When we first heard about the RPG teamup of Level 5 and Studio Ghibli, we knew that if nothing else, the result would be visual magic. Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch certainly delivers in that department. It looks like one of Ghibli's films, with beautiful scenic backgrounds and delightful monster design. From lush forests to a gleaming desert town to the inside of a mother fairy's belly, there are always interesting places to explore, charming characters to encounter, and adorable monsters to collect.
Two areas that particularly shine in the game are the lighting, which showed a mastery of cel-shading technology, and the expressiveness of the characters. In a game in which heartfelt emotions can literally save the world, it's only proper that the characters received the emotive Ghibli touch. We were particularly fond of the hijinks of Mr. Drippy, Oliver's fairy companion whose combination of slapstick humor and heroic courage was brought to life by the studio's art and animation.
RPGamer's staff may be conflicted about Ni No Kuni's storyline and mechanics, but there's little doubt that it's 2013's most visually impressive RPG. We would love to see Studio Ghibli become involved in more RPG projects in the future, and perhaps next time the company could write the game's story and dialogue as well as creating the visual design of the world.
Gust proves time and time again that when it comes to graphics the studio can battle with some of the best. With each new Atelier game, the graphics improve upon its predecessor in a variety of ways. The Dusklands in Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk are both vibrant and dreamlike, each map pushing the atmospheric side of the world. Areas like Hallos Village are painted with soft hues of brown and purple, while the alchemy library, Zweiteturm, is a book nerd's paradise. Graphically each area gives a haunting sense that the Dusklands are in dire need of revitalization, and this design aesthetic adds to what makes Atelier Ayesha a graphical wonder.
It is no stretch to say that Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is a beautiful game. It is good-looking even with poor graphical settings on a cheap laptop or PS3, thanks to its impressive art direction. The lands of Eorzea are a joy to explore, and are filled with incredible sights. Mundane places like shops and villages are often elaborate and unique, but the true wonders are found in remote places hidden away from easy view. Many players have taken a break from the daily grind to spend time gazing at the towering crystalline coils that wrap themselves around the Burning Wall, to admire the glimmering beauty of the spring found in Urth's Gift, to ponder what lies within the gleaming-yet-ever-distant spires of Ishgard, or to simply bask in the sunlight as the sun rises over the clear waters of Bloodshore. Hydaelyn is a diverse and fantastic world, and FFXIV demonstrates that most clearly through its art.
by Becky Cunningham, Sam Marchello, Nathan Schlothan