As a massive fan of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibi, it pains me to say that I never had the time to play Namco Bandai’s Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. The game’s art style will be totally familiar to anyone that has enjoyed Castle in the Sky, Princess Mononoke or the delightful Kiki’s Delivery Service. After reading guest reviewer Judalene Cheetham’s review below, it only makes me want to play it even more.
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is a PS3 exclusive third person Japanese RPG developed by Level 5 Inc. It’s a fresh and fun take on the genre. It takes many different elements and makes them work together harmoniously.
You start off as a normal boy in a normal town, getting up to mischief as normal. Powers beyond your world bring about a sad event which leads to you discovering that you’re a wizard and destined to save not only your world but that of your weird lantern nosed doll.
On this premise you travel to this other world and begin to unlock your true power. You explore a variety of beautiful, both ominous and auspicious, landscapes filled with colour and wonder. You travel to kingdoms, each with its own unique qualities and feel.
The graphics also has its own style that is beautiful and fun to watch. Some cut scenes even feel like you are watching an anime movie. This may have something to do with the fact Studio Ghibli, the studio behind movies like Spirited Away and Ponyo, actually created them. Although these scenes are few and far between they are still very pleasant to watch and help bring the characters, places and story to life.
The voice acting isn’t shabby either, when there is voice acting that is. With many of the storyline fillers you have to read the dialogue, so a lot of emotion and chances to create attachment are lost. Reading it just doesn’t cut it, in some scenes there are unclear expressions on a character’s face and so emotion is hard to add to the dialogue. The harmonious music wholly varies between places and always sets the mood for a particular area. It rarely becomes monotonous on returning to a spot or staying there for long periods of time.
As you progress in your journey, new gameplay elements are introduced and each time the game becomes more enjoyable and addictive. Everything that I thought should be in the game was there, you just have to earn it. This gives you a sense of satisfaction and achievement when you finally unlock that cool little upgrade. It makes all the little extras so much more rewarding when unlocked. I liked the fact the game doesn’t just give you everything from the get go and then you also have time to enjoy each new aspect.
Errands and Bounty Hunts play a big role in unlocking some of these splendid extras. They are good side quests most of which are enjoyable and offer a good challenge, but some do become quite tedious and repetitive; however, this sure didn’t stop me from completing them all. The rewards are totally worth it. Errands also provide a pleasant alternative to the main story at times.
Battling in this game is a bit disorientating at first. You’re not sure if it’s somewhat turned based or live action fighting. Well it’s kind of somewhere in the middle. You give a command, like in a turn based game, but you are free to cancel this command. You can then change it or even physically move your character or familiar out of the way of an attack instead of commanding Defend. So it takes a small amount of getting used to. There is no right or wrong way of doing it, there’s just a better way of doing it. You can keep hitting your basic Attack command and this might work for some beasties but not for all and definitely not for boss battles. So there is some strategy required. It’s engaging enough that you can’t look away even once you’ve given out a command as you may need to cancel it to dodge a special power attack.
This brings us to the beasties, or familiars as the game calls them. They are the creatures you’ll be battling and befriending along the way. Eventually you learn how to capture the wee beasties and make them your own by naming them something more peculiar than the name its already got. Each familiar has its own set of abilities and moves that can be expanded as it grows and levels up under your loving care. At certain stages you can even evolve your little friends to make them stronger. For those of you who love Pokémon (like me), you can’t help but fall in love with this aspect of the game; although catching the beasties can prove to be task and a half.
Now if you’re not one for quirky named critters, that’s OK too. Your character learns many neat and powerful spells which are just as fun to use to defeat the nasties along the way. Whichever you prefer, you still have to pace yourself between check points as health and mana do not regenerate overtime, but then again there’s nothing a ‘strong coffee’ or ‘cheese burger’ can’t fix. Both of which can be created with the use of your cauldron.
As with many RPGs you can find ingredients and create away. However I found that valuable ingredients are too scarce and tedious to obtain. I didn’t care to fully utilise this component of the game. But I guess I’ve never really been one for alchemy. If you were to create something, by the time you’d found that last ingredient you may have found or bought something better.
By something I’m referring to the weapons, armour and trinkets, all of which can be equipped by you and your familiars to improve your battle skills. I’ve always found this aspect of any RPG plenty of fun. In Ni No Kuni this aspect is more simplistic, in the sense you can only equip max of three items per character and familiar. This certainly doesn’t kill that buzz you get when you obtain and equip that awesome new sword or crazy cool armour.
Finding these things is just as fun. There are treasure chests throughout the game. Some hidden and others a wee bit obvious, but either way it is a thrill to see what’s inside. There are also different kinds of chests some which require a certain abilities or items to pry open. So it’s something special to go back and finally unlock that chest you’ve pondering about for so long.
As for the story, it’s enthralling and captures the heart and imagination. At some moments it’s predictable but enjoyable all the same. Over all it’s a feel good story with some not so feel good moments. The game gives you plenty to do and plenty to chose from so there are many hours of enjoyable gameplay. There were some things that didn’t quite reach their full potential but overall it nailed most things quite well. The game can initially also come off as childish but don’t let that stop you. The world is amazing, the graphics are beautiful and colourful, music is pleasant, the gameplay plenty of fun. So for something fresh and fun, I’d be giving Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch a try.
I rate this game a good 9.5/10.
Judalene Cheetham loves dressing up freaky geek style at nerdy conventions and when not creating costumes is gaming it up on all manner of consoles ’til the early hours of the morning. This is one addiction she ain’t going to rehab for, that, coffee and Pokémon.