I'd like to think that everybody reading this is familiar with the works of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, but as much it pains me to think it, I doubt that's the case. A quick lesson, then: Studio Ghibli is an animation studio based in Tokyo, and is responsible for some of the finest animated films you'll ever lay your eyes on. My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke are just three titles you might (and indeed should) have heard of, but its entire catalogue spans nearly 20 titles. If you ever get the chance, I wholeheartedly recommend checking out Grave of the Fireflies, which will make even the burliest of men bawl like a baby.
Before I digress into sentimental babble about my favourite Ghibli works, simply know this: they're weird, they're wonderful, and they're ludicrously imaginative. If you haven't seen a Ghibli film, make it your mission from this moment forth to do so; it'll stand you in good stead for Ni no Kuni - the first interactive Ghibli experience developed by one of my all time favourite developers, Level 5. It was originally intended as just a DS title (which is releasing in Japan this December), but a PS3 version has since been confirmed. Ni no Kuni: Shiroki Seihai no Joō , which literally translates to "Second Land: The Queen of White Sacred Ash", has been causing quite a stir at this year's TGS. Given my love for both Ghibli and Level 5, it won't surprise you to learn that this was the first thing I sought out after arriving on the show floor.
The demo was split into two halves; one which was plot-driven, set in a town, and the other combat-focused, set in a forest. I opted for the latter, presuming my inability to read Kanji would ruin the conversation-heavy first option. After seeing the game in action for the first time, I had to put down the controller in order to scoop my jaw up off the floor. Ni no Kuni is mesmerizingly beautiful. The look and feel of the Ghibli films has been flawlessly translated to a graphical style, and I noticed that anybody walking past the game as I played was compelled to stop and watch it for a few minutes. If you thought the likes of Wind Waker and Tales of Vesperia did a good job of cel-shading, just wait 'til you feast your eyes on this.
The demo takes place in a forest of sorts. Your character, the 13-year-old Oliver, is followed around by a strange little creature that sports a lantern as a nose ring. Shizuku, as he's known, is the epitome of Ghibli. As you progress through the winding path of the forest, he trots along behind you much like Pikachu does with Ash. The Pokemon comparison doesn't end there, with combat itself not entirely dissimilar to Nintendo's critter-battling classic. It's important to note that it's not turn-based, however, and utilises an active time system where each attack requires a waiting period. Oliver stands at the sidelines issuing commands much like a Pokemon trainer would, but I suppose that's where the similarities end.