Even in the doldrums of January, a masterwork of a videogame may appear. Fans of Studio Ghibli take notice. Also, we have the latest from Double Fine, which this time carries the torch of Ye Olde Adventure Game.
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (PS3)
After more than two years since the first ‘Ni no Kuni’ title was released in Japan for the Nintendo DS, ‘Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch‘ finally marks the proper arrival of a game that is nearly peerless in its pedigree. Anyone familiar with the animated works of Studio Ghibli should recognize the stunning visuals and understand that the signature style extends to game’s content, with an even stronger involvement for the soundtrack. The result, much like several of Studio Ghibli’s films, is a stunning, emotive and fanciful work that strains the line between a fairy tale for children and a mature analogy for coping with the lessons encountered over a lifetime.
Stepping back from what makes the game worthy of praise and a must-own for the avant-garde gamer, this is still a Japanese role-playing game. It’s also something that a player will sink days into, as opposed to a two-hour feature. Players new to the genre will likely find that combat requires a lot more than just clicking attacks. By utilizing familiars and certain real-time aspects, the combat manages to feel like a modern version of the classics and not some outmoded throwback. Likewise, the story’s charm also manages to excise some of the more ridiculous tropes of typical RPGs in much the same way that Studio Ghibli’s features can be fantastic without turning into ‘Hish School of the Dead’.
The discerning player should also be aware that the game is an expanded remake of the original DS title. It’s entirely appropriate to play without worrying that it might be a sequel. Being a remake results in some unevenness, an issue that is more apparent in the expanded sections which are bereft of Ghibli cut-scenes. What’s more, the game often suffers a large disconnect between the incredible character designs and the environments, a contrast similar to ‘Skyward Sword’ but for less technical reasons. Level 5 would have been better served embracing the animation style and having less detail in the environments. Nevertheless, the game is a wonder to behold, and we can only hope that it is not the last of its kind.
The Cave (XBLA, PSN, eShop, PC)
Double Fine Productions is a polarizing developer that has nevertheless managed cult status due in no small part to ‘Psychonauts’. But that’s not really important right now. ‘The Cave’, which I prefer to think of as “Mortal Kooperation”, is part adventure game and part puzzle-platformer. Ron Gilbert’s aim seems to be to bring back the magic of the LucasArts adventure games of old while leaving out the anachronistic tendencies of games long past. By titles such as ‘Maniac Mansion’ and by keeping the gameplay 2D, Double Fine instantly jettisons the issues common to both 3D adventure games and 3D platformers.
The game’s story centers around a cave that has become self aware and preys upon humans. It has seven characters, from which you can play three per playthrough. They’re a flawed bunch, and their flaws have drawn them to the cave, which itself is a an elaborate sprawling mystery. The cooperation comes into play when the three player characters must be properly tasked in order to navigate obstacles. If ‘The Cave’ is as good as the sum of its parts, it will be in instant classic, not to mention something great for the Wii U and the PC, 360 and PS3.
escapeVektor (PS Vita, 3DS)
‘escapeVektor’ came out on the 3DS out in December, but is just now coming to the Vita. Though the game looks diverting enough and I can see sinking time into planning the best routes through 150 levels, it’s hard not to think that it may be better suited to a smartphone, even if it did originate on the Wii. Still, it’s nice to see Sony and Nintendo get promising smaller scale titles on their respective handhelds.
The Sims 3: 70s, 80s & 90s Stuff (PC)
Paging Ron Burgundy, your ‘Sims 3’ content pack has arrived. Fans of ‘The Sims 3‘ who wish to recreate the eras of ‘Boogie Nights’, ‘Miami Vice’ or Nirvana should be all over ‘The Sims 3: 70s, 80s & 90s Stuff‘. Being a content pack and not an expansion means mainly furniture, decorations and clothes, not an extension of gameplay. For that, the $20 price seems steep to me. For the less obsessive ‘Sims 3’ player in your circle (and there likely is one, perhaps that aunt you never see), feel free to wait until the next expansion, ‘The Sims 3: University Life‘, which is due in March.