Ni No Kuni: Wrath Of The White Witch – Review
Level-5 and Studio Ghibli have been working together on Ni No Kuni for the past five years and all that time, money and hard work has paid off. The joint venture of the two studios has brought us one of the best JRPG’s of a generation.
Unlike the Final Fantasy series which has been trying to reinvent the wheel, Level-5 have mostly stuck with the tried and tested methods of the traditional JRPG and that is what makes this game so great. This is the type of game that I used to love playing during the Playstation era, great characters, emotional story telling whilst still leaving some things to the imagination of the player.
“You are immersed into one of the most gorgeous worlds you have ever seen in video games”
Ni No Kuni is the story of Oliver, a good natured boy who lives with his Mother in the suburban setting of Motorville an idealised 50’s American town. It is worth mentioning that the graphics and art style of this game are just amazing, the Ghibli cut scenes are sublime and the playable game looks just as good.
After the tragic events that unfold early in the story, Oliver is transported to the fantastical world in which you spend a majority of the game. With the help of his new friend Drippy the King of the Fairies you learn of the quest that has been bestowed upon young Oliver, he is the chosen one who must become a powerful Mage to defeat the evil Sorcerer Shadar who has been taking pieces of people’s hearts.
I would love to delve more into the story but I feel that it would spoil your experience of this masterpiece. Ni No Kuni begins with lots of cut scenes and voice acting that seems to wane off after a short while, that is by no means a bad thing as all the talking is then done by speech bubbles – like in the good old days. Hardcore fans of studio Ghibli say that the movies are best watched in Japanese with English subtitles but the English voice acting in this game is just amazing. Using different British dialects for each character is pure genius but big props go to Drippy’s brilliant Welsh accent – tidy!
You are immersed into one of the most gorgeous worlds you have ever seen in video games, everything just oozes with detail, from the towns bustling with activity to the vastness of the world map. Those five years of development have certainly given the teams time to make a nigh on perfect world. The world looks huge but as you travel around the world map you do start to notice how sparse it is of towns and villages. Every continent just seems to have one big city and a few caves or dungeons dotted around which is slightly disappointing.
The genre has taken a back seat in recent years with Japanese developers trying to cater to the Western audience far too much but this seems like a breath of fresh air. All the traditional role playing elements are there including tricky puzzles to solve in the dungeons, meeting companions on your travels and an awesome combat system.
The combat is similar to the Tales series, the enemies can be seen populating certain areas and you walk into them to initiate battle. Oliver is free to roam around the battle area and can cast spells or use melee actions against his foes but the main focus is the Familiar system. Similar to Pokemon, Oliver can collect different Familiars (Small animals) to help him and you spend a majority of your time in battle controlling and switching between them. The Familiars can be upgraded with different weapons and armour so it is always worth making them as powerful as possible, especially since they share your health in battle.
There are many chances to battle the enemies in the wilderness and you should take every opportunity, on many occasions I found myself struggling on many of the boss encounters even in the opening hours of the game. Be prepared to spend a lot of time grinding your characters in order to get your party to a level where boss battles will be merely challenging and not impossible. As they should be, the bosses are tough, even on easy, so be warned!
Overall Ni No Kuni is an amazing achievement and really does push the power of the Playstation 3. This is one game that I would purchase the console for. A traditional JRPG that shouldn’t be missed by any fan and should entice new players to the genre. Studio Ghibli and Level-5 have done an amazing job creating a beautiful world with a gripping and emotional story.