My personal goal at TGS this year was to play Ni no Kuni on PS3, no matter how ridiculous a line I'd have to face at Level-5 to do so. As it turned out, the line wasn't ridiculous at all (yet), and I got an opportunity to discover if Level-5 has managed to transfer the look and feel of the legendary Studio Ghibli animation company into a PS3 game.

Two demos were available, and I played a bit of both within my 15-minute window. One demo is town-based, and has Oliver and his weird lantern-nosed pal Shizuku talking to people in town (in Japanese, of course) to find their way into the "Colonel's" castle. After being rebuffed at the door, I realized that I wasn't going to figure out what I needed to do, and I'd spend my whole demo period trying to figure out enough Japanese to perform the task, so ... on to the next demo.

The second segment of gameplay took me out of town, into a waterfall-filled forest. Here, the game's graphics really shined: The cel-shaded character models are beautifully rendered and well-animated, and they have a slight blur effect applied that somehow makes them look even more like hand-drawn images. Level-5 has proven with games like Rogue Galaxy and Dark Cloud 2 that it can do cel-shading, and this first HD effort looks (naturally) much better than previous efforts. The backgrounds aren't as detailed as the character models, but they are quite colorful, with a more flat, painted-like appearance.

This forest had a few monsters in it, including ... rooster things and alligator things, allowing me to explore the battle system. Unlike the DS game's turn-based system, Ni no Kuni on PS3 uses a sort of "active time" system wherein each attack requires a waiting period, but executes as soon as that waiting period elapses. The simple way to think about it, if you have this particular frame of reference, is White Knight Chronicles' battle system -- but fun. Ni no Kuni can get pretty hectic, since everyone (enemies, your party and your party's summoned "Imagine" fighters) can attack pretty much at the same time. You can even set two Imagines to attack simultaneously with a command.

Following a few of these fights, I encountered my first boss: the "Horn Taurus," which is basically a monstrous knight with ornate antlers. I threw everything I had at him for a few minutes, including fireball magic, attacks from all my characters and anything else that looked like an attack (again, language skills!), but I was defeated ... by the Level-5 rep who told me my time was up.

If you're left wanting more (it's okay ... I get it), Level-5 has posted a new trailer on its website.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.

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