I’ve kind of fallen behind in a lot of things in recent weeks and one of them has definitely been my posts on what it’s like to game with children. Not as in having children, but physically with a child. As we wait for the new Lego City Wii U game to release our Wii U gaming (together) has slowed down, but this week Pea saw a screenshot from Level 5′s Ni No Kuni on my computer and asked if I was playing that game. When she learned that I was she asked if she could play it with me.
So this weekend we started her own save (yes, I’m that kind of selfish gamer). After watching the intro she looked at me and asked (a little exasperatedly) if this was a game or a movie. Once we made it to the actual interactive parts she was happier. Since the game has a lot of text to read and she is only 4 and has no patience for me reading the sometimes redundant text I summarized a good bit for her. White washing a bit of it…the mother didn’t die but just went to the other world where Oliver would have to go and save her (not exactly a lie, but he didn’t know that at the time), fighting monsters who got knocked out instead of dying…you get the gist, right?
JRPGs are infamous for being a bit long winded. After a lot of skipping of text and walking around Pea pointed to the left stick and the “X” button and said “Are these the only buttons that we get to use?” I pointed out that we did occasionally use the triangle and square to bring up or inventory and magic menus. Yeah, she was not impressed, but she still wanted to play. She had a blast learning to navigate the map. I had to let go and let her do it and she was doing great almost instantly. We still have that press-release thing going on with the left stick that gives Oliver a bit of a stilted walk and makes movement a bit more time consuming, but we are making it through.
As for the battle mechanics, she is able to easily beat most of the low leveled monsters, but not so easily beating the higher ones because
it does involve being able to read spell names and recognize words and special move phrases. She happily lets me fight the higher level monsters and has chalked up my fighting expertise to the fact that I have already been playing the game and has charged me with the task of teaching her everything that I know. I suspect that fighting (especially with spells) will get easier for her once she sees me do it a bit more, but I really wish the Level 5 had done a better job with the iconography when it comes to the spells.For example the “Take Heart” spell has an icon that looks like a heart, while the “Give Heart” spell looks a bit like, well…a penis. Not exactly intuitive. Pea immediately pointed out that the give heart icon looked nothing like a heart all on her own.
This being her first JRPG and her being 4 and all, she has no idea of the ridiculous amount of time that it will take to actually “finish” this game (which for her means finding Oliver’s mom so that they can go back to their home in the other world). For the time being she is satisfied with the fact that the previously stuffed animal, now King of the Fairies, “Mr. Drippy” (or as she calls him Mr. Droppy) is keeping Oliver safe until he can find his mother and she can resume that duty. Even if she never plays through more than a little bit of the game, I now feel obligated to finish it on my own so that she does she Oliver and his mother reunited.
In the meantime there are some other pressing Pea issues. She wants Esther and she wants her now! Esther is the female character who joins Oliver and fights along side him, she wants Oliver to have a familiar other than the one that he currently has (Mitey) and that she has affectionately named “The Baby”, and most of all she wants that damned red cape! Oliver was wearing a red cape in the screenshot and we had to play through the game until he get to his first major city and gets world-appropriate clothing for him to get that cape. I made the mistake of telling her where he would get the cape and tonight (a half hour after bedtime) we made it Ding Dong Dell where he would get the cape…eventually. I got her to bed with the promise that we would get Oliver his cape tomorrow. When I tucked her in she told me “I’m so excited that I get my red cape tomorrow that I am never going to get to sleep” she was literally bristling with excitement. It was the cutest thing that I have ever seen! So tomorrow we have to get the cape no matter what else we do!
All in all, I suspect that we may be playing Ni No Kuni together for a while. It is a visually stunning game and the cute characters and engaging cut scenes (aka the movie/talking parts) are enough to keep her begging to stay up past her bedtime and the fact that she is both working on her map reading and problem solving skills while playing the game is enough to assuage my guilt for letting her stay up a little later and play a little more