Ni No Kuni is utterly amazing. People are heralding the epic from Studio Ghibli and Level-5 as the modern resurrection of the JRPG and a thing of beauty. And they're absolutely right to do so; it’s an amazing game. Moreover, the idea of a Studio Ghibli-inspired game doing well is a no-brainer. The studio has come up with incredible adventures over the last 28 years, and I say people have been done a disservice by having to wait this long for the studio to get involved with a video game.
This is especially true as any Studio Ghibli movie could result in video game adaptation. Granted, the video game spin-off may not be as spectacular as Ni no Kuni, but I think we could have seen some interesting experiences if Studio Ghibli had started teaming up with quality developers like Level-5 earlier.
The first Studio Ghibli production that comes to mind is Princess Mononoke. This story highlighted the fight of preservation versus progress and is lauded as one of the studio's finest stories. It would also make for an incredible RPG. The characters and story are rich, the environment would be gorgeous, and I'm positive that the resulting game would resonate with people.
Princess Mononoke isn't the only Studio Ghibli movie that would make a fantastic RPG. Castle in the Sky and Tales from Earthsea would both make for wonderful epics. After all, Koutetsu Teikoku, the existing shoot 'em up adaptation of Castle in the Sky, hardly does the story justice. An actual RPG that expands on the story and mythology would fantastic. The same can be said for Tales from Earthsea, especially since the later could expand on the world Ursula K. Le Guin created, drawing from her Earthsea stories to provide extra content.
Of course, there are more game genres than the RPG, and there are other stories that would fit into other genres. Kiki's Delivery Service, for example, would make for a great life sim. Players could help Kiki build her delivery business, running fetch quests around town, while also making a place for herself in the community. I'm sure Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing fans would dig that, and I know it's something I would play.
Spirited Away or The Secret World of Arrietty would also work as life sim games. In one, players could assist Sen with tasks around the bathhouse, working her way through the ranks while building the strength of character necessary to save her parents and return home. With Arrietty, I'm imagining something more similar to Rune Factory or The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap. It could be a hybrid-hopper where players help Arrietty with daily tasks, while also occasionally facing off against "monsters" like insects, mice, or perhaps a dreaded cat. If Arrietty were an open-world game, perhaps going beyond the events of the movie, I'd play it forever.
Meanwhile, I'd see Ponyo as a pet/child raising game along the lines of Tamagotchi or Princess Maker. Perhaps it wouldn't focus on Ponyo exactly, but one of her sisters instead. Decisions players would make regarding interaction and her schedule would lead to different evolutions and endings. If you're not a good role model, she might not make it past her awkward chicken-human stage. Of course, this would lead to quite a dilemma for most gamers, because I find chicken-Ponyo awkwardly adorable and probably wouldn't let her advance beyond it. Normalcy is greatly overrated.
Even a tearjerker period piece like Grave of the Fireflies could be translated into a game. I'm thinking it would work best as a visual novel. It could even offer a more optimistic ending than the heartbreaker we were left with in the movie and novel. Maybe, just maybe, if we make the right choices this time around, Setsuko doesn't have to die. I hope so. I can't cry those tears again!
For Howl's Moving Castle, I'm going to go with an unorthodox suggestion. I think this one could make a great dating sim. Call me crazy, but it could work. However, whatever developer tackled it would also have to draw from the novel to add enough eligible bachelors. Howl would be one, naturally, as would Calcifer. I'd also propose drawing from the novel to make Markl into Michael again, so he could be the "shota" interest, and to also make Prince Justin and Wizard Suliman dateable. I'd envision it also having Tokimeki Memorial elements, with perhaps a deadline to help Sophie regain her youth and catch a man.
Really, any Studio Ghibli endeavor could work as a video game of some sort. Quality stories can result in interesting adventures. Most importantly, I think we really deserve a Ponyo pet simulator or Princess Mononoke RPG immediately.
Date: February 22, 2013