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December 6, 2012

Demo Report – Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

Demo Report Ni No Kuni Wrath of the White Witch
Namco-Bandai’s bite-sized taste of the overdue RPG joint between Level-5 and Studio Ghibli comes up rather short given the size of the PS3 download. The demo offers two small assignments, racing to the top of a volcano to tackle a lava beast, and fighting a forest guardian in order to help a wise old tree and gain access to the Kingdom of the Cat King.

It’s a little depressing that the demo ends before giving us a glimpse of the fat old Cat King, but you can’t win them all I suppose. It’s a shame the demo doesn’t share some more of the animation I spied via the E3 demo earlier this year as well, because it was rather fantastic.

Despite the lack of a hand holding tutorial, combat comes across rather easy, with players able to swap between using Oliver to cast magic or controlling his tiny critter familiars to issue more standard attacks against enemies.

The demo’s emphasis is on teaching players to switch between offense and defense when larger enemies are powering up for more devastating attacks, and moving around said foes to discover critical weak points – for the lava beast this is the tail, while the forest guardian seems to have weak knees.

The rather simple combat could leave this feeling a bit like baby’s first JRPG, but it’s several shades refreshing to my fingers – I’ve been long for an RPG that was this easy to fall into in an age where one of my favorite childhood genres has a habit of putting me to sleep with increasingly complex designs and endless explanations.

Since the PS3 owners in the room can check the demo out for themselves, I’d encourage you to do that rather than listen to me ramble on, assuming you haven’t already.

Two things in particular worth basking in while visiting the other world are the world map itself, which reminds me a bit of the romantic aerial views of the landscape offered in Ghibli’s film Porco Rosso, and the character designs of smaller enemies encountered – these designs are rather simple, and capture something Pok√©mon-like while still resembling the primary bestiary known to Ghibli fans. My instant favorite is the colorful Ouroboros, which you can find on the road to Ding Dong Dell.

The other point of interest is for your ears. Joe Hisaishi’s fingerprints instantly bring back memories of the feature films, and discovering how the theme for the game expands is as high on my list as unraveling the story of Oliver’s quest to bring his mother back from the dead.

Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch hits the PlayStation 3 exclusively on January 22nd, 2013 in North America and Europe on January 25th.

If you need more of a Level-5 fix, Namco-Bandai has also served up a behind the scenes tour of the developer, which you can catch below.

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December 5, 2012

It’s My Aeroplane

Filed under: Editorial Rants — Tags: , , , , , , , — Jamie Love @ 10:52 pm

Review Aero Porter
My continuing failure at surviving the high stress world of luggage sorting makes it difficult to peel back as much of Level-5’s latest addition to the eShop as I’d like to in order to lay down some review words. But my poor performance hasn’t been from a lack of effort, with Aero Porter stealing plenty of attention over the last week, and the game is certainly worth some words all the same.

Aside from manipulating my OCD, Aero Porter is a terrifically strange and curious offering, and that’s certainly impressive, considering it comes from the mind of Yoot Saito, best known for giving us Seaman – that game where you raise and communicate with a human-faced fish on your Dreamcast.

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October 28, 2012

Review – Liberation Maiden

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , — Jamie Love @ 12:53 am

Review Liberation Maiden
Grasshopper’s dip into 3D shooters offers a crash course in Japanese politics – primarily that in times of peril the President will seek approval to defend New Japan by personally waging war in a flying armored mech.

Originally one of four games found in Level-5’s Japanese release, Guild01, Liberation Maiden is the first of three titles from that collection chosen by Level-5 to hit the North American eShop. Shoko Ozora takes to her Liberator, named Kamui, across five stages that players won’t be long for reaching the cliffhanger ending of.

As short as the ride proves to be, it’s difficult to complain about the quantity given the quality. A few precious seconds of Liberation Maiden offers more to digest than some larger digital releases, made shinier with animation sequences from Japanese studio Bones.

Frankly, Grasshopper offers a barrage of ideas here that hits my refresh rate like an Itano Circus.

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June 7, 2012

E3 2012 – Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

Ni No Kuni Wrath of the White Witch E3 2012
There’s a distinct language to the work of Studio Ghibli, not within a single stream of media such as the writing or the musical scoring alone, but rather in the way the visual style, narrative direction and audio join together with a unique logic that makes any and all fantastic things possible, delivering film experiences that find me still able to recall where I saw each Ghibli masterpiece for the first time – they tend to make a strong impression.

After stopping by Namco-Bandai’s booth today, I’m more certain than ever that Level-5 and Studio Ghibli have crafted all these streams into a singular symphony of wonder and delight in videogame form, and that Ni No Kuni is the only RPG you’ll need for an indefinite period of time still to be named and marked.

But just in case you’re somehow not a drooling Studio Ghibli fan, allow me to elaborate on some reasons why.

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September 20, 2010

Review – Professor Layton and the Unwound Future

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , — Jamie Love @ 1:57 pm

Professor Layton and the Unwound Future
As the Professor is so fond of saying, few things satisfy like a puzzle solved.

A good story runs a close second however, and the latest dose of Professor Layton to hit the North American DS brings the familiar and balanced mix of mystery narrative and puzzles that has helped make Level-5 a little more known to those not quite as consumed by the RPG genre.

Layton uses an easy style of animation, the stuff of cartoons and storybooks, allowing for humorously exaggerated characters and the occasional talking animal against a rather finely detailed London backdrop that still allows space for drama, offering up something marketing dreams are made of – a title that legitimately has a very natural and open appeal.

From the moment the story begins, it feels like the type of game you could recommend to anyone. And what seems entirely important about this feeling is that the game conveys that broad appeal while still delighting in eccentricities and details, where conventional wisdom seems to so often recommend stripping a product down to increase the sales potential.

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June 24, 2010

Trailer Park – Ni no Kuni

Filed under: News Feed — Tags: , , , — Jamie Love @ 9:07 am

Ni no Kuni
Though I’ve been waving a fan flag since the first day I’d heard of a joint project between Level-5 and Studio Ghibli on the DS, it was hard not to pick at the way early screens for the game showed a sizable distance between the artwork for the title and the actual in-game results.

Recent word that Level-5 would also be bringing the game to the PlayStation 3 was poised to shut my mouth, and catching the trailer from the official site for the game has done the job and more.

The wait for this game has been at times agonizing, but it really does appear that good things come to the patient gamer. Word from overseas is that the PS3 and DS versions aren’t twins at all, but are unique games sporting key differences, with the DS release coming sooner – so there’s also still plenty to wonder about on the Ni no Kuni front.

In the meantime, you can catch the must-see PS3 trailer for yourself after the break.

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