Ni No Kuni: crossing the midline

ni no kuni test of friendship

Early on in Ni No Kuni, a JRPG for the Playstation 3, wizard-in-training Oliver and his band of adventuring pals are tasked with completing a set of trials to prove they’re capable of tackling Shadar. Shadar is the Big Bad keeping the world in a perpetual state of brokenheartedness. Seeing how Oliver is the only person willing to take on Shadar, it seems odd that to make him jump through hoops, but this is how wizards have always been evaluated. The Sages aren’t about to let all-encompassing evil get in the way of procedure.

After the jump, find out how wizarding trials break my brain.

My daughter has PDD-NOS: Persuasive Developmental Delay – Not Otherwise Specified. It means that she has some neurological delays associated with disorders on the autism spectrum but not enough of them to warrant a specific diagnosis. She has some from column A, some from column B. PDD-NOS is the dim sum of the autism spectrum.

One of her delays has to do with crossing the midline, your brain’s ability to send signals from one side to the other and regulate cross body movement as well as one part of your body doing one thing while the other part does another. My daughter is pretty clumsy and something like swimming with its independent movement of feet and arms as well as a nice side portion of sensory overload from splashing water is difficult for her. She can do it, but it ain’t pretty.

For one of Oliver’s wizarding trials, he and his friend Esther have to prove that their friendship is strong enough for the upcoming battle against Shadar. Oliver is set up on a path on the left, controlled with the left thumbstick, Esther on the right, controlled with the right thumbstick. The idea here is that both friends have to walk the paths at roughly the same time, a difficult task for me given how terrible I am at twin-stick shooters. Also, the floors fall away so dawdling is not an option.

I get through the first section with some intense concentration and a few instances of Oliver plummeting into the inky void. The second section is a little easier. I can make frequent stops to step on switches that activate a new section of path for the other character. As long as I’m speedy about things, I can tag team my way through it rather than move Oliver and Esther at the same time. The third section looks to be a straight path so the end has to be close. Oliver walks straight ahead, as does Esther, right up until the point where she takes a left and crosses under Oliver just as he takes a right and crosses above her. For the rest of the section my left hand has to control a character who is on my right, while at the same time my right hand has to control a character who is on my left, and both characters have to move simultaneously.

When you raise kids there’s an inherent lack of understanding brought about by bringing a lifetime of experiences to bear on someone who hasn’t had those experiences, or who’s had them for far less time. You tend to take for granted that your kids will know how to do something simply because you’ve been doing it your whole life, so of course they should know how. Don’t get me started on fractions. When you raise a kid with neurological issues, the divide is even bigger because you’re now trying to relate to a kid whose body doesn’t do what it’s supposed to.

When Oliver and Esther’s paths cross over, I feel a wall slam down in my brain, effectively shuttering my body from my brain. This feeling gives me a new insight into the challenges my daughter faces every day, an insight I can’t get from reading books and talking to therapists. We talk about games as a means of relating to kids, but this takes that idea to a whole new level and if Ni No Kuni ends up being the worst game I’ve ever played, it will occupy a special place in my heart for that reason alone.

Next week: playing the name game with familiars

Brandon Cackowski-Schnell can’t think of a clever biography. He plays games and then he writes and podcasts about them. Insert joke here.