The Most Important Decision You'll Ever Face Playing Ni No Kuni

If you like beautiful things, you're probably getting ready to sit down and play Level-5 and Studio Ghibli's Ni No Kuni. Before you fire that baby up for the first time, though, you have a very important thing to decide.

What language you'll be playing the game in.

I know Chris and especially Jason have both spoken highly of the game's English vocal track, which is one of the best ever assembled for a game, especially one of this scope. So if you simply cannot abide reading subtitles, and want to enjoy the game in a language that for readers of this site is likely their first, you'll be fine.

But just for a moment, let me try and sell you on the other option. The game lets you play in its "native" Japanese. While this is a staple for hardcore anime and foreign cinema buffs, in games, it can often be a take-it-or-leave-it thing, because when you're dealing with sci-fi worlds and characters whose mouths move like mailboxes, it doesn't make much of a difference.

It does, at least for me, with Ni No Kuni. And it's entirely to do with Stuidio Ghibli's involvement. I prefer watching Ghibli movies in Japanese because, well, they're Japanese movies. As good as Disney's dubs have gotten (and as amazing as the original Princess Mononoke track was), I don't think there's any substitute for enjoying a piece of work as it was originally created. That's just me. Of course it helps that the Japanese cast is as talented as the English one. Indeed, it's right up there with the likes of the Yakuza series.

There's also the technical considerations. Between the lavish hand-animated cutscenes and in-game sequences rendered to look like animated cutscenes, there's a lot of cinema here, and the characters' mouths are moving. Moving in time with the Japanese vocal track. It's not something you'd notice all the time, as those moments are few and far between, but when you do hit them, you notice it.

Finally, there's the matter of genre. This is a JRPG. You'll be reading mountains of text anyway, your eyes permanently trained on the lower third of the screen. If you're going to reading 90% of the conversations in the game, it won't kill you to read the other 10%!

If you just can't do subtitles, that's cool, you'll still have fun! But some folks like the option—which is why it's there—so for them, you'll have to choose wisely. Because flipping between languages isn't as easy as in other games; language "packs" have to be installed off the Blu-Ray, which takes time, needs to be done from the main menu and requires a game restart, so once you make your decision, you'll likely be sticking with it, at least for large chunks of the game.