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Ni no Kuni (二ノ国?, literally Second Country, also called The Another World) is a role-playing video game, developed by Level-5 and Studio Ghibli,[1] for the Nintendo DS and later PlayStation 3.[7] The Nintendo DS version, titled Ni no Kuni: Shikkoku no Madōshi (二ノ国 漆黒の魔導士?, literally "Second Country: The Jet-Black Mage"), was released on December 9, 2010, while the PlayStation 3 version, titled Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (二ノ国 白き聖灰の女王 Ni no Kuni: Shiroki Seihai no Joō?, literally "Second Country: The Queen of White Sacred Ash"), was released in Japan on November 17, 2011, with a Western release on January 22, 2013.[8]

The North American and European PlayStation 3 versions are published by Namco Bandai Games and include both English and Japanese voice tracks. Due to problems in translation of the magic book, there are no plans to localize the Nintendo DS version.[9] Despite this, a collector's edition of the PlayStation 3 version that contains the translated book was released alongside the standard edition.[10]

Gameplay

File:Ni No Kuni game battle screenshot.jpg

In the Nintendo DS version, the player takes part in battles using the magic book given to him by Drippy, which contains various spells that are activated using drawings with the stylus. During battles, players can arrange their characters anywhere on the bottom screen to implement various tactics. For example, a character that can block certain attacks can be placed in front of the others to shield them.[11]

In the PlayStation 3 version of the game, the player explores towns, villages, dungeons, and dangerous places scattered throughout the other world. Players can also travel between the other world and Oliver's hometown of Motorville in his home world by using the Gateway spell. Upon leaving a town or a dangerous place, the player will enter the world map. Here, Oliver can explore or go to the next destination on his quest; various forms of transport gradually become available to help travel around the world more easily. The errands that can be undertaken at the request of townspeople and the bounty hunts available from the Taskmaster are collectively known as "tasks". When tasks are completed, players will earn a number of stamps for their current merit stamp card, which can be exchanged for upgrades.

The game's battle mode begins when the player encounters an enemy, and can also occur during certain special events. When all enemies are defeated, the player receives experience points, money, and may also receive items. If enough experience is earned, characters' levels will increase, and their abilities improve; if all characters die or are petrified, the game is over.[12] Players can command a single human ally, or one of the familiars accompanying them. Central to the gameplay, familiars are creatures that can be sent out by a character in battle to fight for the player. Familiars level up and evolve alongside the human characters; each have unique stats and capabilities, and can be guided through their upgrades with treats and equipped with items.[13][14] Players can use Esther to tame creatures in order to make them familiars, while special treats known as "drops" can be used to evolve a familiar to a more advanced form.

The Nintendo DS version includes a book that is supposed to represent Oliver's magic book from the game, while the PlayStation 3 version allows the player to access all pages of the magic book directly from the main menu.[1] In it, players can find a bestiary, short stories that offer game hints, alchemy recipes, and other information to assist players in advancing.

Characters

  • Oliver (オリバー Oribaa?), voiced by Adam Wilson, is an earnest and cheerful thirteen-year-old boy. He's an amateur engineer, who loves nothing more than talking to his friend Philip about gears, gaskets, and all things mechanical. Not long after his mother dies, Drippy appears and they set off on a journey together to the other world.[12]
  • Drippy (シズク Shizuku?), voiced by Steffan Rhodri, proclaims himself to be Lord High Lord of the Fairies. The despicable Shadar turned him into a doll, but the curse was lifted when he was touched by Oliver's tears. Drippy guides Oliver every step of the way on his journey to the other world to defeat Shadar.[12]
  • Esther (マル Maru?), voiced by Lauren Mote, is a bright and cheerful girl who Oliver meets in the other world. She loves music, and her dauntless positivity pulls the friends through many a scrape.[12] Her soulmate in Oliver's world is the shy and withdrawn Myrtle.
  • Swaine (ジャイロ Jairo?), voiced by Louis Tamone, is a thief who will stoop to even most cowardly of means to get by. He and Oliver meet when he takes a crucial item from the group, and joins them in their quest soon after.[12]
  • Marcassin (ラース Lars?), voiced by Iain McKee, is known as the "Porcine Prince" of the technological kingdom of Hamelin. He is also a sage with a misguided heart that is revealed to be broken. Oliver and friends help him with his problem, and later, he joins the group on an important mission.
  • The White Witch (白き聖灰の女王 Shiroki seihai no joō?), voiced by Jennifer Bryden, watches Oliver's every move, though her true motives remain shrouded in mystery. She is the head of the council of Zodiarchs, who govern the fate of the world, and is regarded as their Queen.[15]
  • Shadar (ジャボー Jabō?), voiced by Brian Protheroe, is the Dark Djinn has been robbing people's hearts of their virtues, leaving them broken hearted. He has also banned magic in other world, and the people live in fear of him.[16] Shadar serves the White Witch in bringing despair to the world, and ultimately is tasked with its destruction, coming to be known as "the Executor" amongst the Zodiarch Council.

Story

Ni no Kuni follows the journey of Oliver, a resident of Motorville. While trying out a new vehicle designed by his friend Philip, Oliver almost drowns, but is saved by his Mother, Allie; however, she immediately dies from heart problems after saving him.[17] As Oliver cries, his tears cause his doll, a gift from his mother, to come to life and reveal itself as a fairy named Drippy, who tells Oliver that he is from another world where an evil wizard named Shadar took control. He also tells Oliver that each person from his world has a "soulmate", a person that shares a link with someone in Oliver's world, and that his mother looks very much like a great sage, Alicia, who was captured by Shadar. Realising that Alicia must have been Allie's soulmate, Oliver sets out with Drippy to travel to the other world and rescue Alicia in the hope that doing so will bring Allie back in his world.[18]

In the other world, Oliver finds a multitude of broken-hearted people affected by Shadar, and uses his new-found magic abilities to restore those pieces of heart which they lack, and travels the world to seek out the four great sages who may be able to help. Along the way, he meets Esther, daughter of one of the great sages, and Swaine, a thief who initially steals a crucial item from them, but who ultimately decides to help. As they enlist the sages' help, they learn of a wand known as Mornstar that could be used to defeat Shadar, but are at a loss as to how to retrieve it, as it was recently destroyed by Shadar. Soon after, they find themselves many years in the past by the actions of a stranger, and are able to retrieve the wand there.

After returning to the present and retrieving three magical stones to complete the wand, Oliver learns that his mother Allie was in fact the great sage, Alicia. Realising she could not defeat Shadar, and that he had destroyed his soulmate in the other world to avoid the possibility of being defeated through them, she chose to travel into both the future and into Oliver's world in the hopes of finding his next soulmate; after settling in to this new world, she eventually gave birth to her son, Oliver, who unknowingly became Shadar's soulmate. After he is defeated, Shadar's past is shown. He was once a soldier who helped a young girl against orders, and whose hometown was destroyed to set an example; a being known as the White Witch called to him to embrace his despair and become the Dark Djinn, Shadar. The spirit of Alicia talks to the dying Shadar, who realises that the girl he saved. was the young Alicia herself. Shadar then uses his power to sever the link between himself and Oliver, in order to save Oliver from dying as well.

With Shadar defeated, Oliver prepares to return home, but the White Witch appears and casts a spell known as "manna", an ash-like substance that turns all living beings in the three major cities into undead-like creatures. A girl named Pea, who has been appearing to Oliver on occasion, travels with the group and uses her magic to clear the cities of manna and restore the people to normal; the group then travel to defeat the White Witch herself. They discover that she was a young queen called Cassiopeia from thousands of years ago who had noble intentions, but was manipulated by her "council of twelve", calling themselves the Zodiarchs, who desired to run the country. Feeling powerless, she found and used the manna spell, believing it would bring peace and prosperity to her people. When the horrific effects of manna were revealed, she gradually witnessed the death of all of her subjects, including the council, and found herself on her own; she was gradually driven to despair and became the White Witch, believing that all life must be destroyed in an attempt to "start over". Her power created an illusory version of the council to oversee the destruction of the world, but the remains of her kind intentions also created the council member that helped the group by sending them back in time, as well as Pea, the incarnation of her as a child. Having been defeated, Cassiopeia fuses together with Pea and is restored to her former, kind self. After assisting the group in destroying the last manifestations of the council, the Zodiarchy, Cassiopeia declares that she will dedicate herself to make amends for her actions and Oliver bid farewell to his friends before returning to his old life in Motorville.

Development

Ni no Kuni was first announced in the Japanese publication Famitsu in September 2008.[19] Level-5 president and CEO Akihiro Hino and Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki revealed in an interview with the magazine that development on the animation aspects of the game had begun in July 2008.[17] In the July 2010 edition of Famitsu, Level-5 revealed that the game was in development for the PlayStation 3.[7][20]

Formerly subtitled Ni no Kuni: the Another World, Level-5 announced on June 24, 2010 that the title had been replaced with two separate subtitles for the DS and PlayStation 3 versions, with the subtitle of the DS version being Ni no Kuni: Shikkoku no Madōshi and the PlayStation 3 version titled as Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch.[21] Level-5 also revealed that both versions were being developed separately from scratch, and as such would feature different data, artwork, graphics, specifications and story developments, while only retaining the same "story axle".[21][22] The PlayStation 3 version features graphics and visuals replicating Ghibli's traditional animation style, and features some cutscenes from the studio.[22][23]

Music

Joe Hisaishi and Rei Kondoh composed the game's soundtrack. All in-game music was performed by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra. Kokoro no Kakera (Fragments of Hearts), the game's theme song, is sung by Hisaishi's daughter Mai Fujisawa in the Japanese version while chorister Archie Buchanan performed the English-language version. For the orchestral music to fit onto the Nintendo DS at a high enough quality, the game was put onto a 4-gigabit game card.[24] An album titled Ni no Kuni: Shikkoku no Madoushi Original Soundtrack was later released in Japan on February 9, 2011.[25] A complete two-disc soundtrack was released in March 2013. The first disc is a re-release of the Japanese soundtrack and the second disc contains additional tracks from the PS3 version. It also comes with a 20-page booklet featuring artwork, lyrics, and background information.[26] RPGFan wrote a positive review of the soundtrack, comparing it favorably to Koichi Sugiyama's work on the Dragon Quest series.[27] Squareenixmusic.com awarded the album a perfect score, calling Hisaishi's work "his best score since Spirited Away."[28]


Release

Special edition shortage

Many orders of the special edition, The Wizard's Edition, in the U.S. and Canada were cancelled due to Namco Bandai and Digital River overselling due to a glitch in their system. After mass cancellation, a backdoor link was given to a select few who called customer support so they could reorder their copy/copies giving them priority. The link was posted online, and many people who had orders and those who hadn't even placed orders to begin with were instantly placed and shipped, resulting in many long standing preorders to be cancelled. Those who had their orders cancelled were compensated for their loss with a $20 Club-Namco voucher and hard cover strategy guide for the game.[30]

Mobile games

Beyond the DS and PlayStation 3 game release, two Ni no Kuni games were also developed for mobile platforms. Ni no Kuni: Hotroit Stories (二ノ国 ホットロイトストーリー?) is an episodic role-playing game released for the ROID mobile platform. It is a prequel to the main games. Chapter 1, called "Oliver and Mark" (第1章〜オリバーとマーク), was released on December 9, 2010.[31] The other game, Ni no Kuni: Daibouken Monsters (二ノ国 大冒険モンスターズ?), is a social card game for the GREE mobile platform. It was released on May 11, 2012.[32]

Reception

 Reception
Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 85.97%[33] (PS3)
Metacritic 85/100[34] (PS3)
Review scores
Publication Score
Edge 8/10[35] (PS3)
Famitsu 38/40[36] (DS)
36/40[37] (PS3)
Game Informer 7/10[38] (PS3)
GamesMaster 9.5/10[39] (PS3)
GameSpot 9/10[40] (PS3)
GameTrailers 9.3/10[41] (PS3)
IGN 9.4/10[42] (PS3)
VideoGamer.com 9/10[43]
Joystiq Star fullStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar half.svg[44] (PS3)
Awards
Entity Award
VGX (award show) 2013 best RPG[45]
GameTrailers 2013 best RPG[46]

The DS version of Ni no Kuni was given 38 out of 40 by Weekly Famitsu magazine. The review stated, "The animation, music, and story all combine together at a high level to keep the player constantly excited. The way the game links up with the book is innovative, and there's a lot of backdrop that allows you to understand the story on a deep level." However, the publication felt that although the Japanese advertisements feature young children playing it, the game may be too complex for such audiences.[47] RPG Land's import review was very positive, saying "Ni no Kuni is what happens when ordinary and simple pieces are put together by skilled people in wonderful ways. It sticks to simplicity, and does that better than almost any other game on the market right now."[48]

The PlayStation 3 version of Ni no Kuni[49] was critically acclaimed as well. The game scored a 36 out of 40 from Famitsu.[37] The magazines PSM3 and Computer and Video Games gave the Japanese version of the game a 91% score,[50] as well as the Best RPG award of E3 2012.[51] RPGLand's review awarded Ni no Kuni's PS3 version the site's highest rating of "Legendary" and concluded, "Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch feels like the second coming of 16-bit RPG classics... It touches a deep vein of nostalgia and childlike wonder."[52] PlayStation LifeStyle awarded the game 10/10 and said, "Virtually every aspect of Ni no Kuni is a hit. If you have ever liked a Japanese RPG at all, you owe Ni no Kuni a shot."[53] IGN's Colin Moriarty rated the game 9.4/10 describing it as "a beautiful mixture of the traditional makings of a JRPG combined with gorgeous graphics, a wonderful story, a great cast of characters and thoughtful gameplay."[42]

Sales

Japanese retailers ordered an initial shipment of 600,000 copies of the DS version of Ni no Kuni, more than any previous Level-5 game.[54] It was the second best-selling video game during its week of release in the region at 170,548 copies sold.[55] Hino stated in February 2011 that the game has sold over 500,000 units in Japan.[56]

For the PlayStation 3 release in Japan, the initial shipment was around 164,000, and in the first week an estimated 65,000 to 67,000 copies were sold.[57] Ni no Kuni was the top-selling game in the UK in the week of release, outselling FIFA 13 and Call of Duty: Black Ops II.[58]

As of March 2014, the PlayStation 3 version has shipped 1.1 million copies worldwide, while the two versions combined have shipped 1.7 million copies.[59][60]

Awards

The game has received 69 awards, including “Best RPG” from VGX, as well as 145 nominations, including a BAFTA nomination.[59][60]

Award Category Result Ref.
Cheat Code Central's 7th Annual Cody Awards Game of the Year Nominated [61]
Best Sound Won [62]
Best RPG Nominated [63]
Destructoid's Best of 2013 Game of the Year Nominated [64]
Best Role-Playing Game Won [65]
Best Story Nominated [66]
Best Visuals Nominated [67]
Best Soundtrack Nominated [68]
Best Character (Drippy) Nominated [69]
Game Developers Choice Awards 2014 Best Visual Art Template:Pending [70]
Game Revolution's Best of 2013 Awards Best PS3 Exclusive Nominated [71]
Best Role-Playing Game Won [72]
GameSpot's Game of the Year 2013 Awards PS3 Game of the Year Nominated [73]
GameTrailers Game of the Year 2013 Awards
Game of the Year Nominated [74]
Best Playstation Game Nominated [75]
Best RPG Won [76]
Best Soundtrack Nominated [77]
Best Graphics Nominated [78]
Giant Bomb's 2013 Game of the Year Awards Best New Character (Drippy) Nominated [79]
Hardcore Gamer

's Game of the Year Awards 2013

Best PS3 Game Nominated [80]
Best Artistic Design Nominated [81]
IGN's Best of 2013 Best PS3 Graphics Nominated [82]
Best PS3 Story Nominated [83]
Best PS3 Role-Playing Game Won [84]
Best PS3 Game Nominated [85]
Best Overall Role-Playing Game Won [86]
5th Annual Inside Gaming Awards Best Art Nominated [87]
VGX 2013 [88] Best RPG Won [89]
Best Soundtrack Nominated
18th Satellite Awards Best Role Playing Game Won [90]

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