Recess! 2 – Second Country

Recess! is a correspondence series with personal ruminations on games.

Dear Alper and Kars,

I’ve been playing Ni No Kuni, though I must admit I’m on the verge of giving up. Michael Abbott is on to something in his search for what makes this Level-5/Studio Ghibli crossover Japanese role-playing game so fresh. (And it is.) He doesn’t quite get there with his fairytale analogy, but he’s close. Just look at the J.R.R. Tolkien quote he dug up, about “the nature of Faërie: the Perilous Realm itself, and the air that blows in that country”.

I’m convinced that the magic of adventure-type games doesn’t happen in the story, but in the world. And Ni No Kuni (‘second country’) is the perfect case study. In this game’s world, I never know what to expect, and every time I think I’ve seen it all, the game surprises me again. This reminds me of Final Fantasy VII, one of the last JRPG’s I kind of enjoyed, and of course Ghibli’s films, especially Spirited Away, both set in worlds with a similar sense of eclecticism.

Too bad, then, that the gameplay exists mostly of boring random battles, culminating in annoying boss fights. I’m so done with these that I’m probably leaving this otherwise wonderful place pretty soon. Which answers Alper’s question in last week’s Recess!: should you play this game? Only if you’re a JRPG random battle masochist.

This is such a waste, it actually made me fantasize about other possible Ghibli crossover games. What if Team ICO and/or Fumito Ueda developed one, if they ever make another game? A Ghibli game with an even bigger focus on the game world (environmental storytelling FTW!) and no violence would make me cry tears of joy.


Jump back to Alper’s debut episode.