Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
November 17, 2011 (JP)
January 22, 2013 (NA)
January 31, 2013 (AU)
February 1, 2013 (EU)
The JRPG genre has largely been off most gamers’ radars due to boring plot elements, an array of one-dimensional characters, and convoluted battle systems. However, Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch hits all the right notes and has the power to charm you in many ways.
The first thing you will probably notice when you load the game is the striking visual style, and with good reason since the game is a collaboration between two studios known for beautiful visuals – Level-5 (Dark Cloud and Professor Layton) and Studio Ghibli (Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle). The in-game graphics are well-drawn, from how the characters talk to casting magic in battle, and cutscenes feature the much-admired Studio Ghibli style. Towns are impressively sized and wonderfully detailed, and it’s clear the studio has spent countless hours designing such creative areas.
You play as Oliver, a boy living in a fictional American town. The opening animation captivates you and you’re immediately drawn into the game’s charm. It starts off with a typical JRPG plot – Oliver discovers that there is another world outside his own, and upon entering this world, he discovers that the world is in danger and has to save it. However, what really comes alive is the main character’s will to go on this adventure and overcome any danger that comes his way. Oliver is quite charming – he’s not like the typical gung-ho hero that we’re all used to playing in a JRPG. He has his own flaws and his childhood innocence makes him likable since we can relate to being the same when we were young. There were some plot twists that took me by surprise, making the story more interesting. The supporting characters are distinguishable in personality that you don’t sense each character being redundant. As you progress through the story, you will find out about Swaine’s (one of the supporting characters) role in the story and how he remains crucial to the plot.
Now that we have the characters laid out, let’s talk about the battle system. Battles are fought in tandem with familiars on the field, which introduce a Pokémon-like element to the game. After defeating an enemy, there’s a random chance a heart will appear above their head, which will allow you to tame it and make it an ally. It’s unique to see what kind of creatures the creatures came up with (and some of them are quite punny.) As you continue throughout the game, you will get familiars that are more geared towards magic and others geared more towards melee attacks. It’s often best that you choose the best familiars that can be equipped with the best gear possible.
Each familiar is associated with specific attributes – rather than the typical wind, water, fire, and earth, the attributes in Ni no Kuni include sun, star, moon, and planet. Each attribute has its own weaknesses and resistances to another attribute. Once a familiar reaches a certain level, it will have the chance to evolve into something more powerful. Also, you can also increase your familiars’ stats by giving them treats that can help you boost your stats – certain treats may boost evasion or defense, for example, and it’s best to see which treats suit your familiar best. For example, soft served ice cream gives your familiar a 4 increased boost for evasion, and Flan give your familiars a defense jump. All different treats can raise different attributes. It’s best to try and see what your familiar likes the most. There’s also an alchemy system, allowing you to craft these treats, as well as armor and items, once you obtain the recipe.
The difficulty level ramps up at sometimes, even on Normal. On the plus side, if you die, you can start the fight over for the price of 10% of your earned gold. Of course, you can just restart and load your saved game as well. There are also sidequests including errands and bounty hunts, which are available in each town. Errands can include simple tasks such as gathering materials or making items using the alchemy system, while bounty hunts challenge you to hunt and fight mini-bosses around the world. After completing the main story, extra errands and hunts become available. Of course, you get valuable items and gold for completing these quests.
The music, composed by Studio Ghibli’s lead composer Joe Hisashi and featuring the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, suits the game’s situations perfectly. Voice acting is typically superb, though some deliveries are sometimes inconsistent. One character that really drew me to the game was Drippy, the fairy that helps Oliver and his companions on their quest. His Welsh accent is charming and I couldn’t help but smile every time he speaks. The British accents are charming and give the characters a wonderful and distinct flavor, but there is also a Japanese voice track if you prefer that.
In conclusion, Level-5 and Studio Ghibli did an excellent job creating a JRPG experience with Studio Ghibli’s artistic animation style. Without a doubt, the animators and developers from both companies poured out their love in this game. Any JRPG fan or admirer of Studio Ghibli shouldn’t miss this fantastic title.
Fun gameplay with a solid, addictive battle system.
Mostly solid voice acting.
Good story for all players to enjoy and admire.
Music is crisp and well-timed throughout the game.
Sometimes unbalanced difficulty even on Normal.
Some inconsistency in voice acting.