As a kid the one thing I remember the most was going over to a friend’s house to play on his NES while following along with Nintendo Power magazines to find all the secret passages hidden in a game. This of course was before the rise of FAQs and other assorted game guides which have become available just by doing a quick search on your favorite Internet search engine. Before the boom of game sites that included detailed walk-throughs or guides, or even video clips demonstrating how to defeat a tough section of a game, publishers realized that there was a demand for having a guide that could easily be flipped through at arms reach while playing any type of game.
I don’t typically find myself wanting a guide book while I play games (although I do admit that I’ll look for tips if I’m hunting for trophies). I enjoy exploring a world on my own and discovering things as many developers intended, without someone holding my hand, leading me through every step of the way. There are some exceptions to this though. I find that any large open-world game will almost have too much stuff to keep track of (or the game itself does a poor job notifying whether collectibles in a particular area still need to be found). Guides often fall into two categories: overly detailed cheat guides, or very handy references that point you in the right direction but avoid spelling out every last detail.
Games that are available digitally often have the downside of being just that, digital. Nothing to hold, or put on a shelf. Digital goods are great for keeping clutter to a minimum, but damn inconvenient if you are old school like me and prefer to have something physical to flip through when trying to learn how to perform a particular action in a game. The lack of standards for what should or shouldn’t be included in digital game manuals is also frustrating as more often than not, the only content in a digital manual is the legal disclaimers that no one reads anyway.
Fans of Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, the magical PS3 RPG from Level-5 and Studio Ghibli, know that the game is thick with hundreds of familiars to find and attempt to serenade. There are also plenty of hidden locations that may or may not be hinted at during the course of the game (either as part of a Bounty or Task or main quest). Additionally, Ni no Kuni includes a wonderfully rich Wizards Companion that is filled out as the game progresses. Folks who were fortunate enough to pre-order the Wizard’s Edition (and actually receive them) have the chance to hold one of the richest and elegantly detailed gaming works of art in a long time. Even still, the Wizards Companion is just a replica of what is in the game. It doesn’t include the location of where to find all familiars, formulas, or gear.
Fortunately Howard Grossman has worked with Prima to create a wonderfully comprehensive companion guide for Ni no Kuni. The guide is broken into six different sections that allows for quick use without necessarily spoiling the end of the game. The first part of the guide provides a well written and simple to understand explanation of game basics. The game does a pretty wonderful job of this as well, but it is always nice to have a physical reference to go back to if you don’t want to navigate through a mostly intuitive menu system in game. The guide also offers a detailed breakdown of all of the familiars in the game and the advantages (or disadvantages) of whether or not a familiar should be evolved.
The bulk of the guide includes a detailed walkthrough of each chapter in the game, which I’ll admit to not reading too much of as I find the game compelling on its own and I don’t want to learn what happens before I actually play the game. The walkthrough section includes plenty of color photos from the game as well as maps, highlights of what can be found (hidden or otherwise) in each section of the game, and detailed information about bosses such as stats and their strengths and weaknesses.
Rounding out the guide are sections on all items that can be discovered in the game in addition to spells, characters and the various odds and ends that bring Ni no Kuni to life. A special bonus section is also included that contains interviews with several key designers at Level-5 and Studio Ghibli who helped create the game.
As I mentioned above, I’m not one to typically pick up a game guide, but Prima has added some nice touches in making such a great companion for Ni no Kuni. Wrapped up in a hard bound cover, the guide offers helpful insight into gameplay, as well as locations for all the hard to find items. But more than anything else, the lovely art and detailed lists of all familiars make this guide something any fan of Ni no Kuni should seriously consider.