quests unlocked once the game is completed that center around the Magic Master and translating some of the text found within it (as the ancient runes in the book match up to a Japanese hiragana chart).
The runes within the Magic Master are at the very heart of the game; some are explicitly taught to Oliver and must be used to advance the story, but many more remain unused unless the player takes the time to read the descriptions and try them out in (possibly) relevant situations.
The battle system is mostly magic based – two out of the three human characters rely on spells and songs almost exclusively, using healing, offensive and enhancing spells as needed. Marl can also charm enemies and have them become a permanent member of the team. Every monster in the game that is not a boss or character can be charmed and then trained through their own evolution tree to create a new customised Imajinn.
These battles are fought on a 3x3 grid with the enemy lined up in a single row on the other side. As is to be expected characters closer to the front gain a boost in attack power but lose out in defense and vice versa, but formation also plays an important role too. The player is free to have out any combination of Imajinn and characters they choose (from a party of nine) in any of the available spaces on the battlefield, and swap them around without penalty during a fight. This is important as units in front can protect weaker characters standing directly behind them or be moved out of the way of a powerful attack.
Downloadable quests are available, as well as local wi-fi Imajinn battling and trading. Once the main game is completed a kind of "new game+" mode opens up, only rather than restarting the game from the beginning it continues on from the end and unlocks a new area and new quests.
The PS3 release has many differences to the DS version of the game; story events play out differently and the battle system is much different. Japanese mobile phone users were able to download a prequel adventure called "Hotroit Stories Chapter 1: Oliver and Mark", although it appears that no further chapters were produced.