Every once in a while you come across a story which, once you’ve plunged your mind into it, doesn’t let go of you. Soaked with meaning and hidden layers to explore, it opens up an entire new world. Structured by the laws of our own existential lives - yet different in all the details - it manages to captivate and intrigue not only yourself, but generations to come.
The modern age has shaped a landscape in which spaces have been created that allow people to tell narratives in different ways. Movies and TV-series are but examples of the wide diversity of media that emerged in the 20th century. The space in which video games shine has only opened up in recent decades and by the looks of its main stream of output appears to be in it’s puberty.
It opens up fantastic possibilities to craft narratives in ways unseen before and it’s wonderful to witness every once in a while a game that makes full use of the semantic potential that the videogame medium contains deep down; an ability to shape a whole unique lifeworld in which one can dwell and live.
That is exactly what Ni no Kuni manages to do. Playing such a videogame means nothing other than merging your regular ‘lifeworld’ with an other lifeworld, in this case a world fully created by human beings. This differs from reading a book or watching a movie in an important sense, namely that the subject’s free will literally start playing a role; one gets the feeling of exploring a lifeworld rather than being a spectator. Appropriate music has the power to enhance the intensity of this feeling, and our fancy is pampered by dynamic and imaginative environments and creatures.
The feeling of exploration is not an unimportant element of video games, and especially if one already has the expectation to be drawn into another world, it’s a very disappointing experience to find a linear path drawn out for you; in an almost unlawful fashion are you stripped from a portion of expected freedom.
Studio Ghibli has managed to create a beautiful lifeworld that will surely enchant you. In the end, be it in the form of a tragic yet wonderful graphic novel such as Jimmy Corrigan by C. Ware, or in the shape of a movie like Let The Right One In, or in the fashion of Ni no Kuni, what really matters is a lifeworld’s ability to charm its visitors in a singular way and leave a lasting impression to be shared with others. We can safely assure you that Ni no Kuni lives up to its name: Another World.
While it’s the duty of the creator(s) to craft the above potential, it’s the explorer’s responsibility to truly do a lifeworld justice. Just like a tourist ought to take his time exploring a new city in order to discover new things worthy of attention, so too does a digital lifeworld require proper attention and efforts. A travel guide for those prepared to undertake this not always light hearted quest might thus be a welcome subsidiary.
As such, we do not share the opinion that guides take the fun out of games. It’s perfectly understandable should someone want to explore a world all by themselves at first, but he who wishes to master the art of exploration better stands on the shoulders of giants before him, to truly turn every turnable stone. We hope this strategy guide aids you in doing fully justice to the magnificent lifeworld of Ni no Kuni. It deserves it.