Oliver can take part in combat directly, but the majority of the beastie stomping in Ni No Kuni is done via familiars. Familiars are borne of any living thing with a heart, but a heart in the metaphysical, feel-good-summer-of-love sense of the word, not just the literal, beating thing. At the beginning of the game, Oliver gains all of his familiars as story beats but soon Esther can sing songs to serenade creatures who have become so impressed with the beating they just received that they want to join the fun as a familiar. Think Pokemon but without the dog-fighting feel.
After the jump, the most important part
The Wizard’s Companion is very clear: the most important part of gaining a familiar is naming it. I couldn’t agree more. When playing Pokemon, I agonize over every name. “You just caught a MAGIKARP! Do you want to rename MAGIKARP? No? You know we’re just gonna call it MAGIKARP from here on out, right? What’s wrong with you? Do you call your dog “Dog”? Is your cat named “Cat”? You’re like that guy in the Far Side cartoon who painted everything’s name on it, aren’t you?” This is the conversation that happens in my head every time I capture a new Pokemon, resulting in such horrible names as Fishguy, Big Eyed Rat Thing, and Seed Guy, No, The Other Seed Guy.
Ni No Kuni either knows that most people suck at naming magical creatures, or is so invested in familiars having good names that every type of familiar has four or five pre-created names you can cycle through once you catch them. Aside from giving the nomenclature challenged like myself a break, the generated names are a joy to read as they all tie in to either creature’s species, or some physical attribute of the creature. Purrloins, the bipedal, sword wielding cat people all have names that start with “Purr”. Mine is named Purrcival.
The Hog Goblins, a mixture between a pig and a goblin all have some variation of “Hog” or “Gob” in their name. I went with Boss Hog. How could you not? My Thumblemur, kind of a mix between a monkey, a lemur and a cat is named Thumbo. He looks like he belongs in a circus and is there a better circus name than Thumbo? Esther’s Green Buncher is named Skinny because he’s a giant, walking bunch of bananas. He’s not fat, he’s big branched. I named my Floret “LaFleur” myself because when I was a kid I read “The Mist” and the fate of poor Myron The Flower was particularly unfortunate.
The best though, is my Small Fry, befriended at the base of the volcano Old Smokey. When my son was a toddler we called him Benny-Boo. He hates it now, as he’s ten and ten is an age where kids don’t want to be babies anymore but wearing a ninja costume and beating up the couch with a Nerf sword is a perfectly acceptable pastime. When I cycled through the names for my Small Fry, the last one that showed up was Burney-Boo. Burney-Boo. How could you not love this game?
When a localization effort is good, none of the literal meaning is lost in the translation. When a localization effort is excellent, the spirit of the game comes through as strong as if you played it in its native language. I can’t imagine the work that the localization team put into generating new names for every creature in Ni No Kuni, but the whimsical nature of the game is all the better for it. It also saved Oliver the indignity of having two dozen familiars named “Frank”.
Brandon Cackowski-Schnell can’t think of a clever biography. He plays games and then he writes and podcasts about them. Insert joke here.