This is a guest post by the New York Film Academy Faculty.
Studio Ghibli has always been a fantastic entry point for people getting into anime, and with last month’s PS3 release of Ni no Kuni (in the West, at least) the powerhouse has now broken into the gaming market with no small amount of success.
The extraordinary praise poured on Ni no Kuni is totally deserved. It’s a fantastic game and if you haven’t already tried it, you’re sorely missing out – but rather than give the Internet yet another glowing review of the game (there’s enough out there already), we’re going to take a look at where new fans to the genre can go next once they reach the end of their Ni no Kuni adventure.
Dragon Quest IX
Level-5, the developers and publishers behind Ni no Kuni, were brought in to work on the popular Dragon Quest series in 2004 for the eighth title (released on the PS2). Having had ten main games in the series since the original NES game in 1986, there are very few Dragon Quest sequels that disappoint but the franchise has really gone from strength to strength since Level-5 took the helm.
You’ve probably heard of this genre-defining RPG, but you won’t have to dig out old consoles from the attic to join in the fun. Dive straight in at Dragon Quest IX if you own a DS – knowledge of the previous games is not required, and Dragon Quest IX is filled with the quirk and charm that has made Ni no Kuni so loveable.
There’s a reason Xenoblade got unanimously good reviews – it’s utterly gorgeous.
Almost the antithesis to the rather lifeless JRPGs released to the mainstream Western audience over the last few years, Xenoblade Chronicles is all heart and soul. Very few games – Ni no Kuni among them – can rival the immersion offered by Xenoblade through its masterful mix of a powerful storyline, poignant soundtrack, clever gameplay mechanics and the kind of visual delights which will have students at the finest animation schools using it as reference material for years to come.
Not only does it borrow all the best from the genre which went before it (not as a rip-off, more as a love letter to those games) but it also advances on the genre like no other RPG.
The bar has been set, and the bar’s name is Xenoblade Chronicles. It’s virtually guaranteed that if you loved Ni no Kuni, you’ll make good friends with Xenoblade.
Fire Emblem: Awakening
Although it’s a bit removed from the aesthetics of Ni no Kuni, the Fire Emblem series is a good progression from the stylings of Studio Ghibli into something more hardcore. Awakening, released on the 3DS last year but only just coming to North America, is a great point at which to join the series if you haven’t played any of the previous twelve series. In fact, it might well be the best of the franchise so far.
It’s a turn-based RPG which is seriously addictive – what’s more, there’s a ton of DLC to keep you going long after you’ve finished the main quest. Only one word of warning: getting to the end might take you some time. It’s mercilessly challenging.
Final Fantasy VII
Okay, so it’s not similar to Ni no Kuni at all. It’s not even anime, really, and it’s definitely not a very well kept secret – FF7 is listed on any sensible ‘best games ever’ list and has been played by over ten million people worldwide.
So why is it listed here?
Because it’s the finest thing to have ever come out of Japan since green tea. If you haven’t played Final Fantasy VII but loved Ni no Kuni, you need to stop reading right now and go get a copy (then kiss away the next three weeks of your life).
The parallel with Ni no Kuni is that FFVII is a rich piece of narrative story telling, set in a world filled with characters you end up caring deeply about. You do have to excuse the mid-90s polygon graphics, of course, but as a work of art, it’s flawless – as an RPG, the mechanics are perfect. With the incredible score composed by Nobuo Uematsu, this is an RPG that has never been topped and probably won’t be until Square Enix quits flip-flopping on doing a remake.
The only downside to the game is getting a copy; original PS1 discs go for a fortune on eBay if you want to play it retro-style, but thankfully they’ve rereleased it for PC. No idea if it’s as hard to get working as it was when first released but give it a shot – you won’t be disappointed.
The New York Film Academy believes that most effective way for students to master their chosen craft is to immediately start creating their own work in a hands-on intensive working environment. The courses are taught through a balance of classroom instruction, hands-on workshops, and immediate experience. Celebrated guest speakers from the film, television and media industries frequently visit the Academy to share their knowledge and experience with students.