Ni no Kuni Wrath of the White Witch – PS3
Platform: PlayStation 3
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Release Date: January 22, 2013
Nerd Rating: 9.5/10
Reviewed By: Steroid Gamer
Ni No Kuni Wrath of the White Witch is a gripping adventure full of charm, love, whit, and creativity. The game was developed by Level- 5 and had some aid from the acclaimed animated film company Studio Ghibli. Ni no Kuni is a journey about a boy named Oliver on a quest to save his mother, but you’ll quickly find out that the world has so much more to offer.
Ni No Kuni is a JRPG and it comes with a lot of the stereotypes of that genre. Plenty of dialogue to read through, mounds upon mounds of back-story about the world, grinding levels and items, and so much more. However, Ni no Kuni also brings a lot more to the table than what meets the eye and it’s worth pointing out that most of its greatest attributes are “hidden” beneath the surface.
The story has a pretty big set-up in the beginning but it’s really fairly simple. Oliver is a young boy who’s recently lost his mother when his stuffed toy comes to life and introduces himself as “Mr. Drippy,” a fairy from another world. It just so happens that this other world is in danger and needs to be saved from the evil Shadar, and while saving Mr. Drippy’s world, Oliver can also save his own mother. So the two set off what ends up being around a 60-80 hour adventure capturing familiars (think Pokémon), fighting bosses, talking to locals, and more. Ni no Kuni’s basic concept may seem like a huge copy off of the Pokémon franchise, but there’s a lot more to it if you dig deep enough. The more time you spend with the game the more you’ll be rewarded, which may not be evident at first.
Perhaps one of Ni no Kuni’s greatest strengths is the artistic design and absolutely stunning visuals. The Studio Ghibli animated cut-scenes are a great treat even if there are only about six or seven of them throughout Oliver and the gang’s adventure. The color palette is vast, ranging from eerie purple and grey colors in Tombstone Trail to dry cracked brown and yellows of the desert. The game is so gorgeous it looks as if someone hand painted each and every little detail in the world. It may be rare, but Ni no Kuni is definitely a game where you’re going to find yourself standing idle in the world and panning the camera to see all the magnificent sights surrounding you. Even the familiars are a joy to look at with a wide variety of colors and character designs ranging from real life animals such as snakes, rabbits, cats, and bats to unique designs resembling lampshades, robots, and zombies. The accompanying soundtrack is a delight as well. Even though some of the clever catchy tunes are used in multiple locations you’ll welcome them with open arms and find yourself humming their tunes long after you’ve turned off the game.
The combat system in Ni no Kuni is mixed with turn based and real time strategy, emphasizing more on the latter. You start off the game with basic commands like Attack, Defend, and Spells, but as you progress your options will open up more. When battling foes you have the option of playing as any member of your party. That can be Oliver or other human companions he has on his quest or you can control the familiars themselves. Each human player is allowed to carry three familiars at one time allowing you to bring that many into battle. However, only ONE familiar can be battling at once. The AI players are controlled on their own and their competence will be based on how well you equip them. There are a variety of options for your AI controlled teammates such as Give it Your All, Provide Backup, or Keeping the Team Healthy. You can decide in battle, which the game will briefly pause, how you want your team to fight. Certain party members have better affiliation with specific types of familiars, and certain types of familiars can kick the butts of “weaker” familiar types as well. The familiar system is like Rock, Paper, Scissors only instead it’s Moon, Star, Sun. The point of all this is setting up your AI partners with a good group of familiars that will enable them to be more helpful in battles and in some cases may even surprise you with the amount of help they provide. On the flip side, if you don’t manage your party, your AI comrades are going to be a giant hindrance in your progress and cause some frustration. At first glance Ni no Kuni Wrath of the White Witch may seem like a complicated system with a bunch of rules and regulations, but like most games it will all become relatively easy the more time you spend with it.
Outside of random enemy encounters in the wild, Oliver and his gang will participate in boss battles and errands for citizens in the local towns. The boss battles are great with a wide variety of enemy types that you can never feel too comfortable heading into a battle. The boss designs (don’t think battle design, but art design) are stunning and intimidating. There are a lot of side quest in Ni no Kuni ranging from fetch quest to mini-boss fights. There aren’t a whole lot of bad quest in the group so spending your time talking with people and helping them out is worth the effort. There is a lot of post-game content in the game too. For the most part it’s all welcome with more of the same fun quests that the main game provided, however you’ll run into the occasional “get to point A, then back to point B, then A, then B again, and so on” but they’re optional so there’s not much to complain about.
The voice acting in the game is terrific, bringing the characters to life and making them feel like real people (or fairies/animals in some cases) rather than dull caricatures. Mr. Drippy is the highlight of them all with his sarcastic lines and witty banter never ceasing. Oliver is a friendly person. and Mr. Drippy says what’s on his mind (and usually the player’s) so hearing Mr. Drippy curse at a confounded old man who keeps losing his diary, while Oliver plays it polite, is awesome. None of the characters are annoying or have high squeaky pitching voices (which usually happens when a Japanese game gets translated to English like this one here) or sound like they’ve yet to hit puberty.
There’s not much to complain about in Ni no Kuni and in all honesty it feels more like nitpicking than anything else, however some things should be brought to light. First off there is a TON of text reading…..I mean a HUGE amount. This may be normal for this genre but it’s super disappointing because the voice acting is so well done that you want to hear all these characters talk, not read what they are saying. I would still “hear” Mr. Drippy’s voice in my head when reading his comments but it’s not nearly as impactful. The game’s story is a good one, in fact it’s quite great in some ways, but the ending is non-existent really. It’s almost as if Level-5 got super meta and was like “hey, you know this is the end of the game, we know it’s the end of the game so….yeah umm THE END.” There’s not a whole lot of a resolution to be found. There is a reason for this but I think it’s best if you leave that to a quick Google search once you’ve beaten the game.
Ni no Kuni Wrath of the White Witch is a heartwarming adventure that will make you laugh, cry, and feel as if you’ve got more than enough love to share with all those broken hearts out there. It’s an adventure that will stick with you long after you’ve finished it. On its outside it may not be very inviting to those new to the JRPG genre but the journey is well worth the risk of hanging with Oliver and his gang as they battle through all sorts of problems both internal and external.
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