It took me and milady 61 hours, but we finally did it. Finally finished the main storyline of Ni No Kuni. What a fucking grind, man. We did every single sidequest that was available, save for the final Derwin quest, as well as every single Bounty Hunt.
While it had its frustrating moments, I can sincerely say that I loved this game. In fact, we're gonna go through all the postgame stuff as well, finishing up the other quests/hunts, and the Solosseum.
But that's not why I'm here, to toot my own horn. I want to talk about the things in this game that filled me with murderous rage. I'm not talking ordinary, run-of-the-mill, urge-to-kill-rising stuff. This game evoked in me a rage that was long, long dormant. A rage that had been sleeping in the depths of my psyche ever since Mega Man 2 and Ninja Gaiden II for the NES, two of the most frustrating experiences of my childhood.
Ni No Kuni's final boss battle might just take the cake though. It didn't help that I thought the game would be over after beating Shadar. I was exultant after that fight. I could put the game back on the shelf, and be happy with the fact that I saw this whole thing through to the end. But no! There was still a whole hell of a lot more to do. At least ten more hours of grinding. Yay!
The problems I had with Ni No Kuni's battle system didn't really manifest themselves until the very final battle. I'm used to JRPGs, relatively speaking, having beaten Dragon Quests 4, 5, 6, and 9 in the last two years. But that's neither here nor there. What bothered me throughout the game was that your party members are very much prone to dying. So many times upon entering a new area, they would be dead in seconds. It's not like my familiars were shite, or not levelled-up enough, or maybe they were, I don't know. Oliver and his familiars held it together, but Swaine and Esther couldnt fight their way out of a wet paper bag. This wasn't too much of a problem because we wanted to explore every inch of each new area, and by the time we got halfway through, the party was holding their own again. But still, they were often prone to making really stupid decisions. For most of the DQ games, I was able to set my characters to 'Fight Wisely' or 'Give it your all' (or whatever that option was called in DQ) without having to micromanage or go back and grind the previous area for an hour.
My biggest problem has to do with animation priority. Forgive me if I am using this term incorrectly. Every spell you cast comes with a few seconds of animation before the spell is actually cast. All of these look really nice, especially when you unlock the ability to summon old bosses. However, it is prudent to note that the bosses animations, especially those of the White Witch (or Zodiarch), always take precedence! Say you've activated Mornstar, and she (or the Zodiarch) activates Chaos. If the Chaos animation finishes before Mornstar's (or any other spell) does, Chaos will hit and you will lose the MP that you had lined up for your spell, without getting a hit off. Same thing with your party members. I had Marcassin healing in the final battle, and he would use Ward a lot. But if my Evenstar didn't finish animating before his Ward did, I would lose all of that MP. The same thing happens with provisions, albeit to a lesser extent. If my dudes die, which happened a lot in the last battle (before going back and grinding Tokotokos and Tokotocolds), using a Phoenix Feather/Breath/Tear but being beaten by a boss or party member spell animation, the item does not get used. You don't lose it in your inventory, but you still have to go back and select it again, hoping you beat the next animation, and hoping that you haven't died in the process.
You know, I get that whoever's spell gets cast first should get precedence. Of course. But when it only happens to the player, it can get extremely taxing, extremely quickly. The final bosses spells never get cut off if your spell finishes before theirs; they get to use theirs every single time.
It took us 3 tries to beat the White Witch and Zodiarch. I didn't mind so much having to start from the first battle after dying, because I knew what to do at that point and it was relatively easy to put down her first two forms. But after losing to the third form twice, both times having only Oliver alive and the Zodiarch with less than 500hp left, I was ready to throw my controller at the wall, envisioning myself elated to see it smashed into a million pieces because fuck this fucking game!
So we went back to the overworld. There were more quests and bounty hunts now. We did all of them. We had already got the 'unlock Oliver's full potential' stamp card perk, and after all these sidequests we had enough to get the 'less MP for spells, songs, tricks' perk. This helped. It also helped that we managed to dust off several Tokotokos and one Tokotocold, moving us from level 55 to level 65. A lot of guides recommended level 80+ for the final battle. Pfft, we said. We came back, and while it was still a challenge, especially when their spell animations take precedence every fucking time, we finally did it. And it was beautiful. We felt a great sense of accomplishment after finally putting the Zodiarch to rest. Third time's a charm, all that.
So even though that spell precedence thing really made me wish for death's cold embrace, there was so much about Ni No Kuni that was spellbinding (pun intended). By which, I of course mean, the puns. I love puns. The worse, the better. This game was chock full of them. Totally reminded me of the DQ remakes, which were wall-to-wall with clever wordplay. In this case Ni No Kuni is no slouch. For some it could get grating though, I'd imagine.
Finally, I guess it goes without saying that the art style, animation, voice acting, and the gameplay in general are all pretty top notch. I don't make a habit of buying new games at full price, but I dropped the $60 on this one and felt that it was definitely worth the money. We've probably still got a good 20 hours of endgame stuff to experience. Maybe if I had played this alone, without a lady by my side, I might be singing a different tune. But as it stands right now, this is the best game I've played this year. Also, it's the only game I've played (that has been released) this year. Heh.
Kinda hope we get a sequel.
Until next time.