TSA’s Top 100 of 2011 – #51 Ni No Kuni

As we approach the half-way mark in TheSixthAxis’ Top 100 Games of 2011 feature, one core principle of TSA rings true: as a group we have wild and varied tastes in games. This should be viewed as a positive thing, of course. After all, who wants to read a gaming site where the staff are all blinkered zealots, only passionate about one genre or, worse still, one series? Diversity is the spice of extra-life.

Despite this eclectic inclusive love-fest, there are always going to be games that one group of TSAers like that others do not. This already can be seen with titles such as Diablo III, Dragon Age II and, to some degree, Crysis 2; all games that, from looking at their respective votes, took up their individual places in this pecking order not because they garnered average scores across the board, but because some people rated them very highly while others really weren’t feeling it.

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Number 51 on our list, 二ノ国 白き聖灰の女王 or Ni No Kuni: Shiroki Seihai no Joō, literally “Second Land: Queen of the White Sacred Ash”, is one of the few games I personally gave top marks to, while others cared little for. I’m not bitter. The ordering of this list was determined by democracy, not some sort of autocratic dogma. And if I’m being totally honest, I’m just glad it made the list at all.

Ni No Kuni is not a title many people are aware of like they are Gran Turismo 5 or any of the other mega-titles in gaming. Those of us who do have it on our game-radars, however, are almost beside ourselves with anticipation and wonder at what a collaboration between Level-5 (of Dark Cloud, Professor Layton and White Knight Chronicles acclaim) and Japanese animation house, Studio Ghibli might entail.

Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, the latter winning the Best Animated Feature Oscar in 2002, the only non-English film to have done so in this category, are modern day masterpieces. Hayao Miyazaki and fellow Ghibli director and founder Isao Takahata have consistently produced wonderful works over the last two decades, with Miyazaki-san regarded as the Japanese equivalent of Walt Disney. A game combining Level-5’s quality and Studio Ghibli’s nuanced and magical universes is truly a match made in any film-inspired gaming heaven.

Featuring themes the studio is renowned for, Ni No Kuni stars Oliver, a young boy whose mother has just passed away suddenly. In his grief, Oliver clings to Shizuku (Japanese for “waterdrop”), a doll his mother gave him before she died. After revealing himself to actually be a fairy from “Another World” (another translation of Ni No Kuni), Oliver uses a magical book gifted to him by Shizuku to travel to this parallel universe inhabited by alternate versions of people Oliver knows. A place where he’s told he may be able to revive his mother. I’m already welling up.

It’s an acquired taste, for sure. If you’re not into Japanese animation or Level-5’s particular slant on gaming then this could be one game you’re more than happy to pass up on. For others though, for people like me in particular with a passion for Japanese, animation, and strong narrative in gaming, not to mention the luscious graphics we’ve seen so far of what literally looks like a Ghibli movie you can interact with (see below), Ni No Kuni isn’t even a “probably pick it up at some point.” It’s a camp outside, midnight launch, call in sick for three days with a mysterious undiagnosable ailment type event.

The PS3 exclusive* will be out in Japan sometime next year. If a Western European date isn’t announced soon – I’ll be booking another trip to see some friends in Tokyo quicker than you can say domou arigatou gozaimasu.

*There is also a separate but connected DS game, 二ノ国 漆黒の魔導士, Ni no Kuni: Shikkoku no Madōshi. This one translates as “Second Land: The Jet-Black Mage.” It shares a similar root but both games are considered separate despite having the same “story axle.”

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29 Comments

  1. I think I marked this as a 10 too lol

  2. This has to get a Western release! My little girl loves Totoro (its on at least once a day!) This game has been on my radar sooo long….not GT5 long obviously ;)

    • At the risk of being beaten to death, I’d prefer to have this over GT5!

  3. Not my type of game but looks nice enough.

  4. Really looking forward to this. All Studio Ghibli movies I’ve seen so far are simply amazing :)
    I hope we don’t have to wait too much longer for an european release, or that there’ll at least be an importable english version.

  5. I read about this game å while ago, and I just hope it’s as good as it seems. I love how the graphics look just like, say… Spirited away. I saw a vid on youtube that shows my point: m.youtube.com/watch?gl=US&client=mv-google&hl=no&v=5aAs-vZ4rZE

  6. I hope it isn’t long for the UK release I’ve seen a few trailers the games is simply outstanding.

  7. Ooh.. I almost forgot about this one. Studio Ghibli has got some brilliant work, so this múst be good, right? Please say yes.
    Not sure about the ‘another rpg’ genre.. I so hope they make it something special.

  8. This game is going to be beautiful and amazing. One of the absolutely biggest games of 2011 for me, cannot wait!

  9. I’m getting a PS3 pokemon vibe from that trailer.
    Even if it is nothing like Pokemon, I love it already.
    It’s the first I’ve heard of this, but you can sign me up for it already!

    • It’s comments like this that makes this series worthwhile. Thank you.

      • I think the fact that your doing consecutive articles upto the end of this year is quite the commitment :D

      • Nope.
        Thank you.
        I honestly didn’t think there’d be any game I had absolutely no inkling about this high up on the list.
        And now I’m stupidly excited for it.
        You’ve put a ridiculous amount of work into this list, so don’t thank me, thank yourself!

    • i whole heartedly agree, the last jrpg i played was tales of symphonia on the gamecube, i even kept it when i sold my cube (along with viewtiful joe one of my all time favs of last generation)

  10. ahhh, that looks right nice that.

    im fammiliar with ghibli, but not overly, and i do love me a good jrpg, so bring it on.

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