Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the Confusing JRPG

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Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the Confusing JRPG

There are certain tropes in Japanese-style RPGs that don't seem to make much sense - unless you're a kid.

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Man, the demo of this game gave me the exact same impression. I want to love this game, and 13-14 year old me would be going through couches to find change and buy it. It just seemed to lack the magic of Ghibli movies outside of the appearance, and had the worst kind of straight-up old school Dragon Quest tropes. Can anyone confirm that this isn't as good as it should be? Good read, Yahtzee.

I'm rarely in agreement with Yahtzee on the state of JRPGs, excluding FF13, but he nails NNK at every turn. The more I think about the game, the more atrocious it seems. Useless AI, time wasting fetch quests that have you running in circles, dialogue that explains everything 6 times over, and a story that is utterly absentee until the last 2 hours of the game.

People can throw the kiddie game excuse at it, but even that doesn't hold water because, frankly, it's too hard to be a kiddie game. With the AI being rock-stupid, the enemies routinely murder you unless you've been grinding like crazy - something kiddies wouldn't have the patience for. Hell I barely had the patience for it, especially with the pokemon feeding which takes hours as you shove cupcakes down their throat one at a time.

I have to believe people are forgiving all the game's faults and mixed focus because they've got nothing better to compare it to. JRPGs this generation sucked and I say that as someone who enjoys the anime, visual novel stuff. They scratch the itch but they certainly don't compare to Persona, Shadow Hearts, the mid-number FF games. What is really sad is when the PS3/360 age comes and goes, the argument of what was the best JRPG of this console generation is probably going to be between Ni No Kuni and one of the FF13 games, one of which has the player interactivity of a DVD scene select menu and the other is a frustrating slog through all the worst parts of NES era JRPGs mixed with all the worst parts of modern JRPGs. Funny part though is they both have tried and failed spectacularly to mix action-RPG combat and turn-based RPG combat. It's almost like you should pick one or the other and stick with it instead of trying to blend together two mechanics that are intentionally polar opposites of each other.

Turn-based combat has basically been perfected for about twenty years now, but that will never suffice in a world that demands constant innovation. There is nothing that can be added to turn-based combat at this point to make it 'better turn-based combat', it can only ever become 'turn-based combat with some incompatible real-time combat elements stuck on'. Turn-based and real-time combat serve entirely different preferences. A cat is nice, and a bag of Doritos is nice, but you cannot claim to have made an innovative new cat because you glued doritos all over its fur.

There is one thing that I can think of that could up the ante in turn-based combat. The two Legaia games for the PlayStations had turn-based combat where instead of both parties standing in a line like it was a football scrimmage, they would move about into position organically on the battle field. I don't think this was anything more than window dressing, though, as you could easily run up to a monster on the far side of the battle with no penalty or using up you move points or anything like that. I don't know if turn based games have ever expanded on this idea, but it seems like one that they should have if they didn't

I wonder how much of the padding they put into JRPGs is because they think they're catering to the American market? Surely they don't think their own countrymen are this simple minded?

Personally I find the idea of a jrpg for kids silly I don't know or this is different in japan but no child would have the attention span to play them.
It's been a long time since kids actually played pokemon and children's average attention span has only decreased in that time.

My impression of Japanese video games hasn't been the same since I read that one long-haul article on Kotaku by the guy who'd been living in Japan for several years and gives a frank appraisal of their culture. (If you've read it, you know the one I'm talking about. I don't even know how much of it to believe, because it comes off as rather hyperbolic at times, and since I've never been there I can't tell which parts are accurate and which are hyperbole.) The hand-holding aspect of the game, in particular, reminded me of some of the things the guy said.

Also:

Yahtzee Croshaw:
There are various different aspects that can be captured and stored, such as "enthusiasm" and "restraint" (although I would have thought that an excess of one of those could be mistaken for an excess of the other).

I think one of those "excess"es was supposed to be a "dearth".

I have a fat list of jrpg's I want to play. I really like there original(compared to western rpgs) fantasy settings and monsters. But despite my best efforts, I just can't stick with them.
The moment I have to start grinding to level up to beat a boss, I stop.

The truth is there's absolutely no reason to have turn based combat....and I've never understood why its the rule in jrpg's.
(yes there are some exceptions, I'm not talking about those...)

After the screen fades, and the battle music starts, it can be ANY other game system.
It could jump strait to a first person shooter, it doesn't mater, the're parallel systems. Its a meta-game and a mini-game dynamic. witch is a system at its core I like ( think x-com) and has lots of potential applications.

But why always the god awful turn based system? It was originally that way because of technological limitations, I get that. it has to be quick, and I understand the goal is abdication, so you can just veg out and enjoy a story.

but even then, under those constraints, you could make a system that's fun or at least entertaining.

Think Pokemon, but instead of turns and them just standing there. You just let them have at it, and watch them beat the hell out of each other for 30 seconds while you eat some Cheetos.

You know, I'm glad you mentioned the whole "creating a puzzle and then forcing you to find someone to tell you the solution rather than solving it yourself" thing.

That is the reason I stopped playing Okami. And everyone I've mentioned it to seems to think I'm insane.

VERY early on, to complete a quest, you need to - I believe - make the sun shine or something like that. And so I instantly opened my drawing tool and tried drawing a sun. Nothing.

I spent an hour frustratedly trying to draw things that would make it light for the NPC who wanted it. Nothing.

Finally, I decided "screw this" and wandered off - and up a hill, I came to a platform where an NPC told me to draw a sun by making a circle and - Bam said the lady - it worked. The same symbol I'd been drawing for an hour. The game wouldn't let me draw it until the NPC told me how to draw a circle.

I rage quit and never went back.

Everyone is like "oh, Okami is so great". But this issue - the thing where you can't solve the puzzle until an NPC tells you how - is really annoying.

" There is nothing that can be added to turn-based combat at this point to make it 'better turn-based combat', it can only ever become 'turn-based combat with some incompatible real-time combat elements stuck on'. "

Vagrant Story! *Queue glorious music*
Seriously, the game is fantastic and makes it awesome to augment and enhance your attacks in a direct, hugely fun and rewarding way!

That was turn based, right? :P

I am in full agreement about the puzzles, I also turned the guiding star off so at least I could figure out where to go without too much hand holding. The AI is pretty bad but I'm having success when changing the ai tactics during combat.

Even with those problems, I still love the game.

Kenjitsuka:
" There is nothing that can be added to turn-based combat at this point to make it 'better turn-based combat', it can only ever become 'turn-based combat with some incompatible real-time combat elements stuck on'. "

Vagrant Story! *Queue glorious music*
Seriously, the game is fantastic and makes it awesome to augment and enhance your attacks in a direct, hugely fun and rewarding way!

That was turn based, right? :P

Kind of, I sort of recall being free to move around but when you chose to attack the game would pause and show your attack radius so you could select what to hit if anything was available. I also recall that game kicking my ass hard. Couldn't get past a dragon guarding a door.

This is why I don't play JRPG's and never will. They're not really "games" so much as barely-interactive movies you occasionally press buttons to keep it going ("Press X to continue"). The only games made in Japan that have RPG elements I played are the Castlevania series, with Symphony of the Night and it's successors/imitators on GBA, because they're not turn based and their environments encourage, nay REQUIRE, exploration.

Sounds like this game is suffering from Epic Mickey syndrome (the bit where it can't decide who the target audience is, not the part where it sucks massive testicles and has a washed up old has been saying how you're playing it wrong if you don't like the camera).

"later Zelda games do it a fair bit as well - and it cannot possibly be in the name of enhancing the gameplay."

Fuck Fi. She won't even shut up in Hero Mode, which is the unlockable hard mode that you unlock by beating the game. So I'm playing Hard Mode that I only unlocked by already beating the game once thus proving I know how to play, and the game STILL refuses to stop holding your goddamn hand.

Bara_no_Hime:
You know, I'm glad you mentioned the whole "creating a puzzle and then forcing you to find someone to tell you the solution rather than solving it yourself" thing.

That is the reason I stopped playing Okami. And everyone I've mentioned it to seems to think I'm insane.

VERY early on, to complete a quest, you need to - I believe - make the sun shine or something like that. And so I instantly opened my drawing tool and tried drawing a sun. Nothing.

I spent an hour frustratedly trying to draw things that would make it light for the NPC who wanted it. Nothing.

Finally, I decided "screw this" and wandered off - and up a hill, I came to a platform where an NPC told me to draw a sun by making a circle and - Bam said the lady - it worked. The same symbol I'd been drawing for an hour. The game wouldn't let me draw it until the NPC told me how to draw a circle.

I rage quit and never went back.

Everyone is like "oh, Okami is so great". But this issue - the thing where you can't solve the puzzle until an NPC tells you how - is really annoying.

Let me be the only person on the planet to tell you that you are not insane. Okami is made of wank and you aren't missing anything by not playing it further. Okay, you're missing out on completely broken controls and game mechanics, as every almost every other magic symbol you learn from then on is also circle shaped but varied slightly, and eventually you get bogged down by so many circles that the game can't tell them apart anymore. You get the sun when you wanted a bomb, you get a bomb when you wanted wind, you get wind when you wanted the sun...

Oh, and you missed the story being crap as well. You ever play one of those games where a character just keeps blathering on but not saying anything important and all you want is for the character to shut the hell up so you can get back to the game? Okami is one of those games and Issun is one of those characters. You probably already started to notice that in what little you already played, though.

Also the pacing sucks. You fight the big bad "should have just been the final boss" enemy as the 3rd or 4th boss fight and then the game has to find really bad excuses to continue.

Okay so you missed a lot of things by not continuing with Okami, but you only need to experience those things if you're going into game development and need examples of how not to make your game.

...

*sigh*

You're right Yahtzee..

*removes Doritos from cat*

Sylveria:
What is really sad is when the PS3/360 age comes and goes, the argument of what was the best JRPG of this console generation is probably going to be between Ni No Kuni and one of the FF13 games...

My vote: Penny Arcade's On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness.

Episodes 1 and 2 had an Active Time Battle system that I really enjoyed, being a big fan of the original Mario RPG.

Episode 3 (and presumably Episode 4) have a more traditional turn-based system, allowing for a bit more strategy, and less reflexive play.

Now that I think about it, there was one game that mixed real time and turn-based elements successfully- Earthbound. The combat was done turn by turn, but once a character was hit, their health would fall gradually, meaning you could down a potion before it hit zero. (if you were quick enough)
You could also time your attacks to the music to make them stronger, reminiscent of Paper Mario's combat system.

Yahtzee:

Like the whole "visual novel" thing that uses all the advanced gaming technology at our disposal to recreate Fighting Fantasy books occasionally with still images of hardcore fucking.

You haven't played Monster Girl Quest, have you...

DrunkOnEstus:
Man, the demo of this game gave me the exact same impression. I want to love this game, and 13-14 year old me would be going through couches to find change and buy it. It just seemed to lack the magic of Ghibli movies outside of the appearance, and had the worst kind of straight-up old school Dragon Quest tropes. Can anyone confirm that this isn't as good as it should be? Good read, Yahtzee.

This is probably the best console experience your going to get for jrpg on grand scale with airships, magic, pocket-monsters, grinding, and quirky characters. Personally from a retrospective there hasn't been a console jrpg this epic since dragon quest 8 or tales of the abyss.

saintdane05:

Yahtzee:

Like the whole "visual novel" thing that uses all the advanced gaming technology at our disposal to recreate Fighting Fantasy books occasionally with still images of hardcore fucking.

You haven't played Monster Girl Quest, have you...

I see what you did there..

Yahtzee Croshaw:
But then again, it's entirely possible we are living in backwards world where all the kids are playing Black Ops and Warhammer 40k and only the adult gamers play the nice wholesome power of friendship innocent fairy tale RPGs in a futile effort to cling to their fading youth.

Given the number of grown men that are apparently into My Little Pony, that actually wouldn't surprise me.

I have to agree with Yahtzee on a lot of his points. This was a game I want to like a lot more than I do, but there are just so many parts of it that don't work as well as they should. The puzzles are almost all of them explained in text somewhere and those that aren't are easy to solve because the game highlights everything on the map and that disappointed me. The story's not bad, but there were so many parts where I should have had a strong emotional reaction to that just I never had. The combat functions and, despite what I keep hearing, there was nothing about it I found frustrating enough to stop me going through the game, but there were so many minor tweaks that could have made it work better.
Even as someone who enjoyed the game, when giving the final word on it, I always end up saying "It's not as good as it should be." For me, it was never anything huge and crushing, but there were just so many minor things that kept getting in the way of getting completely immersed in it and most of the time, they were things that I immediately saw simple fixes for.

On the whole, I keep getting the feel from modern games that the attitude is aiming for competence rather than excellence. I can't honestly think of a truly excellent game that I've played for years.

the antithesis:

There is one thing that I can think of that could up the ante in turn-based combat. The two Legaia games for the PlayStations had turn-based combat where instead of both parties standing in a line like it was a football scrimmage, they would move about into position organically on the battle field. I don't think this was anything more than window dressing, though, as you could easily run up to a monster on the far side of the battle with no penalty or using up you move points or anything like that. I don't know if turn based games have ever expanded on this idea, but it seems like one that they should have if they didn't

Ever played any of the Tactics games? They're basically exactly what you're describing. Move your soldiers into optimum position (You can only move a certain distance per turn) and fire away.

There's a lot of games in the Tactics genre, if you know where to look. Final Fantasy Tactics, X-Com, Advance Wars, Fire Emblem, Disgaea and so on.

but do we really have to micro-manage all their sodding equipment as well, swapping it all out every single time we switch the current lineup around? Not to mention having to decide what sweeties to force-feed them with for the associated buffs.

Sorry, but kids love this s$#@. Not all of them, for sure, but kids have all the time in the world. Holy hell, just look at Pokemon. When you get older, yeah, it's annoying. There are tons of things I put up quite happily as a young gamer than I won't put up with now. Also suspect pre-teens at least will do better at the real time combat.

We're old, son.

I've been of the same opinion on JPRGs as Yahtzee for a while. The last JRPGs I enjoyed were FFVI and Chrono Trigger. Looking back on them now, I remember the good times I had, but I don't think I could play them now. All RPGs have repetition in it, but JRPGs have the most contrived ways to extend gameplay. It's on par with the old fashioned shooters that made you get key cards to get to the next area. It's an outmoded type of game mechanic or 'carrot' and it's completely out of touch with a large portion of the gaming market. I suppose JRPGs will always exist as a niche, but I think I've grown beyond them.

And in response to the claims that JRPGs have "Interesting fantasy settings", you're certainly entitled to your opinion but respectfully I don't see them as all that original. I remember the Final Fantasy series in particular just grabbed whatever mythology they wanted and smooshed them together. Then there's the "There's a church/ religion/ authority figure that appears to be good- but it's EVIL... ooooooh a tweeeeest!" theme that exists in quite a few of them... yawn. Don't get me wrong, every once and while to you get a game where the main character is a dream trapped in a illusion and it has Donald Duck, but most of them are pretty meh.

"Poke the Mons" Heh heh. Giggity
Does Pokemon count as a JRPG? If so it would be the only one I've played. I loved the game, but hated the grinding.

As someone who enjoys JRPGs infinitely more than Yahtzee, I find all the complaints in this article very valod and relevant. Shoeing in an action element into a JRPG should be done thoroughly or not at all. A good set of mechanics for action combat are expensive to develop and often aren't as fulfilling as a decent turn-based combat mechanic.

JRPGs in general need to invest greater efforts in good puzzle design. A good puzzle can keep players involved much longer than a slightly less difficult to program fetch quest. Good turn-based combat is a perfect example of puzzle design. Creating a logical set of steps to carry out a fetch quest can be a legitimately interesting puzzle.

I have always wondered wether Japan's conservative cultural traditions may have caused this slow (if any) advancements in their RPG's, some studios there clearly think this is "the way" to do it, or it's not a proper RPG.
The same may be said for it's themes and tropes in other media, such as anime, manga, TV shows or movies.

Or maybe they are a lot more careful about their investments, the same could be said for big publishers in the west, but even the Japanese start-up studios make games from these very clear, well, blueprints if you will, whereas western start-up and indy developers try the strangest things to stand out in terms of gameplay and design.

for better or for worse.

Yahtzee:

Like the whole "visual novel" thing that uses all the advanced gaming technology at our disposal to recreate Fighting Fantasy books occasionally with still images of hardcore fucking.

Because you treat them like games. They are not. They are VISUAL NOVELS. Different medium, different tropes, different goals.

I pretty much love Ni No Kuni, as it brings to modern day AD 2013 what got me hooked on japcrap 16bit adventuring back in the days. Plus Ghibli animations and a form of delivery of pokemon and tamagotchi crap I find palatable.

In short:

Ni No Kuni is Dark Souls, with easy mode. As it is not Dark Souls itself, has cutesy crap and a bombastic, orchestral soundtrack, I find it to be perfect gaming bliss, until I eventually decide to finish it, and then I'll most probably stop playing it. Dark Souls I'll play until it breaks, the PS3 breaks, the computer breaks or I stop being metabolically active.

Ni No Kuni is a sweet, sweet ride. All the grind we did up to now was completely optional and only happened because we wanted to cook up some fancy robes or a hard-hitting axe for the tank tamagotchi pokemon thing.

Bara_no_Hime:

Everyone is like "oh, Okami is so great". But this issue - the thing where you can't solve the puzzle until an NPC tells you how - is really annoying.

Well to be fair, all the people who say that are talking about the aesthetics not so much the gameplay.

People like it cuz it's just something different

oldtaku:

but do we really have to micro-manage all their sodding equipment as well, swapping it all out every single time we switch the current lineup around? Not to mention having to decide what sweeties to force-feed them with for the associated buffs.

Sorry, but kids love this s$#@. Not all of them, for sure, but kids have all the time in the world. Holy hell, just look at Pokemon. When you get older, yeah, it's annoying. There are tons of things I put up quite happily as a young gamer than I won't put up with now. Also suspect pre-teens at least will do better at the real time combat.

We're old, son.

Pokémon, pogz, baseball cards and marbles for kids is no different than art collecting or antiquing for adults.

I was born with one finger up my nose and the other on my dick and I just got taller.

Sylveria:
I'm rarely in agreement with Yahtzee on the state of JRPGs, excluding FF13, but he nails NNK at every turn. The more I think about the game, the more atrocious it seems. Useless AI, time wasting fetch quests that have you running in circles, dialogue that explains everything 6 times over, and a story that is utterly absentee until the last 2 hours of the game.

People can throw the kiddie game excuse at it, but even that doesn't hold water because, frankly, it's too hard to be a kiddie game. With the AI being rock-stupid, the enemies routinely murder you unless you've been grinding like crazy - something kiddies wouldn't have the patience for. Hell I barely had the patience for it, especially with the pokemon feeding which takes hours as you shove cupcakes down their throat one at a time.

I have to believe people are forgiving all the game's faults and mixed focus because they've got nothing better to compare it to. JRPGs this generation sucked and I say that as someone who enjoys the anime, visual novel stuff. They scratch the itch but they certainly don't compare to Persona, Shadow Hearts, the mid-number FF games. What is really sad is when the PS3/360 age comes and goes, the argument of what was the best JRPG of this console generation is probably going to be between Ni No Kuni and one of the FF13 games, one of which has the player interactivity of a DVD scene select menu and the other is a frustrating slog through all the worst parts of NES era JRPGs mixed with all the worst parts of modern JRPGs. Funny part though is they both have tried and failed spectacularly to mix action-RPG combat and turn-based RPG combat. It's almost like you should pick one or the other and stick with it instead of trying to blend together two mechanics that are intentionally polar opposites of each other.

I am about 30 hours in and I get 90% of all side-quests done while doing the main quest. I also haven't grinded at all and haven't had any issue.

Also, did you forget about the JRPG's like Xenoblade Chronicles, Last Story, Disgaea, or the Tales games? Or are you just oblivious to everything that isn't on an HD console?

Also for a "Turn-based/Action Combat". Kingdom Hearts does it extraordinarily well.

Headdrivehardscrew:
I pretty much love Ni No Kuni, as it brings to modern day AD 2013 what got me hooked on japcrap 16bit adventuring back in the days. Plus Ghibli animations and a form of delivery of pokemon and tamagotchi crap I find palatable.

In short:

Ni No Kuni is Dark Souls, with easy mode. As it is not Dark Souls itself, has cutesy crap and a bombastic, orchestral soundtrack, I find it to be perfect gaming bliss, until I eventually decide to finish it, and then I'll most probably stop playing it. Dark Souls I'll play until it breaks, the PS3 breaks, the computer breaks or I stop being metabolically active.

Ni No Kuni is a sweet, sweet ride. All the grind we did up to now was completely optional and only happened because we wanted to cook up some fancy robes or a hard-hitting axe for the tank tamagotchi pokemon thing.

Is it sad that I still haven't finished Dark Souls? I keep creating new characters every time I get to Blighttown.

Capitano Segnaposto:

Is it sad that I still haven't finished Dark Souls? I keep creating new characters every time I get to Blighttown.

If it is not a giant aversion to spiders that's keeping you from penetrating the laggy swampy toxic dart blower containing hell hole that is Blighttown, you'll eventually have to want to move on.

I personally prefer the back entrance from the valley of the drakes. Just slow moving giant uglies that fling poop at you and want to squash you with the trees they wield and bugs. And ladders. And a handy elevator that will most probably kill you until you figure it out. They'll hunt you, and they obviously know the place better than you do, as they seem to live there.

I spent a lot of time at the bottom of Blighttown for farming large and green titanite shards, but I really don't feel like going for the long route any more than absolutely necessary. The troglodyte zombie demon freaks freak me the hell out.

Good news is this, if it is actually is news to you: The blowdart sniper rogues don't respawn once you kill them, and figuring out how to kill them without getting intoxicated was the biggest obstacle for me and everyone I know that finished Dark Souls.

It's not sad. You're just cheating yourself out of everything that follows, which is awesome vistas and just generally the most beautiful and amazing places I've yet seen. Rafters. Eternal sunset. The meandering shore of Ash Lake. Takeshi's Castle, Dark Souls edition. Plenty more things that want to kill you. More of those horrible, horrible frogs with Grave's disease. A place that looks like hell. Friendly folks that will turn your head into a maggot hatchery, if you let them.

So, you've never seen the Painted World yet? OK, I'd have to agree, then. Yes, it is quite sad. But you will have your reasons.

Headdrivehardscrew:

Capitano Segnaposto:

Is it sad that I still haven't finished Dark Souls? I keep creating new characters every time I get to Blighttown.

If it is not a giant aversion to spiders that's keeping you from penetrating the laggy swampy toxic dart blower containing hell hole that is Blighttown, you'll eventually have to want to move on.

I personally prefer the back entrance from the valley of the drakes. Just slow moving giant uglies that fling poop at you and want to squash you with the trees they wield and bugs. And ladders. And a handy elevator that will most probably kill you until you figure it out. They'll hunt you, and they obviously know the place better than you do, as they seem to live there.

I spent a lot of time at the bottom of Blighttown for farming large and green titanite shards, but I really don't feel like going for the long route any more than absolutely necessary. The troglodyte zombie demon freaks freak me the hell out.

Good news is this, if it is actually is news to you: The blowdart sniper rogues don't respawn once you kill them, and figuring out how to kill them without getting intoxicated was the biggest obstacle for me and everyone I know that finished Dark Souls.

It's not sad. You're just cheating yourself out of everything that follows, which is awesome vistas and just generally the most beautiful and amazing places I've yet seen. Rafters. Eternal sunset. The meandering shore of Ash Lake. Takeshi's Castle, Dark Souls edition. PLenty more things that want to kill you. More of those horrible, horrible frogs with Grave's disease. A place that looks like hell. Friendly folks that will turn your egg into a maggot hatchery, if you let them.

So, you've never seen the Painted World yet? OK, I'd have to agree, then. Yes, it is quite sad. But you will have your reasons.

I just keep getting side-tracked by new games that come out. Like right now, I am forcing myself to finish Xenoblade Chronicles and Ni No Kuni before I finish any other game. I need to stop starting games and never finishing them. Once I get done with both, I will start a Platinum run of Dark Souls.

I always find it strange when people call Zelda 'kiddie.' To me, a kiddie game is a game where you don't have to remember or understand things. For example, a game that's fast and loud and it lets you pretend that you're a big strong grown-up that's as strong as Superman and can shoot real guns. Or whatever the girly equivalent of that is, it's not Zelda though, that's for sure.

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