The most surprising part about Ni No Kuni isn't that it got an absolutely stunning PlayStation 3 version, but the fact that it is actually being released outside of Japan. This is not just some quick cash in either and Namco Bandai is taking their time in bringing a translation and dub worthy of the Studio Ghibli name. Now just shy of a month before the North American release you can download a demo to try out the latest RPG from Level 5.
This demo doesn't throw a lot of story in your face and instead splits up two sections of the game to try out. The first portion has you playing as the main character Oliver and this looks to be very early on in the game and there is not a lot of moves to choose from. You might think may make things easy but they throw you into a boss battle right away. This is a bit overwhelming since if you are like me you have never played an RPG like this before and will die a couple times.
The battle system lets you freely control Oliver and his creatures. Attacks on the other hand have a reload after every use and creatures have a stamina meter that drains after each move. Besides this the options offered should be familiar to anyone who has played most RPGs. You have basic attacks, spells/powers, items, defend, etc. The first section lets you play as Oliver and one of his creatures, but after the boss you explore a more open part of the game that lets you get familiar with everything.
Towards the end of this section you get to explore the overworld and to anyone who played old Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest this will feel extremely familiar. You get a far back shot from the camera as you see a tiny Oliver traverse the vast world. Sadly both parts in the demo limit gameplay sessions to 25 minutes. Still if you speed run the earlier section you will get a glance at some of the towns and enemies you are sure to encounter.
Ni No Kuni also shows off something a bit different allowing you to capture emotions in order to progress through the story. For example a soldier is holding up people from entering a town and after borrowing a bit of energy from another guard you are allowed to pass. There are sure to be very interesting uses of these emotions and where you acquire them to progress.
The last section in this demo lets you play at a later point in the story where Oliver has made quite a few changes. He now has three different creatures to control and another party member with a creature of her own. This section focuses on your party climbing a volcano that is about to erupt and it is up to you to stop it. After defeating vast amounts of enemies on your way to the top of the volcano, you are greeted by a boss that makes the one you first encountered look like nothing. While he is by no means unfairly difficult it will take everything you have to defeat him and this was on my first attempt.
Battling in Ni No Kuni is fast and fun, while the bosses offer a challenge that never feels to easy. Along with that the dialogue and writing help you get sucked into this mystical world. The voice actors really do a good job of bringing their characters to life and hopefully this stays true for the whole game in January. Still for any purist out there the original Japanese audio is there for you to listen to. To top the rest of it off the game has a very strong score that ranges from mystical and booming all while flowing naturally.
If you were not impressed by videos, this demo is more than enough to hype you up for the next big RPG coming to the PS3. While the 25 minute time limit on each section feels very outdated, this is the only big complaint to come from such an anticipated game. If you are a old or new fan of RPGs this is defiantly something you need to try out. Expect to see more about Ni No Kuni as it comes closer to its release in January 2013.