Ninokuni: Shikkoku no Madoushi Hands-On

We find out how Oliver winds up in the world of Ninokuni.

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Last year we were able to play a demo of Ninokuni: Shikkoku no Madoushi and mess around with the properties of the magic book that plays an important role in the game. At the time, we didn't have much of an idea of what the game was about and what we were doing in this magnificent forest. This year at the 2010 Tokyo Game Show, we were able to see the game from the beginning and find out how the young boy Oliver winds up in Ninokuni. While the PlayStation 3 demo was more action oriented, we did get to see some of the differences between the two versions. We're pleased to see that the collaboration between Level 5 and Studio Ghibli is coming along nicely.

We were limited to 15 minutes, and most of that time was spent watching nicely animated cutscenes. This was likely the beginning of the game, where we see Oliver run to a nearby convenience store to pick up some items for his mother. Through the animation and expressions of the characters, it was fairly easy to understand what was going on. We were able to control Oliver using the stylus or the D pad. With the stylus, you draw a line on the touch screen and hold it in the direction you want him to go. An arrow on the map on the top screen will let you know where you should be heading.

After heading home, we sat down to eat a sandwich that our mom had prepared. If you're worried about story spoilers, then you might want to stop reading now and read the PS3 hands-on. Oliver sneaks out of his room in the evening and meets up with a friend who has a single-seater old-school car tucked away in his garage. It's clear that the boys are eager to take it for a spin, and as soon as they go out far enough, Oliver hops in and slams the gas pedal to the floor. What's also obvious is that the vehicle has seen better days, because a wheel pops off, and suddenly Oliver is heading straight down the side of a steep hill toward a rushing river.

His mom must have some kind of sixth sense, because she wakes up from a dream of her son falling into oblivion and runs to his room to check on him. When she sees that he's missing, she takes off and eventually finds him struggling in the water. She jumps in and saves him, but unfortunately after he's safe and sound, she suddenly keels over and dies from a heart attack.

This whole time, the story is being told through cutscenes and voice acting, and even though it's in Japanese, the music, the acting, and the animation convey all the emotions that you are meant to feel. In the next scene, we see Oliver sitting by himself in his room, and an old lady stops by to drop off some food. He recalls a memory of his mother, where she gave him this doll that kind of looks like a parrot. Oliver clutches the toy and sobs, and his tears transform the doll into a fairy named Shizuku, an odd-looking creature that has a lantern dangling from the tip of its giant nose.

By now, our 15 minutes were up, so we were ushered out of the demo area, but through all the demos we've seen, we were able to piece together the story and gameplay. It might be awhile before we can see all this in English, but Ninokuni: Shikkoku no Madoushi is set to be released in Japan on December 9.

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