Published on March 21st, 2013 | by Jessica Green, Contributor
Past Due Review | Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is Studio Ghibli’s magnum opus. It is developer Level-5’s masterpiece. Do those words sound too grand? Nothing is too grand for this game. This PlayStation 3 America-exclusive (there is a Nintendo DS version in Japan) RPG is published by Namco Bandai, and is an unbelievable fairy tale that is worthy of any gamer to check out.
The game is special; it is ambitious, beautiful and entertaining. It is a story is about Oliver, a young boy whose mother tragically dies. His tears bring to life a stuffed toy who reveals himself to be a fairy named Drippy. He tells Oliver that there may be a way to save his mother in a world parallel to their own. The juxtaposition of the two worlds allows Oliver to travel between them, as he learns more about his new magical powers and finds similarities between the inhabitants of the worlds.
The lush, vibrant worlds are similar to Ghibli’s beloved films, but it is still very much its own entity. The scenery is certainly worth marveling at, and it features a mix of computer-generated and animated cut-scenes that further propel Oliver’s quest.
From dark woods to brightly colored towns to the streets of the “real world’s” Motorville, Ni No Kuni is a cacophony of watercolors. It is almost like an interactive animated film, but still conveys familiar JRPG elements everyone has grown to love. The game feels complete when it comes to its details. It pays so much attention to every single inch that someone could get lost just gawking at everything surrounding them. Running around the cities, through the forests, through the deserts, through the snowy fields. It is a lovely experience, accompanied by a majestic score by Joe Hisaishi.
But a game is nothing without gameplay. But you do not just want to play this game, oh no, you will want to help Oliver, but in order to do that, you have to battle.
Early on, Oliver battles enemies with limited skills. The game progresses with Oliver gaining more magic abilities and also gaining the aid of creatures, called familiars, that can be captured and trained throughout the game. Feeding them treats increases attack and defense stats. Much like real life, offering too many treats may leave familiars too full and sluggish for battle. And, Ni No Kuni is certainly ambitious with its battles.
Match-ups with enemies takes a bit to get used to. There is a lot going on during the battles, and they can become frantic. Oliver learns spells in a variety of ways throughout the game. The pages in his magical tome, “The Wizard’s Companion,” are missing. Pages are discovered as the journey is taken, and Oliver learns new spells by collecting them. The abilities in question range from opening a gate in-between the worlds to throwing fire at enemies. Some spells can be used in the field to solve puzzles, while other spells are primarily for battle.
Players can switch in between Oliver and his familiars. This is done when their stamina starts to decrease and another character is needed. Each familiar has its own repertoire of attacks, and vary based on character type. If you are dropped in battle, you must restart from the previous checkpoint/save location. You cycle through a list of commands, and traditional ‘Defend’ and ‘Attack’ tabs are among the available options. Once a command is set in motion, you have to wait a few seconds before choosing another action unless you end the current command. Defending is even more difficult, especially when some familiars can defend against certain attacks and some cannot defend at all. Need to heal? Switch to Oliver. Need to launch a physical attack? One of your familiars can handle it.
Confused yet? This game isn’t a cake walk. The battle difficulty is what keeps it fast paced and, quite frankly, fun. Grinding levels becomes expected even before the first dungeon of the game. You will train, hard. Other than battles, Ni No Kuni offers a ton of side quests and bounty hunts to go on.
Merit Stamps are earned for a Merit Card which can be viewed at any point of the game. When these card fill up, they can be traded in for minor items. Bounties offer even more such as money and items. Also, it seems worth it to slay some naughty beasts just to get more experience points for the all important leveling. Merit stamps are gained through side quests and bounty hunts. The more difficult the task, the more stamps are earned.
Ni No Kuni is much like JRPGs before it, but maintains its own identity in what many consider a dying genre. A renaissance of the genre, the game offers a fresh take on old ideas. It closely resembles Pokemon with it’s capturing and evolving mechanics of the familiars. Encountering enemies triggers a battle scene reminiscent of games like Final Fantasy and others sharing the same genre. Battles are not traditional in the turn-based sense, but there are elements of familiarity like cycling through action commands and switching among party members.
Notorious for being incredibly long to complete every aspect of the game, JRPGs can take 60-plus hours to complete, and Ni No Kuni is no exception. The game can take as short as 40 hours to complete the main story, and upwards of around 100 hours to complete every single thing contained in the game. Depending on how long a person spends leveling or just running around to enjoy the atmosphere, the game could last even longer. Since JRPGs have a moderately low replay value, packing in hours of a story makes for an experience worth the price tag.
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is wonderful. It truly is an amazing adventure and such a break from the saturated gaming world of shooters and sequels. As a whimsical journey, Ni No Kuni is brilliant. The E-rating definitely means everyone because that is exactly who will enjoy this game. Any negatives in the game are overshadowed by the enormous positives that truly make for a special experience. Studio Ghibli and Level-5 married to create a brilliant child.
+Brilliant and colorful worlds
+ Amazing score/sound track
+Fun, engaging adventure
– Confusing battle system