In praise of fascism or Ni No Kuni
About all we knew was that Shadar was evil. His means were horrendous, in the family safe environments of our game there exists a condition: broken hearted. Shader imposes this condition, how exactly he does I do not know. He has never come down to impose it on me, and the condition is so common that his imposition of it must spread like a disease, people all over the content are broken hearted except one little area Shadar decimated where he left behind a single witch to carry out his heart extracting activities.
Ni No Kuni approximately translates to another world. That is where the action happens in this game: in a fantasy land that connects with the “real” through a surprisingly wholesome mechanic of feelings. Why one world would be exciting, large, and quite adventurous and the other is a mundane town is another question. Does the excitement of the other world require a boring counterpart at it’s base? Is our world in other worlds a sedate pill from which fantasy suckles? Motorville is the emotionally regular plateau on which Ni No Kuni rests, an entire fantasy globe transcribed to a single linear plane of automobiles and country stores. This fact is rarely acknowledged in the storyline.
Shakespeare stole from other stories. He told tales he had heard from others, but his genuis was in finding the reasoning and diversity of people residing in them. Anyone can tell you Hamlet, but who can explain Hamlet? Much less who can make an indecisive brooding douche bag into a compelling character? Ni No Kuni follows acknowledged tropes: you are the Messiah, “the one the prophecies foretold” but the game offers little explanation for Oliver’s actions. Your name is Olivier btw, your magical doll is Mr. Drippy (high lord of the faeries) who comically has a Welsh or Scottish accent so deep it becomes amusing. Ni No Kuni might be designed by Level-5, but it lacks Miyazaki’s magical ability to make relatable characters. The characters in the game are literally cut from stereotypical cloth. In the 50 something hours I spent in the game, it rarely stopped for characterization and even story moments while often uplifting are scarce in plot detail. Ni No Kuni has great design, but a puny storyline unworthy of the Ghibli heritage. This isn’t a case of plot by theft, rather it is laid out in so stereotypical a fashion the story is in the commons: your are the Messiah.
As the Messiah Oliver espouses the virtues of kindness and selflessness. He is hardly as complicated as Buddha or compelling as Christ, rather he is plain and his philosophy hardly varies into the harsh reality of ethics. He is simply put a childhood fable, but one whose momentary influence on a child’s ethics will be shattered the moment a child decides to take a selfish act. Oliver acquires and maintains his status as the good guy by remaining “pure hearted” or simple in his ethical dimension. This is why Shadar is such a surprise.
Ni No Kuni’s main nemesis is a wizard known for leaving his victims “broken hearted”. The broken hearted are enfeebled in such a manor that they can no longer accomplish basic duties like opening doors, adventuring, etc. Shadar attacks your group several times in the game, but never quite fleshes out as a character. Once you beat him the game attempts an explanation of his actions: Shadar was a soldier blah blah saw some atrocities blah blah asked to kill kids refuses blah blah is horrified by war and… becomes an evil wizard to stop war. Yes Ni No Kuni is a game in love with fascism. Shadar’s global reign of evil is also a time of peace. In order to prevent war Shadar became a dark wizard who intimidated an entire globe into acquiescence. I know. Way to go Shadar. This one little factoid might be the storyline’s defining moment. It’s the only thing in Ni No Kuni that provides depth to the characters.
The Pokemon like battle system is awesome, in the higher levels your a.i. Driven companions can become a bit of a chore, but over all the affinities, the weaknesses, the strengths all balance out to a remarkably interesting team. Leveling up creatures to their final form isn’t a lengthy task and the game provides a gym somewhere to do it.
Graphically the game is just amazing. Studio Ghibli’s creations are some of the most intricate and well designed creations in the history of animation, and the expression and characterization their designs provide are amazing. In the end players of this game will go in for this reason. The battle system is ok, the storyline is passable, but drops into the horrid at times, however the world is enchanting and the privilege of raising Ghibli pets is hard to pass on. I had a lot of fun.