Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds review: Genshin Impact quality in a Ghibli-esque universe

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Title: Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds
Developer: Netmarble
Platforms: Android (Reviewed on), iOS, PC
Release Date: May 25, 2022

As a long-time Studio Ghibli fan, the moment I saw a trailer for Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds I’ve been filled with want. This mobile MMORPG looked absolutely incredible which, when using the Ghibli art style, should be a given.

But here’s the thing, we’ve all seen a game that looks incredible and then turns out to be complete dog water. Hell, especially in 2022 when rules and regulations regarding false advertisement seem to have completely gone out the window. I’ve talked about this previously with games like Dislyte and the mobile market as a whole and it always sucks. So how does Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds live up to its promises?

Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds starts you off with a table of five adventurers. From here you pick which one you want to play as. Don’t worry, there’s some customization to them so you won’t all look identical. I made this video here to showcase all the various characters so you can get an idea of the diverse gameplay styles they all feature.

The five characters are pretty great. There’s the Rogue who, in addition to being an archer, has a variety of buffs he can cast on his teammates. There’s the Destroyer, a traditional tank class who uses his hammer to take out all enemies in range. There’s the Witch who has a really cool floating spear which she uses to cast spells. The Engineer uses guns and machines to fight, while also serving as a healer of sorts. Finally, we have the one fans of Howl’s Moving Castle are probably gonna jump all over, the Swordsman. With his big protagonist energy, fast swordplay and overwhelming charm, this is going to be a favorite for people who still don’t shut up about Gambit being their favorite X-Men.

Once you start, you jarringly find yourself in a futuristic-looking company. Apparently, they figured out how to access the path between our world and the world of Ni no Kuni hinted about in the various games. They can actually send people there where they can use it as a sort of video game. Is this moral? Hell no. But you know what? We’re going to look past that.

This actually does come into play a lot though as some of the real people of the fantasy world are confused by people calling them an “NPC” or people suddenly just fighting and acting stupid in the middle of towns. It’s a really interesting piece of storytelling that tales like Sword Art Online seem to gloss over. There are a lot of situations in which some of the “player characters” actively cause trouble that you need to stop in order to increase your reputation.

The action itself is very similar to games like the aforementioned Genshin Impact in which you explore a large, fairly open world, by using the left corner for directions and the right corner for your various attacks, a standard attack and several special attacks that recharge over time.

The attack animation for all characters is really well done and even my Destroyer, a character with no special moves other than swinging a hammer around in different directions, was exciting to watch.

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Now, as this is a mobile game first and foremost you might be asking yourself, “where’s the gacha?” Don’t worry, this isn’t the exception to the rule, it’s here as well. Instead of getting a hero to play as, you get a Pokemon-style creature that travels with you, fighting alongside you. Your first one is an adorable mouse with a bow made of grass that looks exactly like the player character from the game Moss. I love it.

These creatures show up every time you start a battle and fight alongside you. Keeping a diverse range of creatures with you enables you to almost always have something on you that hits an enemy’s weakness. They can also cast buffs, debuff enemies, or even heal. They’re pretty great.

You can witness your first attempt to summon one of these little guys in the video below, while also getting a look at how battles play out, how you summon creatures, how you navigate the world, and how your little buddies show up and fight with you.

All in all, the game is almost exactly what I wanted. But there are some problems so let’s get into them.

Firstly, the buttons for the attacks are ginormous. There were many times when I was trying to turn the camera around and activated a large attack by accident. It didn’t cause any negative effects in most places, but as there are areas where you can attack other players I see this creating quite a bit of misunderstanding — especially if you’re trying to keep a positive reputation in the game.

Secondly, this boy is laggy. I get it just came out but there are a bunch of servers and there were times when I’d tell my character to open an item box and then put my phone down for two minutes until the game decided it was my turn in the command queue. I’m sure this will be fixed as time goes on though.

The third one though is nigh unforgivable to me. See, this game is ultimately a Netmarble game, and similar to what they’re slowly doing with Marvel games, Netmarble wants to add cryptocurrency to EVERY game.

I didn’t even notice it until I was researching their website when I found this page. Apparently, as you play you will earn tokens —  “Territe” and “Asterite” — in the game. These are used for character progression in-game but can also be traded for crypto tokens (NKT and NKA) on Marblex, Netmarble’s blockchain. These can be traded or sold to other players or traded for the MBX, Netmarbel’s exclusive cryptocurrency. If that’s too confusing, don’t worry, there’s an easy-to-follow explanation of how it plays out on the webpage.

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It’s a lot of explanation for a scam but, as always, cryptocurrency and NFTs remain the Mary Kay pyramid scheme to kids who think they’re too good for a regular door-to-door sales pyramid scheme. It is interesting to see that Netmarble is going to go all-in on it just as the whole scheme seems to have its value plummeting through the floor. But as long as it doesn’t interfere with the game, I can live with it.

People mining cryptocurrency from the game is going to affect the average player about as much as the people asking for money at highway exits affect my drive. It’s not going to change my day, but it might cause a conversation with my kids about how sometimes people’s lives go awry. As for me personally, I knew we were in the worst timeline already, but seeing a Ghibli-esque world with a crypto bro scam in it is like seeing a shady mall kiosk in the middle of the Smithsonian.

But looking past that horrible sore on the game, the lag, and the slightly problematic button layout, we honestly have an exceptional game on our hands. It’s one that I hope comes to consoles as Genshin Impact did. As for now, it’s currently on PC, Android, and iOS.

Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds (Android) Score: 7.5/10

Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds is an absolutely beautiful game that feels like you’re in a Studio Ghibli rendition of Sword Art Online. The story is clever, the animation and character design are top-notch, and the soundtrack, vocal work, and lighting effects are all stellar. Small gameplay issues aside, the biggest problem is Netmarble’s shameless need to take a beloved thing like Studio Ghibli and convert it into a way to pull more people into the crypto scam.