Last week, I finished the Ni No Kuni DS manual; I’m planning to spend some time going through the book as well, but in the mean time I figured that it was high time for me to start playing the game. Which I did on Saturday!
And my initial reaction on seeing the opening cut scene: wow, there is absolutely no question that Studio Ghibli is involved in this. Their stamp is strongest so far in the cut scenes, but even in the regular game you can see it in the character design.
And you can see Ghibli in the plot: centered on the kids, parents are shoved to the side and need to be rescued. In a particularly bad way this time: the mom is present at the start of the game but has a heart attack or something soon after saving Oliver from drowning, and dies. Oliver will probably be able to save her by defeating the bad guy, but still: really, was that necessary?
And there’s Ghibli in the world building, too: I haven’t yet seen the second world of the game’s title, but the first world has a traditional Ghibli slightly archaic setting, with a whiff of steampunk/machinery focus in it.
As to the language barrier: quite manageable. The cut scenes go by faster than I’m comfortable with, but I can pick up enough to not be completely lost. And when I’m talking to characters outside of cut scenes, I can take all the time I want to look up words. (Which, fortunately, I don’t need to do very often, maybe once per dialogue screen on average?)
The DS’s screen resolution is pretty bad: kanji is legible but could definitely use more pixels, and while there turns out to be barely enough resolution for furigana, those look even less like they’re supposed to. Fortunately, those two inadequate representations cover up each other’s flaws, and there are only so many furigana syllables that I’ll have to get used to, so that’s fine.
The one exception to the language barrier is Shizuku. (The spirit from the second world that is guiding you: he was banished to the first world and turned into a stuffed animal, which Oliver re-animates after crying on him for three days in a row.) Shizuku was rather a surprise: I’d expected Shizuku to be female and gentle (in retrospect, confusing the name with Shizuka), but in fact he’s male and pleasantly gruff. (And perhaps a bit egotistical, unless I’m misunderstanding the implication of his using -sama to refer to himself?)
And his speech patterns are quite unusual: he speaks with an accent, and I’m fairly sure that there are word forms that are from a non-Tokyo dialect as well. I can usually figure out what he’s saying, but not always. If I knew Japanese better, I imagine I could identify what region (or time period?) the dialect is from; as is, it’s half a curiosity, half an annoyance.
I’m a little more than an hour into the game, though much of the time has been spent looking things up in dictionaries: I imagine it would be more like half an hour if I were playing at a normal rate. And I haven’t gotten to where I make any actual gameplay choices. (Incidentally, I was thrown for a loop in the conversation with Shizuku: you’re given choices a few times, but I’m fairly sure that, in all instances, both your choices are different ways of saying the same thing!) Though it will start looking a lot more like an RPG soon, I think: I just got introduced to an RPG-ish menu, and both Oliver and Shizuku showed up on a character screen with hit point and magic point bars.
An auspicious first session of the game, I’m definitely looking forward to playing more of it. In fact, I’m looking forward to that enough that I imagine I’ll start playing mid-week, like I normally do with games, instead of reserving it for my weekend Japanese study times.