"Each and every heart will be healed On our journey through another world."
After all the comments calling both the animation and art style of the Professor Layton games "Ghibliesque", Level-5 decided to one-up the peanut gallery by actually teaming up with Studio Ghibli on a game. The result was Ni no Kuni (literally - "Another World"), though it's actually two games:
The Jet-Black Mage - Released for Nintendo DS in December 2010, this is a turn-based RPG where you draw magic spells on the touchscreen. Each copy includes a complete Wizard's Companion book.
Wrath of the White Witch - Release for PlayStation 3 in Japan in 2011 and worldwide in 2013, this was developed separately, but is essentially the same story as the original up to the mid point. Combat is real-time and menu-based.
There is also Hotroit Stories, a prequel for cell phones released through Level-5's ROID service.
While the gameplay is designed by Level-5, all the character designs, lushly animated cutscenes, and even the soundtrack (composed by the legendary Joe Hisaishi) are all pure Ghibli. Needless to say, this made a lot of people very excited about it from the get-go.Oliver is a young boy living a tiny, picturesque town loosely based on America in The Fifties. He lives with his mother Allie. He and his best friend have been working on making the best racing kart ever—it's already looking pretty snazzy. To try it out, Oliver sneaks out in the middle of the night for a test drive—unfortunately, he plunges straight into the river. His mother leaps in to save him and pulls him to the shore. The physical exertion is sadly too much for her, and she swiftly dies of a heart attack. Yes, it's that kind of game.For weeks, the grief-stricken Oliver holes up in his room and cries. His tears fall on a crude yet lovable doll his mother gave him, and set the spirit inside free! The spirit, named Drippy (Shizuku in the Japanese version), reveals to Oliver that he's from another world — a place closely linked to Oliver's town. There, an evil sorcerer has taken a sage named Alicia hostage. Alicia and Allie are linked, and if Alicia is saved, then there's a chance Allie will be, too. Drippy gives Oliver a magic book, the Wizard's Companion, and Oliver sets out into the other world in order to save his mother.The most notable feature of the Jet-Black Mage was that the Wizard's Companion was an actual hardbound 392-page book that shipped with the game and was required to progress through the game. The localization and printing cost of the book is widely blamed for the lack of an international release of that version of the game note An update for 3DS with a digital copy of the book is apparently a possibility.. When White Witch was created, the book was included in digital format. However, a limited "Wizard's Edition" release of the title did include the book as part of a luxury collection, as well as a stuffed doll of Drippy.The English dub was done by Side UK (Professor Layton) featuring the vocal talents of 10-year-old Adam Wilson as Oliver and Steffan Rhodri (from Gavin and Stacey) as Drippy.
This game provides examples of:
Adaptation Expansion: White Witch extends the plot-line of Jet-Black Mage, adding characters, locations, spells and mechanics (not only by virtue of the differences between DS and PS3 controls) and removing others and changing certain points.
Alternate Universe: The other world, to a degree; but what really fits this trope is the alternate Motorville that The Conductor takes Oliver to after you beat the Bonus Boss; a Motorville with talking animals and other major differences that Alicia did not go to; therefore Oliver's soul was never reborn and became a spirit being instead; ie the Conductor.
The story in the Jet-Black Mage and the one in the White Witch play in different parallel universes. Basic elements are the same, but they diverge in story elements pretty early on.
Ambition Is Evil: Inverted. Ambition is one of the eight Pieces of Heart, and a lack of it makes people evil. However, it is also explained in the Wizard Companion that an excess of certain emotions can turn people evil as well, or at least can be self-destructive. This can actually been seen in the game proper: a man in Hamelin's excess restraint is causing him to ignore his hunger and continue researching obsessively, and a guard in Al Mamoon's excess courage nearly sends him back to fight a monster that nearly killed him earlier.
Anatomy Of The Soul: Shadar takes the virtue out of people's heart via Mind Rape; Oliver gets permission from people with excess virtue and gathers that (a spell that doesn't alter their personality, and feels pleasant) to fix said Brokenhearted.
Souls are shared by other world counterparts; what happens to one; something similar happens to their "Soul-Mate."
Animal Stereotypes: Each of the main kingdoms has an appropriate animal theme: the friendly and laidback Ding Dong Dell has cats, the plentiful oasis Al MaMoon has cows, and the bold and industrious Hamelin has pigs.
An Offer You Can't Refuse: When Oliver first refuses to help Drippy, the latter then asks for a picture of his mother. He then mentions that she looks exactly like one of the sages from their world who's been trapped and if Oliver frees her from Shadar, he may be able to save his mother in his world.
AI-controlled party members tend to send out whoever has the highest level into battle. That's swell unless said party member is a fragile White Mage who only knows one healing spell and one buff, can only do one point of damage with her harp, has no MP, and so only uses her harp. Or any other Squishy Wizard or Glass Cannon reliant on MP.
Casting buffs immobilises both the caster and target, leaving them both sitting ducks. AI-controlled party members never seem to take into account whether it's safe to be out in the open or not.
Wandering enemy NPCs have no routing, so they tend to walk into walls and attempt to chase you over rivers of lava.
In the controversial Betting Mini-Game, the "Platoon" card game's AI has a very rigid structure on how it sets up the cards. It is relatively easy to learn the patterns and max out every game; thus allowing to get all the casino items; including unique high-level familiars, high-level alchemy ingredients, hp/mp restores, and equipment. Which can be sold outside the casino for a lot of money.
Badass Cape: Part of Oliver's new outfit when he gets to the other world.
Big Damn Heroes: Oliver has this when he finally wakes up after learning that Alicia was Allie, and she cannot be brought back. While he was in a comatose state, Vileheart reappeared and Swaine and Esther tried to fend him off, but end up almost dying in the process. Then Oliver comes out of nowhere, and curbstomps Vileheart with the Mornstar spell that Pea gave him.
Bilingual Bonus: Old Smokey alternate name, "Jabal Al-Dukhan", is Arabic for "Smoke Mountain". Same goes for "Al-Mamoon" ("Safe Place"). Averted with the Japanese names. The French version on the other hand named Old Smokey "Le Kraa", which is Arabic for ... "shit".
Ara Memoriae is Latin for "altar of memory". Perdida is Spanish for "lost", most likely a shortening of "la ciudad perdida", meaning "the lost city".
"Tomte" is the Swedish name for a Scandinavian gnome-like fairytale creature. This goes well together with the locals having names like "┼ke", which are common in the Scandinavian area.
The bounty hunt monster Magmadonna has an attack called "Palava". This is actually Finnish for "Burning".
Bittersweet Ending: Oliver defeats both Shadar and the White Witch and saves the other world, but his mother is fated to remain dead.
Bonus Boss: The Guardian of the World, as well as rematches with stronger versions of bosses from the storyline.
Shazar (Gallus) and many more bonus bosses from Jet-Black Mage were integrated in the White Witch main story and considerably nerfed.
Bonus Dungeon: Moya Island in Jet-Black Mage had a 100-floor tower accessed with Item Crafting of all things, with all-new more powerful enemies and Palette Swap of bosses that will mop the floor with your Lv.99 party if you aren't careful enough. Shazar (Gallus in the English version) is awaiting you at the last floor, and he is on-par with Bonus Boss from the Persona series, a welcome change from the easy main quest. There is another pirate Bonus Dungeon hidden in a star-shaped island.
It was replaced in White Witch with a portal to the Final Dungeon, but its monsters were reused at various points, like many other Bonus Boss from Jet-Black Mage. Gallus himself was reused as The Dragon for the White Witch, but was considerably Nerfed (he no longer has two phases): another Bonus Boss (who can be faced after clearing all other boss rematches) replaced him as the ultimate challenge.
Bragging Rights Reward: The One-Hit Kill ultimate light spell in Jet-Black Mage: You get it when you defeat Shazar (Gallus in English), but there is nothing else left to do in the game.
After doing the post-game Conductor sidequest in White Witch, you gain access to the Philmobile. It's... really not all that great, especially when you have a Dragon to fly around in.
British Accents: Characters from Oliver's world (loosely based on America in The Fifties) speak with applicable American Accents, but most characters from Drippy's world (including Drippy himself, who is voiced with a boisterous Welsh accent) speak with British Accents, undoubtedly to enhance the fairy-tale, medieval setting. The exception is Allie, Oliver's mum, who also has an English accent in Oliver's world. Who isn't an exception.
Broken Bridge: You can't climb Old Smokey and continue the plot until you get the spell to create bridges.
Llapacas look like real-world llamas, but they could also be a cross between a llama and a creature native to South America called the alpaca.
Can't Drop the Hero: Oliver has to remain in the party even after getting the 4th party member.
Catch a Falling Star: In Jet-Black Mage, Kublai accidently knocks Tengri unconscious with his Cloud Sweeper's weapon. Since he is in the sky to battle with Oliver whom Tengri was chasing, the dragon falls from several hundred meters down onto the ground. Oliver can't stop his drop, as Tengri is too heavy for his own Cloud Sweeper. But by using the in-built grappling hook, he changes their trajectory so they land in the sea instead.
Cel Shading: Probably one of the best examples of its usage. Coupled with the art style used in the backgrounds, at first glance, you might be fooled into thinking you were watching a traditionally animated movie.
Convection Schmonvection: There is no problem getting right next to the lava on Old Smokey. The characters do suffer damage, however, while climbing along the narrow parts of the trail upward if they get hit by the fire being ejected from the holes in the rock there.
Copy Protection: A rather old-school variation, via the included feely with Jet-Black Mage. To do certain things in the game, you need to refer to the book included with the game and see the corresponding page for the current situation. Without it, you can't proceed normally, and if you try to use Oliver's book, it says that you need to see the physical book instead.
Crapsaccharine World: Hoo boy, the other world might look bright and colorful, but there are a lot of dark things going on behind the scenes.
Cypher Language: Nazcańn is a simple substitution cypher, although the language's I and V analogs pull extra duty doubling for J, U and W (two "V" symbols), as they did in the classical Latin alphabet.
Dark World: The other world is one for Earth, or at least, Oliver's town. Affecting one will affect another—early demos describe an angry cat-king, who gets less grumpy when a similarly-patterned cat in town gets taken care of.
A literal Dark World appears shortly after the White Witch-exclusive arc begins due to a dark crystal in all three major cities, and everyone there (aside from children, oddly missing) is turned into zombies you fight.
In the Jet-Black Mage, there is also a Dream World you get to as Oliver alone, when you check in the inns. You can solve some riddles there using the book. There is also a Bonus Boss there, on-par with late Moya Tower bosses.
Death by Adaptation: White Witch has the Xanadu Kingdom (Haven in the Japanese version) destroyed with most of its denizens killed. Jet-Black Mage on the other hand has it alive and well, as an airborne kingdom, much like Laputa, and you even meet the sage there. The sames goes for the Dragon's Lair, Kublai's previous center of operation.
Detectives Follow Footprints: An late game Ding Dong Dell quest involved following footsteps of a familiar that stole something from a town guard.
Disc One Final Dungeon: Inevitably, since White Witch added a story arc, this was the case with Nevermore Castle, Shadar's lair, which was the Final Boss in Jet-Black Mage.
DLC: The American version will automatically get the Japanese re-release ones. However; preordering from Amazon gives one the "Griffy" familiar, and its level-ups; and pre-ordering the Strategy Guide gives the Gold Hurly familiar. Getting the Wizard's Edition gives the Golden Mite and the Golden Drongo. ("Gold" in this case means like the normal familiars, but Palette Swapped and higher stats)
Dual Wielding: Not done in game, but Horace mentions that the Wizard King of legend dual wielded magic wands. The Wizard King's ghost confirms this when he appears in the Ivory Tower: he wielded both Astra and Mornstar who are 'twins'.
Dub Name Change: Drippy for Shizaku, Esther for Maru, and Motorville for Hotroit. Among other monster and town names. In short, anyone who isn't named Oliver gets subjected into this.
To give an idea of how jarring this can be: Sherry's name was changed to...Myrtle. This despite Sherry being a perfectly good name on its own.
Dubtitle: While the Japanese dialog track is included, the dialog is all based on the English dub - including the numerous name changes. To the point where it's almost pointless to play the Japanese track considering how very different it is.
Dummied Out: A close inspection of Jet-Black Mage reveals the book was once planned to be included in the game, as there is a button for the "Rune Book" in the beta.
Many graphics for scenes that were included only in White Witch went unused as well. In turn, the (animated!) cutscene for when Oliver first enters Ninokuni is left out, though it can be still be viewed in the casino's theater with the rest of the games cutscenes.
Eagle Land: Oliver's hometown seems to be 1950s-era America; judging by the highway signs, style of cars, and them eating breakfasts like bacon and eggs with silverware.
According to Word of God; Motorville (aka "Hotroit") is based on early Detroit. (This is even seen in the dub, as "Motor City" is Detroit's old nickname.)
Earn Your Happy Ending: Prince Ali and Princess Yasmina in the Vault of Tears subplot. Their curse is finally broken after thousands of years.
Easing Into the Adventure: We get to start the game with Oliver at home and working on a car with Phillip before the adventure begins.
The Platoon minigame has a similar system. The cards in a standard deck are divided into four categories: Kings, Bishops (Aces), Wizards (Jokers) and Regular cards (everything else) which the player and AI organize into five units. Units with Kings beat any unit with only Regular cards, Bishops beat Kings and units with only Regular cards beat Bishops. Wizards are outside the rock-paper-scissors relationships and instead forces the player and AI to switch units, essentially reversing the usual outcomes.
Feelies: The limited Wizard Edition comes with a plushie of Mr. Drippy, and a 340-page hard-bound physical copy of the in-game Wizard's Companion spell book, which contains in-game spells, a bestiary, alchemy recipes and item compendium, and faerie tales.
Fetch Quest: What the brokenhearted side quests boil down to.
Fighter, Mage, Thief: An interesting variation: While Oliver is a mage his first familiars are fighters (as well as having the warrior familiar affinity), then he gets Ester who is also a mage but has more focus on healing, and then Swaine joins the group as the only possible thief in the game. Marcassin just ends up being another mage but comes with a weapon better suited to attacking than magic.
Fighting a Shadow: Drippy explains that the monsters you fight don't die when defeated, but go "elsewhere" and then eventually come back. "Hopefully they'll learn not to fight others the next time. Eventually."
Fighting Clown: Al-Khemi is a rare RPG boss example. (Though several of his attacks can hilariously backfire)
Final Boss, New Dimension: The final two bosses are fought on a platform out in space that The White Witch teleported you too.
In the beginning of the game, Drippy states that you need a large amount of space to cast Gateway. Makes sense. Except for the rest of the game, you can cast it anywhere you want, even in tight corridors. Presumably the huge amount of space is only necessary for the initial cast, as when Oliver casts Gateway in a cutscene, the cast is limited to a small area in front of him instead of the huge doorway.
Gang of Hats: In the dub, all fairies are apparently welsh-accented amateur comedians.
Genius Loci: The familiars and the monsters are all manifestations of "anything that has a soul" which includes people, animals, trees, elements, objects, places, etc. (They're kami, essentially; some of them bordering on Yokai.)
After you clear The Vault of Tears and reunite Prince Ali and Princess Yasmina, Swaine mentions the two would probably like some time alone. Oliver obviously doesn't get it, but the implication is clear. And for bonus points, where do you find the two of them after the dungeon is cleared? In Al-Mamoon's hotel.
Gotta Catch Them All: The familiars. Thankfully in the optional variety of this trope, due to the low catch rate of some familiars. (Though if you're going for all the Trophies, you'll eventually need 250. Fortunately, this can be achieved not just from catching, but also from evolving lower-level forms.)
Great Big Book of Everything: The Wizard's Companion. A beastiary, alchemical recipe book, lore book, and more all rolled into one. If you know what you're looking for, you can even obtain certain alchemy items and treasures long before you technically get the ability to find them.
Grimy Water: The purple water of the Miasma Marshes poisons the party if it is touched.
Guide Dang It: Without looking up where to find certain items and how to attain them, reaching 100% completion is nearly impossible, because of the low drop rates. The same goes for certain familiars.
Heads I Win, Tails You Lose: The first fight against Shadar is this. Even if you were doing pretty well against him, the battle ends as soon as you take out 1/4 of his HP.
Healing Potion: Food items tend to heal a single person, while the actual potions provide party wide healing.
The Heartless: Downplayed; however the Nightmares that possess certain broken-hearted (some even in Oliver's World!) play it straight.
Heroic BSOD: Oliver gets one when he learns out that Alicia and Allie, his deceased mother, were in fact the same person. He continues nonetheless his quest to Save The World from Shadar (and the White Witch in the PS3 version).
His best friend Phil also suffers one after his experimental car caused Oliver's mother's death. You don't actually find out until quite late in the game, surprisingly.
Heroic Sacrifice: Oliver continues to fight Shadar knowing that he will die if he defeats him, due to them being soul mates. The only reason he survives is because Shadar severs the link between their souls so Oliver can go on living.
Hermetic Magic: Wizards in this setting cast spells by tracing runes in the air with their wands.
High Altitude Battle: Kublai and Oliver engage on this on Cloud Sweepers in the DS version. Tengri enters at one point to chase after Oliver.
Humanoid Abomination: Shadar tore himself apart from his soul-mate; casting their soul into the void. Alicia got it back.
Inexplicably Identical Individuals: The Purrprietors and Cawtermasters of the inns and weaponshops as well as the shopkeepers at Swift Solutions look and act exactly the same no matter where you go. The exception is the Fairyground, where the shops are run by fairies dressed up to look like them. They even try to make the same cat and bird-related puns.
Internal Reveal: There's quite a bit that is revealed to the player, who is waiting to see how the heroes react when the other shoe drops.
Invisible to Normals: Humans on Earth without magic can't see people from the other world, although some can sense them or magic (like Myrtle seeing a Nightmare.) Drippy can't see Pea. (He can see ghosts...)
Item Crafting: You can do it anytime after battling the genie. Needed to get better items for a reasonable price. Later, you'll have to do this to create dungeon floors, in the original, anyway. In White Witch you barely have to touch it if you don't want to, though you'll have to if you want to obtain certain Trophies.
It's Not You, It's Me: A husband in Ding Dong Dell states this as the reason why he can't be with his wife anymore; it turns out that he's brokenhearted and needs some Love.
Limit Break: Picking up a golden glim in battle gives that character/familiar access to their special move.
Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition: The Wizard's Edition of White Witch, which came with a physical copy of the Wizard's Companion, a plush of Drippy, the sidekick, a soundtrack CD, and some bonus familiars. A promotion led to some art cards and a special coin being added too.
Meaningful Name: "Shizuku" is Japanese for "drop", as in the teardrop that brought him to life. Not to mention his general shape is reminiscent of a teardrop. And also his backstory in the Wizard's Companion. This was maintained with his English name, "Drippy".
In the English version of the game, Esther is the soul mate of Myrtle in the other world. "Esther" is derived from the heroine of Old Testament lore, an orphan Jewish girl who became queen of Persia and saved her people. Esther was born "Hassadah", which means myrtle in Hebrew. Note that their Japanese names, Maru and Shelley, have no apparent connection.
Could be a reference to Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, but that might be a stretch.
The mechanic in Motortown is named "Rusty Cartwright."
The fireworks experts who show up in a cutscene in Ding Dong Dell (and as opponents in the Soliseum) are named Roman and Catherine.
And due to the Mons system, you can actually recruit and play as them. Fittingly, they're Lethal Joke Characters: they (ironically enough) level up incredibly slowly, but their Magic Defence and Evasion spike exponentially at each level.
Metamorphosis: Your familiars can go through this to their advanced forms.
Mighty Glacier: Shadar's familiar. Exploting this trope via kiting/ hit and run tactics is actually the easiest way to beat it.
Missing Mom: Ripped right out from under our noses! Ouch.
Money Spider: The enemy familiars are always nice enough to leave guilders behind for you.
Nice Job Breaking It, Herod!: The Big Bad determines by prophecy that Oliver will save their world from said Big Bad, so they send a curse at Oliver while he's still on Earth. The results of this gives him the motivation to go to said world and try to save it.
No Export for You: The original version with the spellbook is only available in Japan due to the complex spellbook included with the game. Also the two cell-phone prequels. Averted for White Witch, which got a North American and European release with all the DLC and extras from the Japanese re-release version.
Notice This: Pots and containers that have items or guilders in them sparkle. As well as the various item find locations on the world map.
One Game for the Price of Two: According to the developers, both versions will be different enough that playing both might be necessary to get the "whole" story (each version expandes some existing scenes and has exclusives). There's also a cell phone prequel.
Orcus on His Throne: Shadar averts this early in the game, by coming after the party personally and causing them to get into a shipwreck. He then plays it straight by sitting in Nevermore for most of the rest of the game.
The White Witch plays it mostly straight by sitting in the Ivory Tower for the entire game.
Our Souls Are Different: Everyone in the other world shares their soul with someone in Motorville and vice versa. Drippy calls them "soul mates".
Pun: Almost too many to mention, but one of the cleverest examples occurs in the Vault of Tears — when the party are turned into frogs, Drippy croaks "rarebit, rarebit!" (as opposed to "ribbit") in reference to his Welsh characterization and the national dish.
Save Point: Generally located at the beginning and near the end of a dungeon. They helpfully restore your HP and MP as well as save the game.
Scenery Porn: This is the trailer for White Witch. Note especially at around 0:45. There are two frames: the upper one shows the pre-rendered form, and the lower one shows the real time form. They are practically the same. In other words, you will be walking through a Ghibli movie. Not that Jet-Black Mage is any slouch—the DS does cell-shading well, and it features the same sort of hand-painted look for its maps.
Seasonal Baggage: Not quite in the traditional sense since seasons are never seen changing but most of the major islands/countries has a distinct season motif: The areas in Summerlands tend to be bright and hot and is home to a town that must only wear swimsuits, Autumnia is darker with many areas with a death theme, Winter Wonderland is constantly cold and has many snow covered islands, and the fun and lighthearted Teheeti may represent spring with the Fairy God Mother's birth based mission and the fairyground's japanese festival theme.
Synchronization: Any person and their soul-mate in the other world with a few exceptions. Also, wizards share Hit Points with their familiars.
Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors: Celestial Star Signs. Sun gives more damage to Moon, which gives more damage to Star, which gives more damage to Sun. Planet is neutral, except against double-Planet; which has bonuses against everything else. (There exists double-signs, which have more of these features.)
Time Travel: The "Breach Time" spell; it can only be cast once per person. Only in the PS3 version.
Title Drop: Early in the game, Drippy explains to Oliver that there's "another world"note Ni No Kuni literally means "Another World", where he hails from. It becomes somewhat Lost in Translation, as half of the game's title was left untranslated and the world is always called "the other world" in the English text and dub. Only players listening to the Japanese track will actually hear the words "Ni no Kuni", though the subtitles always translate it.
Womb Level: Mummy's Tummy is possibly one of the most bright and cheery examples in existance, in that it also doubles as a preschool.
Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Both Shadar and the White Witch suffer from this. Both originally people with good intentions, but certain events pushed them over the edge.
World of Pun: King Tom of Ding Dong Dell (the cat), to Hickory Dock (a giant mouse, who lives in Ding Dong Well), there's a lot of puns going around.
Worthless Treasure Twist: The result of the The Greatest Treasure of All quest is a tombstone stating that the greatest treasure is "a life spent with friends." Drippy comments that this is a bit pretentious, and later that it's "a load of old rubbish."
You Can See Me?: Drippy calls Myrtle "Starey Mary" because of her tendency to look outside her window for long periods of time, unless someone looks back at her. He tells Oliver only he can see and hear him, until Myrtle confirms that her nickname was "Starey Mary".
One side quest has a girl from the Other World seeing her Other Self in a vision and wanting flowers. Said other self is JUST magical enough to sense Drippy's presence; Drippy naturally does this and then starts shouting at her to get her to react; Oliver scoots away.
Though to be fair this is completely useless, The game itself outright states this. The only reason you even need to buy it is so you can unlock the next tier of rewards. Then again, there is a use for it regarding a familiar named Tin-Man, who is extremely strong and extremely durable, but extremely slow. Jumping just so happens to remove this setback, which can make him a full-blown Lightning Bruiser if you know how to handle him.