What’s it about? The basic plot of the game involves our young teenage hero Oliver, whose Mother dies whilst saving him from drowning. As he sobs in grief, his tears fall upon Drippy, a soft toy lovingly sewn together for him by his mother, as we see in a series of flashbacks. Drippy gives Oliver a book that enables the use of magic to transport the pair to a parallel reality, whereupon Drippy encourages Oliver to search once more for his Mother.
Drippy is a cute little companion, and in the Western version possessor of a thick Welsh accent, especially appropriate as he sports what looks like a mining lantern stuck through the end of his nose.
It’s clear right from the opening sequence that this is going to be something of a stunner in the visual departments, and playing the game thankfully reveals that there’s no loss of quality in-game versus those seen in cutscenes – the influence of consultants, Studio Ghibli, clear throughout. The game’s worlds positively vibrate with colour and life, and the sound is equally excellent, the voiceovers and sound effects being of the highest quality.
While retaining roughly the same premise as the previous DS version, the gameplay has obviously changed. You wander round the countryside, engaging in battles with any foes you encounter, and though initially confusing such encounters promise a wide variety of options and sufficient depth to keep even hardened gamers occupied.
The system reminded me a little of Pokemon’s in that I found myself sending other creatures to do the fighting in place of Oliver, although in Hamelin I did get my hands dirty fighting a big tank with my fireball spell.
The on foot wandering is supplemented by the ability to hop onto your ship and sail the seas to pastures new – during my play through I was a little ambitious and, distracted by the gorgeous crimson glow of a beautifully rendered sunset, I managed to encounter some sea monsters far above my level! Even more interestingly, the intro sequence shows you riding on the back of a dragon at some point – something to look forward to.
When you come to a town, the action zooms in and you and are able to converse with inhabitants, take on odd jobs and chores to earn money, buy new items and conduct all the usual RPG habits.
The translation of such conversations is excellent – you really feel like Level-5 have gone the extra mile and localised it effectively as little in-jokes become apparent, and I spent a lot of time just wandering around talking to people and looking at the scenery.
Worth the wait? I could have sat and played the game all evening, but unfortunately other commitments made themselves known and I had to leave the cracking combo of comfortable seat and captivating game behind.
Those with a PS3 and penchant for Studio Ghibli’s artistic beauty are in for a real treat when this game appears next year, and I for one hope will be hoping it achieves the commercial success it so clearly deserves; if the rest of the game lives up to the short slice that I was seduced by that is.
Publisher: Namco Bandai
When? Q1 2013