Level-5 Studios holds cult favorite status for several different circles of game fans, across radically different platforms. The PlayStation 2 RPG Dark Cloud has an especially strong fanbase, as does the Professor Layton series of puzzle games on the Nintendo DS. Perhaps the studio’s most enigmatic game is Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, a collaboration between Level-5 and legendary animation company Studio Ghibli that combined action-RPG elements, creature combat a-la Pokemon, and a tender coming-of-age story.
As a non-PlayStation 3 owner I coveted Wrath of the White Witch for years following its 2012 release, until it eventually came to a platform I did own in 2019. Plenty of people have been similarly captivated by the series, which released a sequel in 2018 for PlayStation 4 and PC. Now there’s a new mobile spin-off looking to cash in on this nostalgia: Ni No Kuni: Cross Worlds, an MMORPG set in a VR game come to life, which was released in North America yesterday.
This new mobile game is co-developed by Level-5 and South Korean mobile developer Netmarble. Cross Worlds includes gacha mechanics for obtaining characters and items, a well-known predatory practice that ties players into making microtransactions in order to progress. Perhaps unsurprisingly, as was revealed yesterday, it also includes NFTs. Netmarble mentioned in a blog post in April that the game would be part of a “blockchain ecosystem” that took advantage of the varied range of games the developer has IP rights to. It’s not yet clear how exactly NFTs will be implemented into Cross Worlds, but the roadmap suggests that they will be a central part of the game’s marketing and revenue stream.
Right now, clicking “blockchain” on the mobile game’s website takes you to a bare-bones page promising “a gaming experience that feels like an interactive animated film” and makes the promise that “Players can acquire two types of tokens in the Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds blockchain system, and our team will do our best to preserve the token values,” which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. While it’s obviously disappointing to see the descendant of an acclaimed series and two well-regarded companies buy into NFTs, its initial setup does little to inspire confidence in the game’s continued stability, despite its early success.