Review: 'Ni no Kuni' an epic adventure with charm
Younger players are likely to be attracted to the colorful graphics and cute monsters, but beware: On the normal difficulty setting, some of these battles are quite challenging, and kids may find them frustrating. Within its dungeons and castles, save locations are sparse, so you run the risk of losing an hour or so of progress if you bump into the wrong creature. Even adult players may feel the need to switch to the easy setting every now and again.
Beyond the main story are dozens of side quests. Some are typical fare, like slaying a monster or retrieving a treasure, but others are weirder. Throughout the game you'll meet "heartbroken" characters who've become immobilized by fear, anger, doubt or other negative emotions. To save them, you have to find people who are so positive that they're overflowing with feelings like courage, kindness or belief. With your magic locket, you can grab chunks of positive feelings and use them to repair the heartbroken.
There's also a deep alchemy system (hosted by a genie named Al-Khemi) that lets you craft your own potions, armor and weapons. And you can even gamble with ghouls, playing slots, blackjack and an original game called Platoon in the Tombstone Trail casino.
Namco's localization team has done a spectacular job translating the comedy from Japanese into English. And the music by Joe Hisaishi, who has composed the scores for most of Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki's films, is lovely and at times stirring. Overall, "Ni no Kuni" is one of the most satisfying games to come out of Japan in years, deftly combining the charm of Studio Ghibli's movies with the rewards of a meaty role-playing epic. Four stars out of four.
Follow Lou Kesten on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lkesten
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