Ni No Kuni is the Open World Pokemon RPG We’ve Always Wanted

Author: Nathan Doverspike

Since Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness, there hasn’t been a 3D open world Pokemon game with the name Pokemon in it. In January of 2013, Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch made it’s way to North America, a little over a year after its Japanese release to much excitement and hype. Four and a half years later, this gem of a video game is STILL the best open world Pokemon game (not named Pokemon but close enough) that more people should play. With the release (and undeniable success) of the Switch, it has been speculated that a new Pokemon open world RPG is finally on its way. While I am definitely excited, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Ni No Kuni since it has numerous improvements that Game Freak still has yet to fully realize in their current Pokemon games. Here are some major improvements they could borrow from the overall superior Ni No Kuni.

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  1. More Engaging Combat

The combat in the main Pokemon titles has always been turn based, and Ni No Kuni kicks it up a notch with a hybrid between turn based and real time, usually called Active Time battles. Think something like Final Fantasy XV, but with Pokemon…er monsters. You can use your regular attack that doesn’t require the use of mana (which drains with each spell/attack), or you could use some of that mana to cast a more powerful attack. You can actively switch between monsters at anytime in the battle, which includes changing characters and using their abilities and monsters. This provides a much faster pace to the battles (most are done in 20-30 seconds), and also makes the boss fights more frantic and rewarding. I grew up as a kid playing Pokemon Blue, which is why I would love to see some sort of implementation of this combat in a new Pokemon RGP.

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2. Better Quest System

The popular Yo-kai Watch had a slight quest system in place, which helped add some depth to that game, but ultimately didn’t provide you enough information to help you find where the quest-giver was located or sometimes even enough information to know how to solve the quest. Pokemon, on the far side of that spectrum, has no quest system. That’s right, if Swimmer Joe wants to see a Goldeen and doesn’t feel like getting his face wet while he’s floating in this magical fluid called water where the Goldeen live, then you have to remember to go grab your Goldeen, and then run the whole way back to him (because why would he be close enough to walk) AND remember where he was, just to get a usually trivial reward like money. Ni No Kuni has a whole quest board, and even highlights the characters that have quests with a glowing blue point on the map. Since the game provides you with specific hunts that let you battle optional but powerful foes, those are also marked on the world map so you know exactly where they are and don’t have to surf for half an hour to find the quest. This might not seem like a big deal to people with a lot of time on their hands, but trust me, having a quest system like Ni No Kuni in Pokemon would go a long way to making those games so much better.

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3. Easily Navigated Open World

What’s that, a big marker where you are supposed to travel to for the main quest? WHAT?! No, that’s not something we need! We love wandering around for hours until we accidentally talk to the right person who isn’t easily identifiable to progress the main story. That’s MUCH more entertaining than saving time and patience with markers and clear indicators of where to go and what to do. Pokemon Sun does have a map marker of where you are supposed to go, most of the time. I have found times where I had to search the Internet to figure out where in the world the game wanted me to go. That’s not good quest design, that’s just poor design. For all the things Pokemon games do well, this is one area in particular that needs to improve in order for me to keep enjoying their games.

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4. Better Story

Ok, so the stories in Pokemon games are generally meant for a younger audience. Even with that said, I feel they are too reliant on people playing them just to catch Pokemon and not because the story is engaging or enjoyable. I’ll admit, I am normally one of those people. However, after playing Ni No Kuni and LOVING the story and characters, this is quickly becoming a glaring problem moving forward. For all the good things Game Freak does, this one is probably the weakest aspect.

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5. Make Evolving Pokemon Less of a Chore

This one is probably just me, but I feel that as the years have progressed and as more and more Pokemon games have been released, it is becoming increasingly annoying to evolve certain Pokemon. Take Eevee for example. In order for you to evolve it to Leafeon, you have to get a Leaf Stone. Ok, not too bad right? Well in order to evolve it into Sylveon, you must have it like you enough and then it will evolve in to that form. Yup, it needs to LIKE you, which means you need to feed it candy and brush it or something like that to make it like you, and THEN it will evolve. I miss the days when Charmeleon would hit level 36 and evolve into Charizard, no matter if you were his best buddy or not. In Ni No Kuni, all they have to do is hit a certain level and the option to evolve them is there. You can sometimes get and extra move by leveling them up further, but you can certainly take the road most traveled and just level them up at that time. No need for a ton of petting or grooming or snacks, just hit a level and BOOM you’re done.

With Ni No Kuni 2 right around the corner, I can’t wait to see the changes they’ve made and enjoy what looks to be an incredible story. I still play Pokemon, and have high hopes for a new iteration of the franchise on the Nintendo Switch, but have some reservations about whether or not they can hit all the high notes that Ni No Kuni already hit back in 2013. While I wait for the inevitable announcement of a (hopefully great) new Pokemon RPG, I’ll go back to the wonderful story, beautifully done cutscenes courtesy of Studio Ghibli, and fantastic combat of Ni No Kuni.

What are your thoughts? Do you still play Pokemon games? If you do, what do you enjoy about them? Is there anything you wish they would improve? Let me know in the comments!

 

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