Tuesday, September 23, 2014

My First Impressions on "Ni No Kuni"

I bought this game during Black Friday last year and popped it in for about an hour this spring and I now realize I will never be going back. So while I wrote several paragraphs for my first impressions, planning to give the game a full run down, that is not going to happen, so here are some of my initial thoughts of disappointment and boredom. Maybe my expectations were too high from it getting recommended so many time. I can sort of see the appeal, but not really.

First Impressions:
Was playing the first hour of "Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch" (Why did they not translate the whole title?) on the PS3 and they really needed to bring in Neil Gaiman to do a punch up on the script. The number of "huh", "wah", "hmm", and various other mouth-noise filler is embarrassing. There is also the stupidly long installation period, load times, and opening credit sequence (just do the installation while playing the opening credits).

I got nowhere near even having little sidekicks and buddies.
They also have a very poor habit of sliding between 4 levels of exposition, there is the gameplay interactions without voices, those with voices, those that are in game cinematics, and then there are fully animated cut scenes, and then there are the fully animated cut scenes which happen in areas that the viewpoint character is not in, or those that flashback to another cut scene that we watched 5 minutes prior.
There was 45 minutes before the first bit of combat which consisted of me hitting a puppy with a stick 3-5 times... I like the art style and the character, Drippy, but this game has a lot of problems getting into gear.
Oliver the main character is shown as having helped build and then drove a car he and his friend made, this in part leads to the death of his mother who saved him when the car crashed into a river causing her heart to give out.  Will this skill ever be used again?  I can't find anything in the promotional art or screen shots that indicates that it will.  Is this to establish character?  If so, what does it establish?  Oliver is practically dragged into the situation by his friend and does little aside from get rescued once the situation turns bad.  I guess it is supposed to make him feel responsible for his mother's death, but he is a 13 year old who drove a small car into a calm river at low speed, why did he even need rescuing?  This whole opener makes him seem sheepish and ineffectual to the point of being a loser.
There is a subtext that the fantasy world is Oliver's attempt to escape from the harshness of the situation, especially considering that Drippy the Lord of Fairies is a toy his mother made for him yet claims to have been transformed into the doll by the villain... But that subtext is under cut when supernatural things are shown to exist before the tragedy that spurs the adventure... that is bad writing.  The ambiguity of whether or not this is a dream or real is important to showing the character coming to grips with things.  This is why I mentioned Neil Gaiman who does a lot of modern fantasy with going-down-the-rabbit-hole elements and has included scenes that make the reader question what is happening to the character ("Neverwhere" had that confrontation be one of the big climaxes of the book).

I must state, that even though the game's pacing kept me from playing it again, It remains one of the most beautiful and imaginative games I have ever seen and it a credit to all of the artistic minds that worked on it in that regard.
If you want a positive review, please watch this silly European woman.  She really liked it and explains why, in a way that allows me to see how others could appreciate it very deeply.

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