Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds could be your new mobile MMO obsession

ByJose A. York

May 16, 2022

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch remains one of the most beautiful games of all time. The PS3 title, made in collaboration with leading Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli, managed to bring the iconic animation style to life in a 3D gaming space. It was also a moving, heartfelt, and emotionally charged story that tugged at your heart hard enough to pull the DualShock out of your hand. It’s rightfully considered an all-time classic and its recent remaster has allowed a whole new generation of gamers to experience it.

The Ni no Kuni license is also in search of an identity. The sequel was less well received than the original and removed its Studio Ghibli ties, while its first cross-media foray was also stripped of Hayao Miyazaki’s legacy. Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds is the latest entry in the series, a free-to-play MMO set to launch on iOS, Android, and PC any day now. We were lucky enough to get a quick look at everyone, so that we, dear readers, can tell you all about it.

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Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds plays the old “trapped in a video game” map, with you playing the role of beta tester for Soul Divers, a VR game that everyone’s been clamoring for. As everything gets a bit Sword Art Online, you’ll find yourself drawn into the world of Ni no Kuni, arriving in the Nameless Realm for a game of argy-bargy with the locals.

There are five different characters to choose from, giving you access to five different playstyles thanks to their unique builds. There’s the Swordsman who’s a real Ronseal Everyman, The Witch, a magician with a magical flying spear, and The Engineer who can take down enemies from a distance with his rifle when he’s not tinkering with inventions. Meanwhile, The Rogue prefers a bow, and The Destroyer rounds out the quintet with his tank abilities and giant hammer.

It’s a nice spread as an opening party, but I hope to see it grow as development continues. You can upgrade all of these characters, although some progression is shared, you must start the story at the beginning of each.

Character customization is very limited, with only a few different hairstyles and color choices. You can change the body type within reason and add facial decoration if you fancy a sleazy spot. You can have different colored eyes though, so maybe that’s where developer Netmarble expects to see some individuality? There are more costumes to acquire though, so I’m sure you’ll end up finding yourself in some adornments that you like. I really appreciate the silly crow hat I acquired.

While logging into the Soul Divers beta test, everything goes a little wrong, and you find yourself in the center of a battle, with a winged minion called Cluu suddenly causing you to glow. It’s nice to see the return of a localized British voice here, with Cluu immediately providing some of the same comedic moments that Drippy did in the original. There’s an aggressively armored antagonist knocking here too, and the opening does a great job of drawing you into the world.

It helps that it looks particularly attractive. Unreal Engine 4 is rolling out a change to bring characters and enemies to life, and the returning creatures you see in the opening battle are fantastic. Once you start acquiring pets that will follow you around, you’ll remember that there’s one overriding word for the world here, and that’s “cute.” It’s simply a nice continuation of the Ni no Kuni universe, and it feels like a solid entry into the franchise rather than just a mobile spin-off.

The music certainly helps sell this idea, with the magical themes of longtime Studio Ghibli collaborator Joe Hisaishi giving the game a real sense of drama and adventure. His return to Ni no Kuni is perhaps key to the whole project, and even if you haven’t played the original, you can immediately recognize thematic similarities to his work on Howl’s Moving Castle, Porco Rosso and Ponyo. .

Ni No Kuni Cross Worlds Combat

While you’re here to save the Nameless Kingdom, Evermore is your central hub. Back from both Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom and the Ni no Kuni movie, you can leave here for quests, buy items, meet other players, and generally chat with a group of NPCs. You also need to improve your reputation here by completing needy character tasks, then increasing your reputation level in an area unlocks the next part of the main story. It all starts (like most MMOs) with a few boring delivery missions, but even those are energized with passionate voice acting and a light touch of humor.

As it is mainly a mobile-oriented title, it is not quite optimized for the PC where we have to play it. There’s the bit of swiping you do now with a mouse, dragging menus and the camera around requires a left mouse click, and you can’t yet re-map skills anywhere else on the keyboard. It’s also currently configured to play the game primarily for you, if you let it.

I’m sure things will get better though. The hands-off approach just needs to be turned off to keep you engaged and I can’t seem to find that option at the moment. I definitely want to keep playing because the world is wonderfully realized. Cross-play between mobile and PC makes this as easy as possible. It’s worth noting that as a free-to-play title, there is a store that will take your real money, but I haven’t reached a point where I felt the need to deposit any. I liked my raven hat too much.

There’s still a lot to see, and the telling part of any MMO will be when thousands of players pour into it. The gorgeous world and high-quality setup ensure it gets off to the best start, and if you’ve had enough of Genshin Impact, this might be the anime title to keep you away.

Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds will be released on iOS, Android and PC on May 25.

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