Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is an epic tale of a young boy, Oliver, who embarks on a journey to become a master magician and bring back his dead mother from the parallel world of Ni no Kuni. Along the way he encounters some extraordinary characters, many of whom become helpful allies. They guide Oliver as he explores the vast world and learns the magical skills that will make him strong enough to face his most deadly foes, and ultimately survive an encounter with the White Witch herself.
The world of Ni no Kuni actually runs parallel to the real world. Players will be able to travel between the two. Characters who appear in one world appear in the other as well, but with different roles in this unique RPG experience.
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. What can I say about this game that hasn’t already been said in countless print and online reviews? Are there any superlatives in the thesaurus left that can be lavished on this game that have not been already said?
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is a love letter from Studio Ghibli and Level-5 to gamers and Ghibli fans alike and – at the risk of sounding like a giddy school girl being asked to the prom by the Bieber lookalike – I accept through tears of happiness. I am drawing a heart with an arrow through it with the words ‘Ni no Kuni’ in the middle as I type (not really, but, you get the general idea…)
Now, I am a big JRPG fan, I love everything from Dragon Quest to Final Fantasy, from Phantasy Star to The Legends of Zelda, from The Last Story to Xenosaga. I have played them ever since my first console and still play them, to this day, with the current generation of systems; iPad included. However, Ni no Kuni is probably the first one to make me smile with joy, each and every time I power up my PS3.
Yes. I am fawning, perhaps unnecessarily over this game. Yes, I am acting like the aforementioned puppy-eyed school girl. Yes, I am going sickeningly overboard with my love for Ni no Kuni, but as a life-long gamer and a massive fan of Studio Ghibli I refuse to apologise for it. Being fellow nerds, geeks and gamers, you will see where I am coming from, I think… No? Ooooookay then… Moving on…
Your very own Studio Gibli playground
Upon starting the game, you are greeted with Studio Ghibli’s wonderful animation style as you are introduced to the world of Oliver, a happy young boy, living in a typically idyllic Ghilbi town called Motorville (maybe something was lost in translation). However, without ruining the story for you, his world is turned upside down following a tragedy that almost had this reviewer in tears…
Soon after, you are met with Drippy, the Lord High Lord of the Fairies. A weird and wonderful character with a lantern hanging off of his nose (just go with it, it is Ghibli after all) and a Welsh accent so strong you swear it was comedian Rhod Gilbert (for purists, you can play the game in the original Japanese with English subs). Drippy takes Oliver on an epic journey to rescue not only his home world – from a powerful Dark Djinn called Shaddar (Boooo!) who is casting a dark spell over the world of Ni no Kuni – but also for Oliver to redress his heartache.
The visuals are stunning and, as you might have guessed, this is particularly true of the cut scenes which are animated by Studio Ghibli in their own inimitable style. Whilst the actual game graphics aren’t quite up to these high standards, they are still a gorgeous cel-shaded affair. Visually, the game is eye candy (or ocular chocolate as I like to call it) and is full of fantastic touches and details, from the smallest beastie to the largest bosses. Heck, I witnessed Drippy (Lord High Lord of the Fairies) trying on hats in the background as I was gleaning important information from one of the many characters you will talk and interact with. It is quite simply one of the best looking games you will probably play.
The game also sounds as good as it looks with a full orchestral score performed by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra and, according to the interweb, composed by Joe Hisaishi (the ‘go to’ guy for Ghibli and known for ‘Howl’s Moving Castle’, ‘Ponyo’, ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’, and my personal favourite ‘Spirited Away’).
The JRPG factor
Now, what about the game itself? Sure, it looks and sounds great, but how does it play? Well, you don’t have to worry, Level-5 have you covered and it is a joy to simply pick up your pad knowing that you’re about to play this game.
Fans of JRPG will know what to expect, as Ni no Kuni doesn’t deviate that far from the tried and tested formula. There are a ton of side quests, the usual fetch and fight quests, for which you are rewarded as you wander around and flip between the world of Ni no Kuni and Motorville – there is a parallel universe thing going on, events that are happening in one place are also occurring in the other.
The Combat system is also something that JRPG fans will easily get to grips with. You can attack, defend, cast spells (of which there are billions – maybe), run away, swap between characters as the lead or throw your familiars at the bad guys and let them fight.
I choose you!
“Familiars?” you say… Think of them as Pokemon type critters (there are apparently about 300 of them) that you chance upon, earn, tame, or are given. They can be taught new moves, upgraded and put through metamorphosis (again think Pokemon and their version of evolution). You are also required to look after these creatures, not quite Tamagotchi style, but you do have to feed them.
A point about the spell casting – the Wizard’s Edition comes with the Wizard’s Companion book which lists spells and what they do and where you’ll also find details of all the beasts you will come across on your journey. However, across several forums, there appears to be confusion over the need for the physical book. Well, I can assure you that you do not need it to play this game, as the book is reproduced within the game itself. It is just a gorgeous little collectable of which I managed to secure a Japanese copy to put on my bookshelf as I don’t read Japanese, but, erm, it is lovely to look at.
And the bad?
So, are there any bad points about this game? Yes, if you count the debacle surrounding the release of the Wizard’s Edition set – I personally had my pre-order cancelled twice due to lack of stock and stock mishandling AND have been seriously outbid on eBay several times. However, if you’re talking about the game itself, then, apart from the grinding (which is expected and can’t really be counted as a negative), and maybe it would have been nice to implement Playstation Move controls (I’m thinking Harry Potter-esque spell casting), but for me, the only real bad point is that the game eventually ends…
For some people, they want to live on the Avatar world of Pandora. For others it’s the Star Wars/Trek/Gate Universes. Others still even want to live in The Shire, but for me, I want to visit the city of Ding Dong Dell and wander down to the Ding Dong Well…
We Give Ni No Kuni 4.5 Nerds out of 5