Ni no Kuni - More Gameplay Videos from TGS

I promised to show more gameplay videos of Ni no Kuni from the Tokyo Game Show, and these two videos are absolutely perfect, and quite lengthy, too.  I'm interested in hearing your impressions.

The game follows the old school RPG formula, with a few interesting wrinkles like day/night.  When I see that, I'm obviously thinking of Minecraft.  Will players have to battle monsters at night?  That would be cool.  I wonder if I could chop down those trees and build a house?  Yeah, then I could build a train station and lay down some tracks, so I can get to....ah, whoops, wrong game.

The combat looks very interesting.  This is an area where RPG game mechanics haven't changed in 25 years.  It appears that instead of directly fighting, your characters can send pets who will do the fighting for you.  Shades of Pokemon, but also the great Phantasy Star Online, and it does raise a lot of possibilities.  Will you have to train your pet?  Can they be bred and grown?  Can they evolve into new forms?  I think this could be the key element that could enable Ni no Kuni to break out from a very old and tired genre.

Yes, I know that Ni no Kuni has already been released for the Nintendo DS in Japan, but I haven't seen it, so I'm choosing to follow the PS3 version as a new video game.  I'm looking forward to the surprises.  Until then, I have Saturn, Dreamcast and Minecraft to keep me happy. But, hey, that's me. Enjoy the videos!


Ni no Kuni (PS3) Gameplay Trailer

Alright, now I'm interested.  Ni no Kuni (Another World) on Playstation 3 is looking very impressive, indeed.  I think this system is a better venue for a game of this caliber than a portable, where larger TV screens can really bring this world to life.  This latest footage suggests that the gameplay will be deeply integrated with Studio Ghibli's animated scenes, and the heavily-populated environments and cel-shaded graphics are very promising.  I've recently been playing Phantasy Star Online for Sega Dreamcast, so I'm in a suitably receptive mood.

When it comes to upcoming video games, I am, by nature, skeptical.  It does you no good to become part of the hype machine.  If the final game is good and we're having fun, that's all that counts.  Until then, we should do no more than cross our fingers and hope for the best.  Just knowing that we're actually getting a brand new video game is an event, instead of Cinematic Gun Sequel #2459 and Yearly Franchise Rehash #3196.  Please please please don't let this become yet another generic, formulaic clone.  Surprise us.  Show us something new.

Ni no Kuni is headed to the US just in time for Christmas and New Year's, which is welcome news.  Now if the fine folks at Level 5 would only be so kind as bring Ni no Kuni to the Dreamcast, then we'll really be rolling.


BOMBSHELL: GKids Acquires Theatrical Rights to Studio Ghibli Catalog

GKids, best known as the "Home of the New York Int'l Childrens Film Festival," has announced that they have acquired the North American distribution rights to 13 Studio Ghibli films.  This deal covers theatrical rights, and Disney will continue to hold the home video rights.  "Non-theatrical rights" are mentioned but unspecified.

As soon as I heard of this deal, the first movie that came to my mind, naturally, is Isao Takahata's 1991 masterpiece, Omohide Poro Poro.  Will this movie be included in the distribution deal?  Well...this is where things get interesting.  According to GKids, 13 studio films, 1984-2002, are included in the deal.  However, when you count up the movies from Nausicaa to The Cat Returns, you find...14 films.  One movie is being left out of the deal.  Which one?  I don't yet know.  I'll have to investigate, and lobby hard for all of Ghibli's work to be shown.

GKids has done an excellent job in distributing animated films from around the world.  Such films include The Secret of Kells, Sita Sings the Blues, Summer Wars,Asmur and Asmar, A Cat in Paris, Mia and the Migoo, and Eleanor's Secret.

Variety has more details on this new deal:

Eric Beckman, GKids founder and prexy, told Variety that the distrib is "excited and deeply honored to be working with Studio Ghibli." Beckman said "Nausicaa," "Castle in the Sky," "Spirited Away" and "Totoro" are among his favorite movies, "and they played an early role in my decision to launch GKids.

GKids will kick off the distribution with 10- and 25-year anni screenings of "Spirited Away" and "Castle in the Sky" respectively at the New York Film Fest. New York's IFC Center will also feature a Studio Ghibli retrospective Dec. 16-Jan. 12, with additional retrospectives to be held in the U.S. and Canada during the first half of 2012. Finally, GKids is planning limited releases of select Ghibli pics, some of which have never before seen U.S. theatrical distribution, beginning in late 2012.


Ni no Kuni (Another World) Trailer for PS3

As Ghibli Freaks everywhere are well aware, Studio Ghibli is working in tandem with videogame studio Level 5 to create the adventure/RPG title, Ni no Kuni, or Another World.  The game first emerged in Japan for the Nintendo DS, and now is being ported to the Playstation 3.  I'm sure you'll agree that this is the better platform, as we'll be able to enjoy the vivid artwork and skillful animation on our television screens.

To be honest, I haven't really spent any time on Ni no Kuni because it doesn't appear very inspiring.  Yes, it's always great to see something new from Ghibli, and it's especially nice to see the younger staff involved in side projects.  But there's something rather predictable in the character designs and art direction.  It feels a bit formulaic, almost stereotypically "Miyazaki-esque."  I'm reminded of the Disney movies that followed after Walt Disney's death: competent, skilled, yes, but uninspiring and lacking that creative gusto that made the original classics, well...classics.  Fantasia was an act of courage, a work of mad genius.  Direct-to-DVD sequels are just cynical cash-ins.

I feel the same way towards Ni no Kuni.  Richly colored fantasy worlds, tending towards the surreal, cutesy animal sidekick, elements that could have been swept off the cutting room floor from Howl's Moving Castle.  But Howl was a great movie by a great artist, one who knows how to transcend the banalities of children's fantasy.  Miyazaki is a deeply personal storyteller with a strong Kurosawa and Fellini bent, and he is willing to take creative risks when necessary.  And he honestly doesn't care if he alienates everybody in the process; he's lost money on movies before, he's survived.

Ni no Kuni is a work-for-hire, one that deliberately cashes in on the Ghibli name, without really adding to its legacy in any meaningful way.  It's an interesting experiment, and perhaps a template for future video game projects; I can see the studio expanding its output considerably in the post-Miyazaki era.  At this point, anything is possible, so this is a valuable learning experience, if nothing else.

Anyway, these are only my fleeting opinions on the matter.  If you enjoy this video game, by all means,  buy it for the DS or PS3 and have fun.  If Level 5 releases a Sega Saturn or Dreamcast version, I would be interested.  Hey, stranger things have happened, kids.

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