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Ni no Kuni

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"The Another World" redirects here. For the 1991 game, see Another World (video game).
Ni no Kuni
Ni no Kuni artwork.jpg
Artwork of the game's primary characters—Oliver, Drippy and Esther—in a town from the games
Genres Role-playing
Developers Level-5
Publishers Bandai Namco Entertainment
  • JP Level-5
Creators Akihiro Hino
Artists Toshihiro Kuriaki
Writers Akihiro Hino
Composers Joe Hisaishi
Rei Kondoh
Platforms Nintendo DS, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Mobile phone
Platform of origin Nintendo DS
First release Ni no Kuni: Dominion of the Dark Djinn
December 9, 2010
Latest release Ni no Kuni: Daibouken Monsters
May 11, 2012

Ni no Kuni (Japanese: 二ノ国?) is a series of role-playing games developed by Level-5. The series chiefly follows the young Oliver, and his journey to another world to save his mother and stop the beckoning evil. The games utilize several magic elements, allowing players to use magical abilities during gameplay, as well as creatures known as imajinn/familiars,[a] which can be tamed for suitability during battle.

Conceived as a project for Level-5's tenth anniversary, Ni no Kuni: Dominion of the Dark Djinn was released in December 2010 for the Nintendo DS. An enhanced version of the game for the PlayStation 3, Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, was released in Japan in November 2011. The games were developed separately, retaining similar stories, but featuring significant artwork, graphics and specification changes. A localized version of the game was published in Western regions by Namco Bandai Games in January 2013. A sequel, Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom, was announced in December 2015 for the PlayStation 4. Two mobile games have also been released: Hotroit Stories in December 2010 through the Roid service, and Daibouken Monsters in May 2012 through the GREE service. The former follows the story of Oliver and Mark as they try to find parts for a car, and the latter is a social card game in which players collect cards featuring imajinn.

The animated sequences for Dominion of the Dark Djinn and Wrath of the White Witch were produced by Studio Ghibli, and the original score was composed by Joe Hisaishi and Rei Kondoh. The game's artwork was also greatly inspired by Studio Ghibli's other productions. The game's character development—particularly that of Oliver and his friends—was a large focus of the game's development, and was intended to make children empathize with the characters and for adults to relive their adolescence. The developers chose to initially develop for the Nintendo DS due to its suitability for gameplay, and later used the power of the PlayStation 3 to its full potential to render the world with great detail.

Games in the series have been praised as being among the best modern role-playing games. Reviewers mostly aimed their praise at particular elements of the game: visual design, and its resemblance to Studio Ghibli's previous work; characters and story, for their believability and complexity; the soundtrack, and Hisaishi's ability to capture the essence of the game world; and the unique gameplay, particularly for its ability to blend formulas from other role-playing game franchises. The games also won awards from several gaming publications. In March 2014, Bandai Namco reported that the series had sold more than 1.7 million copies worldwide.

Games[edit]

Ni no Kuni: Dominion of the Dark Djinn was released in Japan on December 9, 2010, for the Nintendo DS. After his mother dies, Oliver sets out on a journey to another world to save her. Alongside the fairy Shizuku, Oliver meets Maru and Jairo on the way, who assist him on journey. After retrieving three magical stones to complete a wand to defeat Jabou, Oliver discovers that he cannot save his mother, but vows to protect the world regardless. He defeats Jabou, who uses his power to ensure that Oliver does not die as well.[1]

Ni no Kuni: Hotroit Stories was released in Japan on December 9, 2010, for mobile devices through the Roid service. It follows the story of Oliver and his friend, who create a custom car by finding parts around Hotroit, eventually making their way to an abandoned factory and encountering creatures.[2][3][4]

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch was released for the PlayStation 3 in Japan on November 17, 2011, and published in Western regions by Namco Bandai Games in January 2013. The game is an enhanced version of Dominion of the Dark Djinn; the plot is almost identical, featuring an extended ending. Some character names were also changed; Shizuku was changed to Drippy, Maru to Esther, Jairo to Swaine, Lars to Marcassin, and Jabou to Shadar, among others.[5] After Shadar is defeated, the White Witch appears and casts a spell that turns the citizens into undead-like creatures. When Oliver and his friends reverse the spell, they discover that the White Witch was once a young queen called Cassiopeia who had noble intentions, but was manipulated into wanting the destruction of the world. After Oliver defeats the White Witch, she is restored to her former self, and declares to dedicate her life to making amends for her actions. Oliver then returns to his old life in Motorville.[6]

Ni no Kuni: Daibouken Monsters was released in Japan on May 11, 2012, for mobile devices through the GREE service. Players travel to another world and collect cards featuring imajinn. An occupant of the other world is trapped in every card; by flipping the card, players have the ability to use the occupant's abilities during battles.[7][8][9]

Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom was announced at PlayStation Experience in December 2015, in development for the PlayStation 4. The story follows King Evan Pettiwhisker Tildrum, who is usurped from his castle, and sets out to reclaim his kingdom. He is aided by Roland, a visitor from another world.[10][11][12][13]

Common elements[edit]

The battle mode in Wrath of the White Witch takes place on an open battlefield, allowing players to freely roam the area.

The series consists of four role-playing games and one social card game. Each game typically features a third-person camera. The player controls the player character in a combination of combat and puzzle game elements to achieve goals and complete the story.[14] Hotroit Stories is the only installment to feature an overhead perspective,[2] while Daibouken Monsters is played as a card game, with no character movement.[9] All games in the series feature a battle mode. During battles, player command a single human ally. To fight enemies in the main game, players use magical abilities[b] or familiars;[17] in Hotroit Stories, players attack using items such as dry ice for similar effects,[4] while Daibouken Monsters limits players to using familiars only.[8] The battle mode in Wrath of the White Witch is on an open battlefield, allowing players to freely roam around the area,[18] while Dominion of the Dark Djinn employs a grid layout, whereby players can create formations to avoid attacks.[19]

The main games in the series use a third-person perspective. Players complete quests—linear scenarios with set objectives—to progress through the story. Outside of quests, players can freely roam the open world. Players explore towns, villages, dungeons and dangerous places scattered throughout the world. One of the core aspects of the games is the ability to travel between worlds; the majority of the games take place in a magical world, often referred to as the "other world", while part of the games take place in Oliver's hometown.[20] Upon leaving a location, players enter the World Map, which can be navigated, or used to select a destination.[20] The world may be fully explored from the beginning of the game without restrictions, although story progress unlocks more gameplay content and forms of transport to navigate the world.[20] In the main games, players initially run to navigate the world, though later gain the ability to travel by boat; Wrath of the White Witch adds the ability to ride on the back of a dragon.[21]

Familiars, known as imajinn (イマジン?) in the Japanese version of the games, are creatures that wander throughout the game world. They can be found in different shapes and forms, and can be obtained after being defeated in battle. They can then be tamed, in order to be suitable to send out in battle to fight for players. Players command familiars, who generally have a range of magic and physical attacks. Familiars level up and evolve alongside the human characters; each have unique statistics and capabilities, and can be guided through their upgrades with treats and equipped with items.[22]

Development[edit]

Conceived as a project for Level-5's tenth anniversary,[23] Ni no Kuni: The Another World was announced in the September 2008 issue of Famitsu, as a title for the Nintendo DS.[24] In June 2010, Level-5 announced that the game would also be released for the PlayStation 3, with significant differences;[25] the DS version was renamed Ni no Kuni: Dominion of the Dark Djinn, while the PlayStation 3 version was given the title Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch.[26] Both versions were revealed to be in development separately, only retaining the same "story axle", while features such as artwork, graphics and specifications all received significant changes.[5] Journalists noted that the game's announcement ignited widespread anticipation within the gaming industry.[27][28][29][30]

Studio Ghibli president Toshio Suzuki agreed to collaborate with Level-5 after witnessing their passion for the project.

Level-5 collaborated with Studio Ghibli to produce the game's animated sequences, and the game features graphics and visuals replicating the traditional animation style of Studio Ghibli films.[31] The collaboration began when musician Naoya Fujimaki, who had previously worked with both companies, introduced Level-5 president Akihiro Hino to Studio Ghibli president Toshio Suzuki. At the time, Studio Ghibli had completed work on Ponyo (2008), and the animation team had no ongoing projects, which influenced Suzuki's decision to collaborate with Level-5.[32] Another influencing factor of the collaboration was witnessing Hino's passion for the project. Studio Ghibli approached the production process in the same way that they would create an animated film.[33] Work on the animation began in July 2008,[34] and took much longer than the predicted three months.[32]

For Dominion of the Dark Djinn, the development team found that the Nintendo DS was best suited to the game's development.[35] Alongside the launch of Dominion of the Dark Djinn on December 9, 2010, Level-5 also launched the first chapter of Hotroit Stories, titled "Oliver and Mark" (第1章〜オリバーとマーク?), for mobile devices via the Roid service.[2][3] Wrath of the White Witch was developed for the PlayStation 3. The team planned to bring the game to the console from the beginning of development, but opted to work on the DS version of the game beforehand due to the larger number of DS users in Japan at the time.[36] The team found they could render the game world with great detail, using the hardware to its full potential to present the animation, world and music.[37] Hino felt that the PlayStation 3 version allowed the game's music to accompany the imagery, which was not possible on the DS version.[36]

Following the Japanese launch of Wrath of the White Witch on November 17, 2011, Level-5 developed Daibouken Monsters. The development of the game is the result of a comprehensive partnership between Level-5 and GREE, which resulted in the former developing three titles for the latter.[38] Early registrations for the game began on March 21, 2012,[39] and it launched for mobile devices through the GREE service on May 11, 2012.[40]

Level-5 worked with localization company Shloc to translate Wrath of the White Witch for Western regions; the two studios collaborated for many weeks.[41] The team found great difficulty when localizing the game for Western regions, particularly due to the large amounts of text and audio that required translation. Other minor changes to the artwork and animation also occurred, such as making Oliver bow in a Western manner.[42] By December 12, 2012, development on the localized version of Wrath of the White Witch stopped as the game was submitted for manufacturing.[43] It was released in North America on January 22, 2013,[44] in Australia on January 31,[45] and in Europe on February 1.[46]

Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom was announced at PlayStation Experience on December 5, 2015. It will be released for the PlayStation 4 on an unannounced date.[10][11][12][13]

Music[edit]

Main article: Music of Ni no Kuni
Japanese musician Joe Hisaishi, who previously worked on films with Studio Ghibli, composed the score for Ni no Kuni.

When Studio Ghibli agreed to produce the animated sequences of Ni no Kuni, they contacted Joe Hisaishi to work on the game's music. Hisaishi, who previously worked with Studio Ghibli on films such as Princess Mononoke (1997) and Spirited Away (2001), met with Level-5 producer and writer Akihiro Hino. After witnessing Hino's passion for the project, Hisaishi agreed to work on the game's soundtrack.[47] Rei Kondoh created the background music for the score, and all in-game music was performed by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra. "Kokoro no Kakera", the theme song for Dominion of the Dark Djinn and Wrath of the White Witch, was written by Hisaishi; his daughter Mai Fujisawa performed the song in Japanese, while chorister Archie Buchanan performed the English version. The team found great difficulty in selecting a performer for the English version, though ultimately settled upon Buchanan due to his ability to convey the "vulnerability and innocence" of the game's characters in a "moving and powerful performance".[41] For the orchestral music to fit onto the Nintendo DS at a high quality, Ni no Kuni: Dominion of the Dark Djinn was shipped on a 4-gigabit game card.[48] Hisaishi also worked on the score for Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom.[13]

Two Ni no Kuni soundtracks have been commercially released. An album titled Ni no Kuni: Shikkoku no Madoushi Original Soundtrack was released in Japan on February 9, 2011, featuring music from Dominion of the Dark Djinn.[49] A two-disc soundtrack was later released on March 28, 2013; the first disc is a re-release of the Japanese soundtrack, while the second disc contains additional tracks from Wrath of the White Witch.[50]

Reception[edit]

The two main games were very well received, with praise particularly directed at the visual design, characters and story, soundtrack, and unique gameplay. Dominion of the Dark Djinn scored 38/40 from Japanese publication Famitsu, who felt that the game's elements are effectively utilized to maintain excitement.[51] Michael Baker of RPGamer named it the "best overall game" at the time,[52] and Janelle Hindman of RPGLand wrote that the game is "a reminder of why people used to flock to the JRPG genre in the first place".[53] Nintendo Gamer's Matthew Castle called it "one of the best experiences on DS".[19] Wrath of the White Witch also received critical acclaim.[54] It received 85 out of 100 from Metacritic, indicating "generally favorable reviews",[55] and 86% from GameRankings.[56] Colin Moriarty of IGN named it "one of the best RPGs", and among the best PlayStation 3 exclusives,[57] and Kevin VanOrd of GameSpot wrote that it joins the "hallmark of the greatest RPGs".[21]

The artistic design of both games received acclaim, being favorably compared to Studio Ghibli's previous work;[51][58] Stephanie Bendixsen of Good Game called the art "vibrant and exciting", noting that it "brings the game to life in the most beautiful way".[59] The story and characters were also well received, with IGN's Moriarty naming them among the game's standout features[57] and Edge praising the believable and complex characters.[60] Critics considered the game's music to be appropriate for gameplay; Jim Sterling of Destructoid compared the soundtrack favorably to Dragon Quest VIII,[61] and RPGLand's Hindman lauded the music as "gorgeously crafted".[53] The gameplay and combat system polarized reviews; some reviewers found it a refreshing mix of styles from other role-playing games,[53] with Joystiq's Sinan Kubba calling it a "triumph",[62] while others noted its difficulty, and similarity to similar games.[60][63]

The game's received multiple nominations and awards from several gaming publications. Dominion of the Dark Djinn won the award for Future Division from the Japan Game Awards in 2009 and 2010, and the Excellence Award in 2011,[64] and also awarded the Rookie Award from Famitsu in 2011.[65] Wrath of the White Witch appeared on several year-end lists of the best role-playing games of 2013, receiving wins from Destructoid,[66] Game Revolution,[67] GameTrailers,[68] IGN,[69][70] the 18th Satellite Awards[71] and the Spike VGX 2013 Awards.[72] It also received Best Game from The Huffington Post,[73] Best Sound from Cheat Code Central,[74] and Excellence in Animation at the SXSW Gaming Awards.[75] At the 13th National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers Awards, it received multiple wins, including awards for Animation, Art Direction, Original Light Mix Score, Original Family Game, as well as Original/Adapted Song for "Kokoro no Kakera".[76]

In March 2014, Namco Bandai reported that the two main games had collectively sold more than 1.7 million copies worldwide, with Wrath of the White Witch selling over 1.1 million copies alone.[77] By the end of 2011, it was reported that Dominion of the Dark Djinn sold over 560,000 units;[78] it was the 33rd best-selling game in Japan in 2010,[79] and the 45th best-selling in 2011.[78] Following the release of Wrath of the White Witch in the United Kingdom, it topped the charts, selling out in many stores across the region.[80]

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ The creatures are known as "imajinn" in the Japanese versions of the games, and "familiars" in the English version.
  2. ^ The four playable characters in Dominion of the Dark Djinn and Wrath of the White Witch possess differing abilities to use in battle: Oliver and Marcassin/Lars use wands to cast spells, Esther/Maru plays songs with a harp, and Swaine/Jairo uses trick shots.[15][16]
Footnotes
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