Ni No Kuni and the Lost Art of Cut Scenes

Ni No Kuni

Over the weekend, I finally jumped into the world of Ni No Kuni, Level 5 and Studio Ghibli’s collaborative take on JRPGs. As has been reported from pretty much the whole world, the game is charming as all hell, from the story down to the monster design. With a great big world to explore and tons of sidequests, the experience is certainly reminiscent of the RPGs I used to play during my summers off of school.

But one of the more surprising reasons for my nostalgia happens to be the game’s cut scenes. Back in the day, one of my favorite parts of a new game was getting to a CG cut scene. These fully animated sequences served as a bit of a reward after a particularly harrowing part of the game, and always kept me on the edge of my seat. The fact that they looked so much better than the game made it all the more rewarding.

But over the years, game graphics have gradually caught up with these sequences, making that type of cut scene less prominent. Sure, we have plenty of in-game cut scenes, complete with our own characters that we see every moment of gameplay, rendered with the game’s engine.

Some would say that in addition to saving disc space, this also helps keep the player in the game. And while that’s all well and good, and perfectly reasonable, that nostalgic, silly part of me just loves those cut scenes of old. Ni No Kuni brings them back with their own special bit of magic, in that each of these story pieces is animated by Studio Ghibli. This gives each one the appearance of one of their famous movies like Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke or Howl’s Moving Castle. It’s easily one of the bright spots in recent gaming memory for me, and I set down the controller and watch each one unfold with joy. I’d certainly love to see more games doing this in the near future.

What do you guys think? Am I just being curmudgeonly about this? Are video game cut scenes a lost art? Or are they just fine the way companies tend to handle them now? Who here has played Ni No Kuni? Go!

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I write about samurai girls and space marines. Writer for Smooth Few Films. Rooster Teeth Freelancer. Author of Red vs. Blue, The Ultimate Fan Guide, out NOW!

7 thoughts on “Ni No Kuni and the Lost Art of Cut Scenes”

  1. I hate in-engine cut scenes. Character’s brick hands doing tasks that clearly require fingers, awkwardly standing around with poor lip syncing. I way prefer pre-rendered cut scenes.

    Kuni Stream?

  2. I reaaaaally want to pick Ni No Kuni up. But due to how busy I am with college and work, I fear I might now have the time to play it much. But I want to get that game so bad. As for cutscenes, I do share your view on them. I used to love getting to cutscenes in games back in the day. It always felt like a nice pause in the action to better grasp the lore being told. Nowadays, it feels a little less prevalent but I’m glad to hear that Kuni’s play out like Ghibli films. Castle in the Sky, anyone?

  3. Want to play… but too much coursework… and no money…
    I’ll need to borrow it off of my friend when he gets it (whether or not he finishes it is irrelevant!).

  4. I stand in perhaps greater peril of curmudgeonliness, but I still have very fond feelings for the cutscene as well. Back in the PSX era, I was fascnated by cutscenes, and had my console routed through the VCR so I could record those fully rendered gems for future review. Pretty sure there’s a VHS tape or three in my mom’s garage somewhere with most of the cutscenes from FF7 and a host of other, mostly terrible, games (Overblood, anyone?). Ni No Kuni sounds dreamy, and if I weren’t neck-deep in backlog, I’d pick it up in a heartbeat.

  5. I agree, the cut scenes in this game are engaging, stunning and whimsical, and I don’t normally enjoy cut scenes in most other games. I am generally the type of person who skips them so I can continue playing. However, the ones in Ni No Kuni are few and far between after the first couple hours, and I find myself excited when one begins after defeating a difficult boss or entering a new area, etc (possibly because I am addicted to the charming Welsh accent of Mr. Drippy) and it makes the game feel as if it is one big interactive Miyazaki film.

    For anyone who likes Studio Ghibli and is on the fence about buying this game, I highly recommend it. The graphics and music are impeccable. I did find that the battling is slightly clunky/awkward, but not in such a way that it is overly distracting from the experience you have while playing. I am someone who hasn’t played many JRPGs, and am not particularly skilled at video games in general, but I feel like this particular example was created in such a way that gamers of any skill level can enjoy it without feeling like it is too easy or not challenging enough.

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