Game of the week
This issue’s game of the week is Ni No Kuni, a Japanese RPG from developer Level-5 and animated film company Studio Ghibli. The premise involves a young boy named Oliver, who soon finds himself in a fantastical world full of deadly creatures and magical spells in an effort to save his mother and rid the world of evil.
I grew up on JRPGs, so any time a new one comes along I find myself interested. But the most intriguing aspect of Ni No Kuni is Studio Ghibli’s involvement. This is the company behind animated classics such as Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. Ni No Kuni features the distinctive art style from those standout films, including fully animated cutscenes. Having played the game for a few hours earlier this week, I can say it is an absolute wonder to look at.
Ni No Kuni also evokes the childlike wonder of the Studio Ghibli films with its innocent protagonist and sweeping landscapes full of absurd characters and talking animals. Some early moments are admittedly melodramatic, but once the narrative falls into place it presents itself as a riveting tale with a colorful cast of characters.
The battle system — handled by the Level-5 half of the development duo — takes influences from more action-based RPGs and the handheld Pokémon games. Encounters are a mix of real-time and turn-based systems, with creatures known as “familiars” doing most of the fighting. Familiars are collected throughout the player’s journey, and a handful of items can be used to increase their stats and abilities. It’s not new for anyone who has played the aforementioned games, but the execution is top notch.
I’ve heard reports of 40+ hour play-times for Ni No Kuni, so it looks like this one should last me a good while. I’m definitely looking forward to spending more time with the game’s beautiful landscapes and charismatic characters.
This week in news
The biggest piece of news this week concerns two popular video game companies in financial disarray. Atari is the first of those studios, with its U.S. division filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Atari’s U.S. branch plans to shift from the retail landscape to digital publishing with the move, but that means the sale of some big-name franchises in the next few months. Included among them are classics such as Asteroids, Centipede and Pong.
The other video game company making headlines is THQ. The studio already filed for bankruptcy back in December of last year, but this week marks the auction of its assets, including developers and franchises.
One of the games not being auctioned off is the upcoming RPG South Park: The Stick of Truth. South Park Studios has filed a complaint claiming that a new owner must be approved by them before any potential sale. Furthermore, South Park Studios also believes it can buy the rights to the game back from THQ and choose a new publisher.
The Mar. 5 release date for South Park: The Stick of Truth looms on the horizon, so hopefully any issues involving that game and THQ can be resolved soon. In the meantime, it should be interesting to see which THQ assets go where in the aftermath of the auction.
ANTHONY LABELLA can be reached at email@example.com.