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Ni no Kuni: The JRPG returns to form

The makers of Spirited Away and Dragon Quest VIII are here to save RPGs from grey skies and icky scrubland

The latest issue of PSM3 is on sale now.

There was no way that a collaboration between RPG masters Level 5 and anime-peddlers Studio Ghibli was going to be anything other than absolutely stunning, and so it has proven with Ni no Kuni (literally: 'Second Country'), an adventure so lovingly crafted that we awarded the Japanese version 91% a few months back. We've had the chance to go hands-on with an early translation, and the UK voice over delivers added stardust - headlined by walking-nose-turned sidekick Drippy with his glorious welsh accent.


The plot centres on a recently-orphaned child named Oliver, whose tears bring to life a doll given to him by his late mother. Drippy (for that is the doll's name) is a friendly spirit who whisks Oliver away to the titular Second Country - a parallel world where the inhabitants share a soul with someone from Oliver's dimension. Antics in one world have a trickle-down affect in the other, and this is key to bringing Oliver's mum back from the dead. (Sniff)

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It's impossible not to be impressed by the breathtaking art direction and animation, even when you're strolling around a city inhabited by gross armoured pig men. But the grid-based battle system proves Ni no Kuni has the brains to back up its beauty. There are two main tactical considerations; the elemental strengths and weaknesses of the characters on the field, and the formation of your squad. Enemy attacks strike either horizontally, vertically or diagonally across the grid - careful arrangement of your troops prevents or minimises the damage dished out.

PS3 has been rough for the Japanese RPG sub-genre, but Ni no Kuni is a glorious return to form, harking back to PS2's halcyon days of Dragon Quest VIII and classic Final Fantasy. To quote Drippy's glorious welsh-o-speak: 'Tidy!'

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