Ni No Kuni: Finished the First City

Nov 27 2011

I increased the volume of my Ni No Kuni playtime this week: I’m trying to treat it as the current game I’m playing rather than as Japanese study, which means that I play it when I have (non-Ascension) gaming time in the middle of the week instead of segregating it to the weekend. I’ve actually been fairly busy with other projects this week, so I still only played it twice, but that’s more than in previous weeks, and the weekend play session was several hours long.

When I stopped last week, I’d just entered the first city, after giving somebody a heart piece: he was lacking in “やる気”, which means something like willpower or motivation. And, when I entered the city, I found other people with the same problem, including the king. (Who was a sort of cat person, as were many but not all people in the town.) Before they would let me talk to the king, I had to do some fetch quests, but eventually I got to talk to him, and had to figure out what was wrong; at somebody’s suggestion (I think it was a sort of wise woman person, but it might have been Shizuku?), I went back to the first world to find the king’s twin in that world, to see if I could get an idea of what was wrong.

There wasn’t much going on in the first world; I assume I’ll eventually drag back another party member from there, but not this time. The king’s twin turned out to be a cat, who liked having its ears groomed; when I went back to the second world, it turns out that the king’s “earpick” had gotten stolen. So I was supposed to go into an underground sewer system to get it back.

Outside the sewer, I ran into a boy who was planning to go in there. I told him he wasn’t up to it, but he showed me his Imagine; after realizing that I was a magic user, he decided to give me his Imagine instead. So I guess acquiring each Imagine is going to be a special event of some sort? When I fought my first battle, I still only had my old Imagine in my party (along with Shizuku and myself), but my old Imagine was vulnerable to a water attack that the first monster had, so the game showed me how to swap party members mid-battle. I think (but I could be wrong) that you’ll always have three people in your party: yourself, one Imagine, and one non-Imagine; I stuck with the other Imagine through this dungeon.

Which was noticeably longer than the first dungeon: more monsters, and the monsters weren’t as much pushovers. So I had to heal several times, use healing items (both for HP and MP, the in-game item description turns out to say what each item gives you even though the Magic Master is silent on that), and use some crystals in the environment that give you a one-time partial refill on one of those. Monsters respawned more frequently than I liked, and I ended up running past them some of the time. There were two very minor puzzles, and one chest that I wasn’t powerful enough to open; the boss didn’t present any particular difficulties.

After that, I gave the earpick back to the king; that helped, but he was still lacking in motivation, so I had to find another heart piece to give him. That put him back to normal, and he gave me his magic staff; I’d hoped it would let me open the chest in that dungeon, but no dice. I then wandered around town trying to find more people to help; one ghost gave me a bit more of a tutorial in using the Magic Master (including an artifical alphabet it uses in a couple of places), a few more people needed their will restored (and I couldn’t find a heart piece for one of them), and one person only talks to cats, so I’ll have to come back to help that person. I also unlocked the ability to use stores and change people’s weapons.

I think I’ve done everything I can in the city, though there are three loose ends; I’ve been told the next city to head off to, so that’s what I’ll do next week? It continues to be a pleasant enough game, with more of a mixture of different types of things to do than I’m used to in a JRPG. The Ghibli charm has worn off to some extent, however: still nice art (and the king from this city was very reminiscent of The Cat Returns), but it’s been a while since I’ve heard a piece of music that made me sit up and take notice, and the characters and plot aren’t giving me a strong Ghibli vibe. I’m still quite happy to be playing the game, for both aesthetic and didactic reasons, but I’m not quite as excited as I was when I started.

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