Archives for posts with tag: Namco-Bandai

Tomorrow sees the launch of Tales of Symphonia Chronicles, an HD re-release of GC/PS2 RPG Tales of Symphonia, regarded by some as the height of the series, and it’s less well-received sequel, Dawn of the New World. The collection is PS3-exclusive, with both games coming on a single disc, and there’s also a limited edition – something we’ve come to expect thanks to recent Tales of releases.

Of course, I just had to buy the limited edition, because I’m a sucker for soundtrack CDs, plastic figurines and shiny boxes. Are you interested in what’s in that shiny box I mentioned? Of course you are! And luckily for you, I took some pictures. I’ll highlight a few in the body of this post, but be sure to check out the gallery at the bottom for all the images.

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First off, the shiny box. It’s a card case with a plastic slipcover over the top, and it’s covered in beautiful art from anime studio ufotable. There are some close-ups of the gorgeous, colourful art that graces each panel of the box in the gallery, and in those images you can see that it isn’t ruined by any logos – those sit on the plastic slipcover, allowing you to admire that artwork in full.

It’s not a big box, as far as limited editions go; big enough to hold a blu ray case, but deeper – think of a blu ray TV box set and you’re not far off the mark. It’s certainly much more compact than the gigantic Tales of Xillia or Bravely Default limited editions.

So that’s the box, but what’s inside? Hidden within, we find the game case, with one game disc and two soundtrack CDs (one each for Symphonia and Dawn of the New World), a new paperback novel written by Takumi Miyajima called Successors of Hope, which bridges the gap between the two games, and five (well, four really) mini figures of Lloyd, Colette, Emil and Marta (plus a tiny Tenebrae).

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It’s a nice set, as long as you haven’t seen the US version. American fans get a couple of nice extras that we don’t, such as a steelbook case and artbook, and all the other elements of the US edition are better executed. The box is nicer, the novel is hardback, the soundtrack is spread over four discs (whereas the two EU discs are MP3 audio discs rammed with tracks – these refused to play when I tried them in my Xbox One, so I suspect that they’ll need to be ripped to my PC) and also come in their own 4-disc jewel case, rather than being stuffed into the game case. The game case insert is also reversible, something that isn’t possible in the EU edition because the inside cover lists the OST tracklisting. American fans also get a full colour manual, while ours is not only black and white, but only affords a small handful of pages per language.

It all feels a bit budget compared to the US release, which isn’t really something you should be thinking about a collectors edition you’ve just spent £70 on. It’s a nice set in isolation, and I’m happy with it, but it’s disappointing that not only is it missing a couple of items from the US release, but that everything that did make it in is also not quite as good as its American counterpart.

Anyway, back to those contents. As I mentioned above, the OST discs are MP3 audio discs, with around 50 tracks on each, and they’re housed in the same case as the game disc. They’re are also nicely decorated with full-colour game art, and look great if attractive discs are your thing.

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Then there’s the mini-figures. A fair amount of limited editions come with a figurine of some sort (and then there’s the frankly ludicrous Titanfall one), but it’s not very often you get a whole party to play with. The mini figures really are ‘mini’ (at a couple of inches tall, most of their size is down to their gigantic heads), but it’s nice to have a variety of characters in the box, and they’re all nicely detailed. Tenebrae really is tiny though, and is more of an addition to the Marta figure (even standing on her base). Below, you can see them mingling with my other Tales of figures.

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Overall it’s a nice set, and it’s always encouraging to see the Tales of series doing well enough in Europe that collectors editions are even viable. Here’s hoping we get one for Tales of Xillia 2, which should be releasing some time later this year, and looking a bit further into the future, next year’s Tales of Zestiria.

Be sure to check out all the images of the Tales of Symphonia Chronicles Collectors Edition in the gallery below.

Just over a week ago, Namco-Bandai revealed Tales of Zestiria, a PS3 exclusive that serves as the 20th anniversary celebration for the long-running Tales of jRPG series. Our only look at Zestiria came from an off-screen video of the trailer that announced the game.

Now, Namco-Bandai have published that same trailer to their Youtube channel, giving us a clearer look at what we can expect from the new title.

Tales of Zestiria stars Slay and Alicia and focuses more on fantasy elements than recent titles in the series – an attempt by the development team to get back to the series’ roots. It’s due out in Japan in 2015 and has already been confirmed for a worldwide release.

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Namco-Bandai have today announced Tales of Zestiria, a new PS3-exclusive title in their long-running jRPG series that serves as a 20th anniversary celebration for the franchise.

The game will be released in 2015, 20 years after the first entry in the series, 1995’s Tales of Phantasia. The logo, as you can see above, contains a dragon which also makes an appearance in the trailer that you can watch below. Whether the dragon will be friend or foe has not been announced (as it would likely be a spoiler) but it’s obviously an important force in the story.

Two characters have so far been introduced. The male lead, Slay, has been designed by Kosuke Fujishima while the female lead Alicia was designed by Daigo Okumura. As more details surface, we’ll also be seeing characters designed by other Tales of series character designers Mutsumi Inomata and Minoru Iwamoto. The battle system is a further-evolved spin on the familiar Linear Motion Battle System, and the development team stated that they want to focus the game around a more fantasy-based setting (hence: dragons) in an effort to return to the series’ roots after a number of games with more technological elements. A few story details have been mentioned so far, with the game taking place on a continent contested over by two great nations, while religion seems to be a core element of the story, with there being a mysterious connection between the faiths of these two countries.

It all sounds quite a bit like Tales of the Abyss to me, which is great as far as I’m concerned as I loved that game. Slay also looks like he could have come straight from Auldrant, with his coat/cloak/thing looking like Luke fon Fabre’s garment and the piece on his chest bearing a strong resemblance to an Order of Lorelei uniform. Anyway, let’s take a look at that trailer.

Did you see that big open field at the 1:35 mark? I really hope that’s what world-traversal will be like in Zestiria – big open areas with (hopefully) plenty to explore. That small clip looks a little Xenoblade-y, so if we’re going to be without a world map again, I’m hoping for less of the field zone areas that we saw in Graces and Xillia and more of a large, relatively open world for us to explore. This is the 20th anniversary title, so I’m hoping the development team go all out to make the absolute best game they can.

The best news is that Namco-Bandai have already announced that Zestiria will be released worldwide, which certainly takes the sting out of waiting to find out if we’d ever get to play it outside of Japan. Hideo Baba, producer of the series, took to the EU PlayStation Blog to deliver the good news himself. “I am very proud to announce that Tales of Zestiria, the newest instalment and 20th Japanese anniversary commemorative title for the Tales Of franchise, will be released throughout North America, South America, and Europe for the PlayStation 3 system! This is a huge moment for Namco Bandai Games and the Tales Of team in particular as it is the first time we have simultaneously announced the game for both Japan and Western countries.” He added that the team has been trying to strengthen their relationship with their fans outside of Japan and have seen success with the most recent release, Tales of Xillia, selling over a million copies worldwide.

Of course, I’m sure there’ll still be a delay between the Japanese and Western releases, but that can’t really be helped when localising such text- and voice-heavy games. That we know it’s coming is enough, especially when we have Tales of Symphonia Chronicles and Tales of Xillia 2 both coming in 2014. My guess for a European release of Tales of Zestiria would be early 2016, so don’t relegate your PS3 to the loft just yet!

Visit the official Tales of Zestiria site here.

symphA few weeks ago, I wrote about a rumour concerning an HD re-release of cult GameCube jRPG Tales of Symphonia, which originated with a Spanish site interviewing Tales of series producer Hideo Baba. I said at the time that it was difficult to know how excited to get about the rumour, as the wording was a little unclear, but speculated that if true we’d likely hear more about it at the annual Tales of Festival.

That prediction has, happily, come true! At the ToF today, Baba-san has indeed announced the Tales of Symphonia Chronicles (which is currently a working title) for the PS3, and it’s even coming to Europe, Australasia and the Americas in early 2014! The release will contain both Tales of Symphonia and its GameCube sequel Dawn of the New World, remastered in HD. Here’s confirmation from the man himself:

Having never played either game, I’m now massively looking forward to this. A nice bonus would be a local release of the anime adaptation, but that might be pushing our luck a little bit!

It’s great to see Namco-Bandai’s commitment to this series outside of Japan – in the last couple of years, we’ve seen Tales of the Abyss get its first release in Europe, we got a lovely Day One Edition for Tales of Graces f, Tales of Vesperia apparently got a reprint and was actually available to buy again, and in just a couple of months we’ll all have Tales of Xillia (Day One or Limited Collectors Edition) in our hands! It certainly seems like Bamco are going all-out with their flagship series at the moment, and one has to wonder whether they see a gap in the market now that Final Fantasy is floundering in the minds of some.

You can also watch the Japanese announcement video below:

Who else is excited for this!?

sympA rumour has hit the net today concerning an HD re-release of celebrated GameCube jRPG Tales of Symphonia. Dubbed the Tales of Symphonia: Perfect Edition, the pack will apparently contain both the original cult game and its less-well-received Wii sequel Dawn of the New World (called Knight of Ratatosk in Japan). The pair are said to feature HD graphics and the collection will see release on PlayStation 3.

The rumour comes from Spanish site Koi-Nya, which I have linked at the bottom. It purports to be a summary of an interview with Tales of series producer Hideo Baba that took place recently but has yet to be published. I can’t seem to get the page to load no matter how many times I try, but a friend managed to get through and copy-pasted me the body of the text, which I have reproduced below.

During the celebration of Expomanga 2013, we had the pleasure of chatting at length with Mr. Hideo Baba, producer of the series Tales of, and although it was not until within a couple of days when post the full interview, we bring you of the juiciest and shocking news that Mr. Baba dropped relative Tales of Symphonia: Perfect Edition, a remake in HD for PlayStation 3 would include both sets of Symphonia, the Tales of Symphonia Original (GameCube, PS2) and Tales of Symphonia: Knight of Ratatosk -Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World in the West (Wii).

And, following the rumor of the existence of this title whose information we gained from internal sources-nya koi, we decided to ask about its reliability to the producer of the series. Although Baba was not in a position to officially confirm its existence, has been able to drop that thing would be “a representation of the dreams and hopes of the fans, who have long been wanting it” and that may soon know something about it.

In case of confirmation of the existence of this game, which we expect to hear so soon, this game would be released at least in the United States, locating the source from which we obtained the leaked information, and which also spoke that Tales of Xillia 2 would have secured its location in the West .

In addition to this news, Hideo Baba has told us many other interesting news and curiosities about Tales that soon you can read the full interview granted us.

EDIT – I’ve just got the site to load, after about ten attempts – perhaps their servers were overloaded by thousands of Symphonia fans descending upon them!

It’s a little difficult to parse what’s being said here, as it’s been machine-translated from Spanish. To me, it seems that Koi-Nya had heard of an HD remake from some other source, and then asked Baba-san about it, who replied that such a project would be “a representation of the dreams and hopes of the fans, who have long been wanting it”, while also pointing out that he was ‘not in a position to officially confirm its existence’. The problem here is that, thanks to the translation I can’t tell if, having been questioned about the rumour, Baba has basically said “wouldn’t that be great! It’d make a lot of people happy, right?”

I’m a little sceptical – perhaps too much so. I’d like to believe that this website wouldn’t have posted their story if my above interpretation were the truth of the matter, but I’ve never heard of this site before (not surprising, as I’m not Spanish, nor do I speak the language), so I have no context for this; as such, I can’t just take this story as gospel. They do, however, seem to suggest that Baba said we’ll hear about it soon, so maybe I’m just being a massive cynic. As an aside, they also seem to be claiming that Tales of Xillia 2 will see a Western release – I’ve not seen anyone pick up on this little tid-bit.

I want this rumour to be true, I really do – I missed out on Symphonia when it released on GameCube, always telling myself I’d grab a copy later. Then it was too late and it became increasingly hard to find. I watched the Symphonia anime recently and fell in love with the world, characters and storyline, and it just made me even more desperate to play the game. So I really want this to be true. But I’m not going to be getting my hopes up too high until Hideo Baba officially announces it. Namco-Bandai’s annual Tales of Festival will take place in just under three weeks (June 1-2) in Yokohama, Japan, so perhaps we’ll hear more then? Fingers crossed.

Source: Koi-Nya
http://www.koi-nya.net/2013/05/12/hideo-baba-deja-caer-una-posible-remasterizacion-para-ps3-de-ambos-tales-of-symphonia-tales-of-symphonia-perfect-edition/

Like Tales of Graces f before it, the forthcoming latest iteration of Namco-Bandai’s long-running jRPG series Tales of Xilla will launch with a special Day One Edition.

When it released last August, Graces f came with a paperback artbook, soundtrack CD, behind the scenes disc and various DLC – I even made an unboxing video about it! This August, Xillia will be upon us (August 9th, to be exact), and we’re getting the same treatment this time – minus the making of disc, by the looks of things.

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The Day One Edition was first uncovered by enterprising posters on NeoGAF, and then picked up by Operation Rainfall (both linked at the bottom of this piece), but it’s now been confirmed by Namco-Bandai themselves, alongside an extra-special Milla Maxwell Collectors Edition, which you can see below.

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The Day One Edition will effectively be the standard edition, as was the case with both Graces f and Dark Souls, and the Collectors Edition will be priced at £85.99/€99.99 and includes a 100-page artbook (expanded from the Day One’s 50-page book), the OST disc, the DLC and a 21.5cm figure of main character Milla Maxwell. It will be available in the following countries: France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Holland, Italy, Spain, Portugal and the United Kingdom.

I think it’ll be the standard Day One Edition for me. Much as I love a nice art book (and the expanded version in the Milla Edition is tempting), it’s a bit out of my price range. Plus, I just got something yesterday…
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Who else is in? And what edition are you going for? Here’s a short Milla battle video to get you in the mood. The animation looks lovely and fluid.

Tales of Xillia releases exclusively for PS3 on August 9th 2013.

Links:
NeoGAF thread: http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=538413
Op Rainfall Story: http://operationrainfall.com/tales-of-xillia-collectors-edition-eu-preorder/
Namco-Bandai Pre-order page: http://www.talesofgame.com/uk.html
My Graces f unboxing: https://pushstartgaming.wordpress.com/2012/08/30/unboxing-tales-of-graces-f-day-1-edition-push-starts-first-video/

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It’s time to take another guilty look at my absurd backlog, and today I’m focusing on Namco-Bandai’s Tales of Graces f. An enhanced port of a 2009 Wii title, this PlayStation 3 version added a ten-hour epilogue (hence the ‘f’, for ‘future’), and finally made its way here last August.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while (first off, thanks!), then you may remember that I made an unboxing video of the Day One edition that Namco-Bandai put out at Graces f‘s release back in August. And a very generous set it was too, comprising a gorgeous, full-colour (albeit paperback) artbook, a behind the scenes DVD and a soundtrack disc. I was very excited for the game; I was quite new to the Tales of series at the time, having played Tales of the Abyss on 3DS and (most of) Tales of Vesperia on my 360, but I became a big fan of the series right from the start.

I knew I wouldn’t be jumping straight into Graces f, as I was knee-deep in something else at the time (I can’t remember what though…), so I had intended for it to inhabit The Shelf for a while. But recently, a couple of things have really tempted me to get stuck in. First of all, I’m currently playing another beautiful, colourful Namco-Bandai RPG – Ni No Kuni. I’m now about 16 hours into Level-5’s collaboration with anime house Studio Ghibli, and loving (almost) every second of it. It really is a beautiful game, and genuinely looks like a Ghibli anime. It’s quite an achievement; we’ve seen cartoon-y games before, but the sumptuous colours and bright, clean shading really elevates Ni No Kuni‘s art-style above other aesthetically-similar games. Visually, it reminds me of the couple of Tales of games I’ve played so far (Abyss and Vesperia), as they’re also very colourful and possessed of stark, clean lines and use of flat colours and cartoon-y shading. Playing Ni No Kuni has reminded me that Tales of Graces f sits unloved on my shelf, and also that I still need to finish Tales of Vesperia (a game so good I bought it twice!).

Speaking of Vesperia, that game is another reason for my sudden desire to play Graces f. I recently watched the anime prequel Tales of Vesperia: The First Strike, and it reminded me how much I loved the game’s characters – Yuri Lowell might well be my favourite jRPG protagonist ever, and young mage Rita Mordio is fantastic, possessed of the kind of attitude that usually only inflicts one who is too good, too young – but I never finished the game. I reached the final dungeon (The Tower of Tarqaron) a few months back, and then decided to ‘take a break’. I absolutely loved my time with Vesperia (I might even call it the best jRPG I’ve played this gen), but there was one difficulty spike that took me close to ten hours to overcome (and also took me perilously close to crying real man-tears). When I reached Tarqaron, I worried that I might find the final boss insurmountable, decided to leave it for a few days… and then never went back.

As I’ve been getting strong Tales of cravings recently, I’ve decided to go back and finish it off soon – maybe even today. But I only have a few hours of the game left to me, and I really want to experience a full-on Tales of journey, so it’s handy that I have Tales of Graces f, which hasn’t even graced my PS3’s disc drive yet, to scratch that itch. The only problem is that it’s calling to me so strongly right now that I’m tempted to play it concurrently with Ni No Kuni, and this I must resist! I don’t think I can handle two massive RPGs at the same time (and I’m still dipping into The Witcher on my PC every few days). So, provided I can hold out, I’m pencilling in Tales of Graces f as the next title in my backlog that I aim to tackle. And I know I’m in for a good time; PSG’s own Dan Bushell put the colourful jRPG in at number three on his top five games of the year list, and if Dan loved it, I’m sure I will too.

drippyBy Dan Bushell
The long awaited jRPG Ni No Kuni, which was co-developed by Level-5 and anime powerhouse Studio Ghibli, has finally hit the gaming world, and it’s stormed the charts in style! Many genre fans will agree that jRPGs aren’t as popular as they once were, yet this stunning game has arrived and now sits astride the charts, occupying the top spot against such massive competition as FIFA 13, Call of Duty: Black Ops II and Far Cry 3. These titles may have released in the tail-end of 2012, but they’re still selling in high enough numbers to take the following three spots behind our colourful adventure.

I am a huge fan of the genre, so I was always going to buy this (in fact, I pre-ordered the lavish Wizard’s Edition the day it appeared on the net), but Ni No Kuni‘s chart performance has me very excited about how popular it has been, and I’ve been wondering whether it’s been down to pent-up demand from genre fans, or perhaps new fans are being drawn to jRPGs? I hope for it’s latter, and if that’s the case perhaps it’s the presence of Ghibli – often cited as Japan’s answer to Disney – that is what’s drawing new fans in?.

If it’s the former, there’s certainly pent-up demand to be had; this gen has been a bit sparse as far as Japanese role-playing goes. Sure, we’ve had a handful of excellent genre examples this gen – Mistwalker’s Lost Odyssey and The Last Story, Monolith Soft’s Xenoblade Chronicles and Namco-Bandai’s own Tales of series has furnished us with Vesperia and Graces f, and before long we’ll have Xillia to be getting on with. But I don’t think any of these titles have had a massive impact on sales, certainly not doing as well as we would’ve seen last-gen. Final Fantasy XIII sold a lot, as Final Fantasy titles tend to do, but its sequel only managed half the numbers.

As well as lesser sales, we don’t seem to get as many releases as we would have in the past. During the PS1 era, jRPGs were a powerhouse genre, thanks in large part to the success of Final Fantasy VII. The PS2 was rammed with jRPGs, the Dreamcast had the likes of Grandia II and Skies of Arcadia, and the Tales of series graced the GameCube with Symphonia. But this gen there’s not been much. Some titles just don’t seem to leave Japan anymore (even a Final Fantasy spin-off, Type-0, is MIA here); it can be frustrating when titles don’t secure a release over here due to a presumed lack of interest, and it ends up being a vicious cycle; we don’t get the titles, and so demand drops, and then we don’t get the next title, because the demand is too low.

Tying into this thought, I think back to the Eurogamer Expo in London’s Earl’s Court in September. Ni No Kuni was demoed there, but it was plain to see where most attention at the Expo was going. There were a lot of titles on show at Earl’s Court; big, highly-anticipated titles like Assassin’s Creed III, Black Ops II, Halo 4, Far Cry 3 and others. People were going crazy for these games – they’d queue for over an hour to play a game for ten minutes! Many at the Black Ops II demo seemed to be queuing for that one game over and over, all day long! Contrast this with Ni No Kuni‘s demo area, where a fraction of the number of machines were set up, and you could also walk straight up to play the game at pretty much any time of the day. Namco-Bandai had one staffer on duty from what I could see, yet you never had to wait for her to finish helping someone else before she could talk to you. It just didn’t have anywhere near the interest of other games there; nevermind CoDBlOps, the Doom 3 BFG Edition demo area was busier! And yet here, this week, sits Ni No Kuni, at number one.

Perhaps game sales are down across the board so soon after Christmas, meaning it’s easier to gain the number one spot, but I still call this a significant achievement – Black Ops II was actually top last week, proof that it’s still selling well. That Ni No Kuni has managed such a feat while many places have been struggling for stock is both impressive and disappointing – if Namco-Bandai had issued more copies, they surely would have sold more, but that’s the nature of risk/reward for you, and the company seems to have a habit of downplaying demand for their jRPGs (the Tales of series says hi!). But with Ni No Kuni topping the charts, we can certainly hope it has both pulled in a lot of older fans and a newer generation of gamers to the genre who may never have experienced such games. And we can hope, when the time comes to release Tales of Xillia, that Namco-Bandai remembers this week’s chart.

Yesterday, a demo went up on the UK PSN for Ni No Kuni, a collaboration between Level-5 (of Professor Layton and Inazuma Eleven fame) and much-loved animation house Studio Ghibli (known for Nausicaa, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away and many more), and I spent the day downloading it on my slow-as-all-hell PS3. Of course, I forgot that it then needed to install…

Yesterday, I wasn’t sure which demo it would be, from the two I have seen at a couple of different Expos this year. It turns out that the PSN demo is the one I saw fairly recently at the Eurogamer Expo at London’s Earl’s Court in September, which featured a forested level and a volcano section. This seems to be unchanged from what I saw at EGX, and unfortunately even carries the 25 minute time limit that was present in the build that was on the show floor.

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I eagerly plunged in though, starting with the first playable section, titled ‘An Errand for Old Father Oak’. As I’m sure you can guess, this would be the forest area I mentioned earlier. It starts off with a boss fight, against the wayward guardian of the forest, and if you don’t keep your distance, it’s very easy to lose – indeed, should the guardian get close enough to knock you down, he can hit you again before your character, Oliver, has a chance to get back up, effectively leaving you unable to do anything but wait for a KO.

Keep your distance, and you can throw out the odd fireball, heal or defend with plenty of time, or simply switch to your one and only familiar in this section, a tiny imp with a sword and cape named Marr Mite. Marr Mite can attack directly (as can Oliver, but it’s really not worth the effort), or use a special move called ‘Cut Loose’, which is more damaging but drinks up MP. This boss battle effectively works as a tutorial (so long as you don’t foolishly rush headlong into battle… ahem), and Oliver’s Welsh companion Drippy will chime in at a couple of points to tell you about defence or the items that occasionally pop out of the guardian after a number of hits. One of these items, a shining golden orb, allows Marr Mite to pull off a super move at no MP cost, which brings and end to the battle. The guardian, weary, trudges back into the forest, leaving Drippy and Oliver to wonder whether he’s back to his old self.

Next up is a chat with The Great Deku Tre… I mean, Old Father Oak, who gifts the pair with a stone tablet, which seems to serve as your in-menu manual and help system, as well as a magical locket (and the magic needed to use it) to help restore people’s hearts. Oliver thanks the great oak that looks a bit like a bird for some reason, and the pair leave for a place called Ding Dong Dell, where, with the help of the locket and spells, they plan to heal the heart of a down-on-his-luck guardsman.

We leave Old Father Oak’s grove and wander through the forest, and it strikes me that this is a lovely looking game. It’s not a massive technical achievement (characters and environments seem to be of fairly low poly counts, and textures aren’t massively detailed), but it’s a beautiful game nonetheless – bright, colourful and artistic, it looks like a cartoon brought to life, and if it reminds me of anything, it’s Tales of Vesperia with Ghibli’s art style.

That allusion to Vesperia strengthens when out on the world map. It’s strikingly similar to that other Namco-Bandai title, using a high bird’s eye view, with enemies visible on the field, but Ni No Kuni‘s world map does seem a bit more detailed than Vesperia‘s. It’s a short trek to Ding Dong Dell (which is a good thing, as the clock is still running), and as we reach the gate, we’re treated to a cutscene showing us the aforementioned depressed guard. Apparently, his colleague can’t open the gate without his listless friend, so people have started to pile up trying to get into the town. Drippy tells Oliver he must use his locket and new spells to borrow some of the happy-go-lucky guard’s enthusiasm, and give it to the other one. Which apparently is nowhere near as creepy as it probably should be.

With the guard back to his old self, the gate to Ding Dong Dell can be opened, and Oliver and Drippy can enter to… well, to nothing, as my timer runs down and my demo is over. Luckily, there’s another scenario to play through, ‘Eruption Interruption!’, which takes place on the appropriately-named Mountain of Fire.

Here, the aim is to get to the top of the mountain before it erupts, with Drippy stating (loudly and often) that we have but three minutes to reach the summit. So, off we set, with new addition Esther in tow, which adds another party member, as well as her familiars, to the battle party. This scenario obviously takes place further into the game, with Oliver now having command of three familiars, which helps to shake things up a bit. You can also swap between Oliver and Esther freely, commanding either them or their familiars, so it seems like the battle system should be fairly involved once you’ve gathered enough wee beasties and learned the basics.

Along the mountain path, enemies roam and jets of steam burst forth from cracks in the stone, slowing your ascent. It’s not particularly difficult to reach the top in under three minutes, though, and once you do, you learn an important lesson: Drippy lies! But that’s not your primary concern here: antagonist Shadar (who was briefly mentioned in the first demo level) shows up to, well, antagonise our heroes, calling up a massive fire beast called Moltaan to fight you. This battle is a bit tougher than the boss from the forest scenario, but here we have stronger and more numerous allies to call upon, so with careful use of provisions (hot coffee for MP, sandwiches and bread for HP), Oliver and Esther win through.

As Moltaan falls and writhes about in the pool of lava from whence he came, Oliver uses a spell to detach a massive boulder perched precariously above the beast. It falls on Moltaan’s head and buries him deep in the molten rock. Clearly, Oliver is not messing about. With that, the demo ends. I beat the clock!

I’m actually looking forward to this a little more now. At Eurogamer Expo, I watched a couple of friends play these two scenarios, and wondered if the battle system might be a little bit on the simplistic side. But having gone hands-on with it in a comfortable, quiet place, it seems like it should offer a good amount of depth. It looks as though we’ll be allowed three familiars in battle, so choosing and levelling up your best battle team across both characters will no doubt form the meat of the game.

Aside from that, it’s a genuine pleasure to look at, and the voice-acting (what little there is of it) is well-done – my only concern here is that the vast majority of dialogue in this demo is text-only. Hopefully, this will be rectified for the final release, otherwise Ni No Kuni may end up being a curiously silent game much of the time.

There’s little story in these demo chapters, but given that we’re getting two 25-minute slices with a boss battle, that’s to be expected. The interplay between characters seems to be of the usual high Ghibli standard, more so in ‘Eruption Interruption!’, as we have Esther along for the ride, but I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in when my copy arrives next month, and I hope to find another magical Ghibli fable, backed up with a beautiful world and solid mechanics.

Ni No Kuni releases in the UK on January 25th.

Tales of Graces f for PS3 releases here tomorrow, and thanks to the magic of pre-ordering, my copy arrived on my doormat this morning. So, I thought, why not take to the interwebs and show people what comes in the box? The result is Push Start Gaming’s very first video!

Let me know what you think in the comments below!