Let me preface this by saying I went into Ni No Kuni: Cross Worlds completely blind—I have never played any other Ni No Kuni games and in fact have never even heard of the franchise.
On top of this, I’m not even someone who plays mobile games nor MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online roleplay games).
The only thing that caught my eye, really, was the game boasting about its involvement with Studio Ghibli and Joe Hisaishi.
All this is to say that if you’ve been a long-time fan of the Ni No Kuni universe, you might be slightly triggered by my review of it. Nevertheless, here are my honest thoughts.
A captivating albeit buggy start
While downloading additional content, there’s a stacking game to play to pass the time, which was honestly really cute, and a better use of one’s time than having a staredown with the loading bar.
But now, onto the actual game itself.
Ni No Kuni: Cross Worlds starts off with a very Ghibli-esque intro scene that you can’t skip through. In fact, it weirdly replayed around four to five times on my phone. I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt and say it’s due to my WiFi connection, though.
Filled with natural landscapes and countryside aesthetics, I loved the intro’s peaceful vibe and was hoping the rest of the game would play out this way.
We’re introduced to five characters, which you can click into to further understand their archetypes and capabilities. They’re pretty self-explanatory and include:
I decided to go for the Howl-looking swordsman, as it seemed like the most standard one. After selecting him, I was brought to the customisation screen, where I had a blast personalising my character.
As much as I liked the blonde, I decided to go with a dark-haired avatar.
The screen let me preview some cool outfits, but ultimately, I was stuck with the rather boring default uniform. To get more outfits, you’ll have to level up and get recipes to craft them.
One unique feature was the ability to change the eye colours individually, which lets your avatar have mismatched eyes or heterochromia.
After customising your character, another unskippable scene started. We’re shown a futuristic, VR-infused city before we’re brought to a busy lab where beta testing for a VR game named Soul Divers is taking place.
Basically, our character is a tester whose soul or consciousness “dives” into an alternate universe through this programme.
As we enter the VR world, a virtual character greets us. She starts introducing the concept of Soul Divers, but suddenly materialises into reality. She’s as shocked as we are.
She says something vague about how we’re a soul not belonging to any world, or something like that. Before she can finish the conversation, though, the world starts to crumble, and she tells us that she’ll find us, no matter where we go.
And then we get woken up by a small flying creature. I’m getting some déjà vu here. (Paimon, anyone?)
The plot thickens… (spoilers ahead)
Googling Ni No Kuni’s direct translation, we learned that it means second country or country of two. So, I joked that it must have something to do with the Japanese “isekai” trope found in many animes and mangas.
Turns out, it’s kind of true. Our character is a player in this supposedly virtual world, whose native inhabitants have no idea about the “real” reality. It kind of reminds me of Westworld.
We enter right at the peak of some turmoil whereby the Queen (who resembles the AI girl we met earlier) is attacked by an evil villain.
We’re saved by our flying creature friend (named Cluu), and in the process, we get magically transported to this other nation.
(As you can tell, it’s very set in the fantasy realm with no apparent rhyme or reason as to why things happen, but I’m sure everything will eventually be revealed to create a fuller picture.)
And so, that sets the main overarching quest of this game—we have to find our way back to the Queen. Except, there are a bunch of smaller quests we have to do in order to get there.
It sounds simple enough, so of course, there’s a plot twist: Soul Divers isn’t actually just a game anymore, it’s an actual reality that you can’t just log out from (comparable to Sword Art Online?).
To be honest, I haven’t finished the game yet, so I can’t tell you all the nuances of the plot. But so far, it’s rather intriguing. If you enjoy games that have a storyline to them, this might be a suitable one for you.
What in the auto-play?!
While the art is indeed beautiful, the gameplay itself left much to be desired.
The game user interface (GUI) was overwhelming. There was just so much going on the screen, all at once. But, just like with any game, you will eventually get used to the interface the more you play.
Interestingly, there’s a bit of an idle gameplay element to Ni No Kuni: Cross Worlds with an auto-play feature.
It’s hidden in the settings, and you can turn it off, but doing so affects the difficulty of the game. That is, it makes fighting a bit harder as it foregoes assistance from AI.
Even so, the rest of the gameplay feels a bit mindless. The combat isn’t anything to shout about. It’s a lot of clicking and waiting for skill cooldowns.
Though there is a lot you can to do to manage and upgrade your skills and weapons, the actual fighting experience is rather boring and lacklustre.
Basically, there’s room for you to grind if you’re into that kind of stuff. But is it meaningful? To me, the answer is no.
At the end of the day, it feels like there’s not much strategy to it—just max out your player and let it auto-play.
The one thing that made the combat more interesting are the familiars. You control one main character at a go, but you can also have a team of familiars to back you up. If you’re familiar (pun intended) with the occult term, familiars are basically animal-shaped sidekicks that can aid you.
You can hatch free ones as you play the game, you can also use in-game currency to pull for other familiars.
Speaking of pulling, there is a gacha system in the game for the familiars as well as for gear and costumes, which is where in-app purchases may come in.
Ni No NFTs
According to Ni No Kuni’s website, Cross Worlds plans to add blockchain and NFT elements in Q3 and Q4 of 2022, which is coming real soon.
Basically, it sounds like Cross Worlds plans to have some kind of play-to-earn element to it. There is even a Territe Token (NKT) existing on the MARBLEX platform (which I believe refers to the developers, NETMARBLE).
The website says that users can exchange in-game currency from Cross Worlds for Territe Tokens, which can be used outside of the game too.
To summarise, players earn Territe from Familiar Adventure or by hunting monsters in Chaos Fields. Territe can be exchanged for Territe Tokens (NKT) on the MARBLEX wallet, which can be used just like any other cryptocurrency, ideally.
The MARBLEX platform is also going to house the Asterite Token (NKA). The main difference is that Asterite is earned from competitive in-game content. This means players would have to fight other players to earn NKA.
If you’ve been following Vulcan Post for a while, you know we’re no strangers to NFT, so I’m honestly excited to see how all this unfolds.
However, a lot of other publications who have talked about the game seem to be taking this rather negatively, seeing it as more of a cash-grabbing initiative than anything else.
Still, as much as it’s a nifty (pun intended, again) inclusion, I don’t think it necessarily improves the game at all.
I especially understand long-time Ni No Kuni fans, who might feel like the crypto gibberish will end up tarnishing the history and community the game has fostered over the years.
Gorgeous visuals for the price of good gameplay
It’s not all bad, of course. As mentioned, almost ad nauseum now, the art is as marketed—gorgeous and unique in the Studio Ghibli kind of way. On top of this, I also found the voice acting to be pretty good, even if Cluu sounds a bit annoying.
The game’s character designs are also really attractive. Besides the playable characters and other main recurring figures, I found the designs of NPCs throughout the game to be adorable. It really reminded me of Studio Ghibli mainstays like Spirited Away and Totoro.
The plot is also reasonably interesting, even though I still don’t feel that engaged with or connected to any of the characters.
But if I wanted all of that, I could settle for a beautiful anime or manga. The point of playing a game to me is for interactivity on top of immersion.
However, the gameplay is just too stagnant, and I’m left with too much to desire for me to really consider continuing this game.
For those who enjoy playing with friends, you’d be glad to know that there is co-op available, with party sizes ranging anywhere from five up to 50, depending on the challenges you’re taking on.
I myself prefer to be a solo player, and I hadn’t found anything that necessitated co-op, so I can’t comment too much on that experience.
Before I end this review, there’s one last thing worth mentioning. This game may not be too friendly to a new player, because although it’s only been out for about two months, there are already various ongoing events that new players won’t be able to access.
While that is common for many games with real-time event systems, it’s still upsetting to have so much going on at once but yet have no access to much of it.
With that said, at least now I know about the world of Ni No Kuni, and I might even check out earlier games in the series, like Wrath of the White Witch and Revenant Kingdom instead.
If I had to point out who would best enjoy Ni No Kuni: Cross Worlds, I’d say maybe Studio Ghibli fans who are also very casual or new gamers.