Reveling in the Wonderful World of Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

By Jenni . February 4, 2013 . 4:35pm

 

I’ve been waiting for a game like Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, and I don’t think I’m the only one. I enjoy the more modern console RPGs, like Dragon Age, Mass Effect, Dragon’s Dogma, Rainbow Moon and Tales of Graces F, but sometimes you need a more classic RPG. Ni no Kuni delivers by offering an experience reminiscent of the classic SNES Dragon Quest games on the PS3.

 

Ni no Kuni‘s story begins with a tragedy. Oliver and his mother Allie live in a town in our world called Motorville. They have ordinary lives, with his mother being a singer and Oliver being a normal, 13-year-old boy… which means Oliver will naturally get into 13-year-old mischief. He and his friend have built their own car and sneak out one night to test it. Allie seems to sense something is wrong and it is. Oliver is driving it for the first time and it crashes into a river. Allie’s there in time to dive in and save him.

 

However, Allie has a weak heart and dies as a result from the exertion and shock spent saving Oliver’s life. He then sits in his room, alone, crying over a doll she had given him as a child. His tears bring the doll to life. It explains that his name is Drippy and he happens to be a very important fairy. He also sees greatness in Oliver, that the boy could be the pure-hearted one with the magical power needed to defeat Shadar, a wizard breaking people’s hearts in his world. Drippy tries to recruit Oliver to his calling, but Oliver declines.

 

That is, he turns Drippy down until Drippy explains that Oliver’s world and Drippy’s are parallel to each other and each person has a soulmate in the other world. Although Allie is dead in Oliver’s world, her counterpart is the sage Alicia in Drippy’s. Drippy suggests that Oliver taking on the task of becoming a wizard and facing Shadar could lead to a way to bringing Allie back. With that, Oliver’s adventure begins.

 

The world of Ni no Kuni is magical, whether a player is exploring the real world or the fantasy world. The fantasy world is naturally more beautiful, with sweeping landscapes, colorful characters and environments, but the real world is just as detailed as charming. Every aspect of the game oozes personality and it’s sad that this is such a wonderful rarity. Of course, this is Level-5 and Studio Ghibli we’re talking about, and it would be odd to see a game from Level-5 and Studio Ghibli that wasn’t big on quality.

 

Even the battle system feels revolutionary, though it isn’t widely different from turn-based systems we’ve seen in the past. Still, the Ni no Kuni battle system is great and if Nintendo ever decides to create a Wii U Pokemon RPG, Game Freak needs to steal it. It is exactly how I would imagine a next-gen Pokémon battle taking place. Oliver, Esther and Swaine each have familiars assigned to them, which can be shifted outside of battle in the menu screen. Each person is better with certain kinds of familiars, which means its best to equip certain people with certain minions. These menu screens are also a place where familiars can be fed to enhance stats and choose which skills they have equipped.

 

Once a battle begins, players first choose whether they will directly control Oliver, Esther or Swaine. Unless you want to try and focus on magic spells for a battle or do some stealing, it’s usually best to pick the person with a familiar that is best suited for beating the opponents at hand. When this happens, it’s time to look at opponents signs. Each minion and enemy has a sign, which can be sun, moon, star, planet or double planet. Think of it like rock-paper-scissors. Except here sun beats moon, moon beats star, star beats sun, double planet beats sun, moon and star and planet beats double planet. Granted, you don’t have to throw out a minion that is better than a certain sign, but it does mean the minion will likely do or receive critical damage when facing a minion its strong or weak against.

 

Ni no Kuni’s battle system is turn-based, but with some active elements. When controlling a character or familiar, a player can move freely around the battlefield to try and avoid attacks or collect glims that can restore a tiny bit of health, magic or provide the opportunity to unleash a special attach. When you decide you want to attack, defend or use a special ability, it is selected from a menu at the bottom left corner of the screen. Each one has a certain recharge time after use and could be cancelled at any time if you need to quickly defend or move. If you need to switch familiars or characters, it can be done at any time with a click of a shoulder button and the directional pad. It works perfectly and allows for quite a bit of strategy, especially during boss fights.

 

Ni no Kuni isn’t all about battles though. It’s also about restoring peoples hearts and completing sidequests to collect stamps for stampcards. Restoring people’s hearts is a charming endeavor. Shadar’s been busy, because lots of people are broken hearted. Restoring hearts to advance the story and complete sidequests is crucial. Its also usually pretty easy. All you have to do is collect extra heart essence from people who are exuding certain properties. If someone is exceptionally brave or loving, you ask permission to take some of that and store it in Oliver’s locket. Then, when coming upon someone lacking that quality, you give it to them and restore their heart.

 

This is one of the kinds of missions Oliver will have to complete for sidequests, as well as collecting various items, finding people, beating monsters or more. Each one of these sidequests will reward him with stamps for stamp cards, which can then be traded in at a Swift Solutions. These provide bonuses for Oliver and his party that can make things better in and out of battle. Someone could trade in two cards for Jackpot, so more glims appear in battle. Monsters could be easier to recruit with Esther’s song if a person picks up Jack of Hearts. Oliver, the ship or the dragon could move faster with certain Merit Awards. I found the Crackerjack awards most beneficial, due to the increased experience they provided. It’s a wonderful bonus to encourage people to explore more and while none of these perks are needed to beat Ni no Kuni, it’s nice to know that they are there.

 

The problem is, after seeing how wonderfully Level-5 and Studio Ghibli worked together on Ni no Kuni, I want more. I want a sequel to this. I want a video game adaptation of Princess Mononoke. I don’t think this collaboration should be a one-time thing and that Ni no Kuni is good by chance. I think two fantastic and imaginative forces have found each other, created something astounding and, if they kept working together, even more good things would stem from this relationship.

 

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is amazing. It looks and sounds beautiful, it has a substantial challenge, an engaging story, an ample amount of sidequests and collectable familiars, and is a memorable game that anyone interested in RPGs should try out.

 

Food for Thought

1. I love the detail that’s gone into character’s mannerisms in Ni no Kuni. The way Oliver jumps or runs up and down stairs is adorable. Seeing Drippy topple over when moving too fast is adorable. Townsfolk interact.

 

2. The English voice acting in Ni no Kuni is absolutely lovely. I especially love Drippy with his Welsh accent.

3. Ni no Kuni would have benefited from an "easier" easy difficulty level. I had to switch to easy, and even that felt like it required hours worth of grinding to make Oliver, Esther and Swaine formidable enough to face the challenges ahead of them.

 

4. I wish familiars weren’t so disposable. I would have liked to have used Mighty, the first familiar, the entire game.

 

5. Hold onto items for alchemy! Don’t sell stuff. It could be something you’ll need for a future recipe to make a better piece of equipment, item or snack.

 


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  • ToshiChan

    My only gripe so far is the Totoro looking creature Toko is near impossible to collect at his 2% catch rate. I am like near flipping tables at this point.

    Also, this reference was great.

    • drproton

      I chuckled at that one.

    • Göran Isacson

      Ha ha oh my God, it’s not just the feel of 90′s RPG’s they’re bringing back, it’s all KINDS of 90′s references :)

    • TheDarkEmpress

      Get the 3rd row Merit rewards, one of them ups your capture rate. It took me like 100+ attempts but I finally got one.

  • SirRichard

    “The way Oliver jumps or runs up and down stairs is adorable.”

    I remember when I first noticed this half an hour in, I had him stop on the stairs to see if his foot would stop on the stair in front of him while the other stayed on the one it was on.

    It did, and that made me giddy like few games do.

    I basically second this entire article (though I haven’t hit the difficulty spike people talk about yet, it’s been ages since I could say “10 hours is not very far in” about a game), this really is a fantastic game in every way.

    I’ve heard it’s actually sold out across the UK and took the #1 spot on the chart despite launching on a Friday (and being a PS3 exclusive, and a JRPG), and frankly it fully deserves to hold that spot. Couldn’t have happened to a better game.

    • puchinri

      The stair part really stuck with my boyfriend and me too. We played on the stairs for a while and watched. They put so much fantastic, glorious detail into so much; and it makes me so excited and warm.

      I feel like if FE:A didn’t look so amazing to me, this would be game of the year (though that could still happen). Also, listening to the overworld theme is magical (like all the music).

  • gsnap

    If you wished you could have used your first familiar for the entire game…. then why didn’t you? You could have.. easily. He’s a pretty tough little guy.

    • ToshiChan

      He easily becomes outclassed by other familiars you can obtain, like Dinoceros.

      • gsnap

        The author says they wanted to use him, so they could have used him easily. Just because there are stronger familiars out there doesn’t mean you can’t use the ones you like. Unless there is a significant difficulty spike in the late game (I’m a little over 30 hrs in) you should be able to use whatever familiars you want and get by just fine.

        • ToshiChan

          Most of the post game requires higher stat familiars that Mitey is no longer able to survive competently. At least, he gets wiped out easily in S class Solosseum.

          • gsnap

            Post game as in post story? If that’s the case, then that makes sense. I assumed the author was just talking about getting through the story. Which didn’t make any sense to me.

          • ToshiChan

            It’s mostly the optional quests that call for more high stats familiars I think. Side quests and Solosseum in particular have some challenging creatures that Mitey’s low attack and defense don’t seem to take very well.

            If I didn’t have Griffy I’m sure for those I’d probably have had to grind a little more to fight.

        • Nyandroid

          I played through the whole game with him on Normal. So its not that difficult.

  • DesmaX

    Is anyone here having problems with Hong Kong Post?

    I’ve brough my copy on play-asia (I have my reasons), which they send it on day 21… Only on day 29 my tracking code showed some update, but, even now my copy hasn’t dispatched to my country

    I want to play this so bad…

  • DesmaX

    ” 4. I wish familiars weren’t so disposable. I would have liked to have used Mighty, the first familiar, the entire game.”

    Oh, that is sad. Reminds me of Persona 4 (Where I just wanted to play with Izanagi the whole game)
     

    • natchu96

      In Golden, pimping him out is easy by grinding shuffle time until he has 99 stats in everything and skill cards.

    • ragingmerifes

      I played with Jack Frost the entire game, if that counts as a good thing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/aly.hesham.7 Aly Hesham

    Ni No Kuni is wonderful because it is modern meets old.A wonderful marriage of art , music , addictive battles and sidequests , creature collection and all this comes within an updated modern context of gameplay.I really enjoyed every second of this game up till now(I haven’t finished the game so no spoilers please)

  • http://twitter.com/#!/kaishou Kaishou

    “4. I wish familiars weren’t so disposable. I would have liked to have used Mighty, the first familiar, the entire game.”

    I have to dispose of Kaikai? ;_; actually I can imagine getting rid of Mighty, that familiar is getting…useless

  • Lexaus_the_Alchemist

    So far, so amazing. This has definitely been one of the better JRPGs this gen, and I totally agree with the idea that they should be putting out more games together. We need masterpieces like this every 2 years for the foreseeable future of game consoles.

    … Just leave Namco out of it and self-publish next time… I still have a sour taste in my mouth over that whole wizard edition fiasco… XP

    • puchinri

      Yeah, really. That is the only downfall of the game so far. That fiasco with the wizard edition.

  • James

    Easy “easy” difficulty? Wow I did no active grinding and I honestly found the game to be quite easy on normal. There was one boss mid game that was slightly challenging but the entire game was quite a breeze. Then again I’ve played so many RPGs. Personally I wish more devs would add a “hard” mode.

  • Marcus J. Hopkins

    I understand how you might feel like the game’s battle system is turn-based, but…actually, no I can’t. The battle system is much less intuitive than a traditional turn-based system, particularly since you do not continuously choose the actions of your entire team of players, can substitute new fighters into and out of the fight at virtually any time, and you can cancel actions in midstream to defend or go an entirely different route.

    I would argue that the battle system is a bit overwrought, if anything. If you had three hands, it would feel much more comfortable; instead, you must move your character with one analog stick, move the camera with the right analog stick, sift through options of actions during an Active battle using the directional pad, and select various options with the buttons on the right. It did take me a while to get the hang of it, and at times, it still trips me up, but this is hardly like a traditional turn-based system.

    • Nyandroid

      I realized this late in the game. But you can actually use R2 to cycle through the different commands. Its a lot easier.

  • Gildohma

    I used Mite and everyone’s originals from beginning to end I couldn’t replace him… he was with me from the beginning… I caught a case of Pikafever.

    I switched around the rest though until I got to Puss in Boats… I couldn’t not use a Pirate Kitty lol.

  • Neko Kawaii

    Fingers crossed for more beautiful story Jrpgs on the ps4

  • Steven Higgins

    I would want more Ni No Kuni games, but not really sequels. I like Oliver and the other characters but reading through the in-game Wizards Companion makes me think it would be more unique and interesting if other games took place in the same world, but at different times and with different characters.

  • TheDarkEmpress

    Just beat it last night. Talk about a blissfully nostalgic experience. I haven’t enjoyed an RPG like that in almost a decade, almost felt like a kid again. They hit it on the head with this one. Oldschool style never goes out, it just comes back around eventually. Hopefully this can signal some other companies that “awesome” is back in style.

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