As you may or may not know, Ni No Kuni is a JRPG coming soon to PlayStation 3 (This month in fact!) and very recently a demo was released to allow players to get a feel of the game before it comes out. This is a great idea for two reasons, firstly, demos are cool, secondly, it allows players, new and old, experience a JRPG with a bit of a difference.
Right away you are shown 2 scenarios that you can partake in, The Deep Dark Wood or The Mountain of Fire. Both parts of the demo are obviously at very different parts in the game because the level difference between the characters is very large. This lets you see some sort of progression which is usually very hard to show in a RPG demo and is nice to see.
I started on the Dark Wood act and after being shown some story elements (SHHHH SPOILERS!) was immediately chucked into the game and was placed in a lush forest that looked like something plucked from My Neighbor Tortoro and in full control of Oliver, the main character, being followed by this friend and living puppet, Mr Drippy…who started speaking in a Welsh accent. Oh boy.
After searching around for a bit we are treated to a cut scene which gets interrupted by the arrival of a boss monster, a forest guardian, which you have to fight. With no help at all. I instantly started mashing buttons and hit it with my characters stick a lot but it didn’t do that much damage and soon after a few missed blocks I was defeated. That was kind of annoying, I had no idea what I was doing and the demo wanted me to take out a boss dude!
So I loaded up The Deep Dark Woods again and instead of exploring devoted myself to going through the menus and my items which helped me understand how to play better. This would be my first piece of advice for this demo, play it once to look at the pretty things THEN play again more seriously. After finding out what I needed to know I restarted the battle with the guardian.
Combat is rather enjoyable, more than I thought it would be. Not only does Oliver have his own combat abilities but he can also bring out little creatures, called familiars, to fight in his place. The first little dude I had was called Marr Mite and seemed to be like your normal starting warrior type attacker with fire powers, so, against a creature of the forest I sent him out to fight the guardian.
If you have played Final Fantasy 12 you may have an edge when in combat as they are very similar, you can move your current avatar around using the analogue stick and by using the direction buttons can select actions for your current avatar to use such as attack or defend. So I started to dance around my enemy and started to attack his back for extra damage. However after a while my Marr Mite started to become worn out, this is when a familiar has been and battle to long and has to leave the fight to recover or they will not perform at their best. So I put away Marr Mite and started combat with Oliver. A few Fireballs later and the Guardian was beaten!
After winning you are treated to a lovely cut scene which not only is very charming but also showcases the voice acting which isn’t as bad as I first perceived, even Drippy’s Welsh accent began to grow on me. The whole scene played out like an extract from a Studio Ghibli movie which was SO great to see and made me feel hopeful about the rest of the games moments.
Now we have to head off to a town called Ding Dong Dell to “mend a broken heart” and after a bit you appear on the world map. Oh, it’s pretty all right. Very large, lovely art style and an orchestral soundtrack playing with a few enemies around to break up the trek to the next objective and with a mini map that isn’t hard to read this was looking better and better all the time. I got into a few more battles in order to get a better grasp of the combat and being honest it can be a bit over the top sometimes, it is a shape learning curve but after a few fights I got the hand of it and decided to head into the town.
The last part of the demo is just showing you how you can give people emotions in order to finish missions and quests; in this case, I had to find some enthusiasm to give to a worn down guard. At this point the demo ends after another small scene. It was a nice intro to the start of the game.
Next, I entered into the Mountain of Fire act of the demo. It’s a big change from the first one; you are now in a volcano, have new familiars, more spells, are a much higher level and are accompanied by a girl called Esther! To top it off you are given a time limit to progress through the level in 3 minutes!
The environment is suitably volcanic with lava and fire pits everywhere and flame themed enemies to boot. At this point I was glad I had done the Dark Woods act first, I would have been lost at this point as the combat has gotten a bit harder and more hectic since you now have 3 familiars to play around with.
After running up the volcano in time we are shown what seems to be a main villain called Shadar who brings out a big fire monster called Moltann, Lord of Lava, for you to fight. This boss is much more difficult than before. He does lots of damage and has lots of range to his attacks; I had to use most of my HP and MP restoring items in order to beat him even after just focussing on his weak point the entire fight! It was a nice challenge but I just kept feeling thankful that I played the other act first or this would have become infuriating fast! But after that long boss battle the second part of the demo comes to an end (after almost everyone levelling up).
After playing the demo I can honestly say I am pumped to play Ni No Kuni now more than ever. The demo can be a bit hard to get your head around but if you fully examine everything the demo shows you, it gets much better and easier to understand. The look and general atmosphere seem very good and the music is just wonderful and the combat while seeming to be a bit daunting at first looks to become very skill based and I cannot wait to start training my own familiars.
As I mentioned, demos or RPG’s are hard to do right, you can rarely show off the game in such a short period of time that a demo allows but Ni No Kuni’s seems to have done it just fine. It’s not the best demo and at times you will get annoyed that half the games features are locked from you but hey, it’s a DEMO, it was made to make you want to buy the game and I now want to buy this game. Can I give a demo any higher praise?