Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is developed by Level 5. You may have noticed it looks a bit like something Studio Ghibli would make? Well that’s exactly the thing, Studio Ghibi did have a very big part in this game. For those of you who are fans of their stuff, you’ll definitely like this game then.
It doesn’t limit itself to Studio Ghibli fans only though. I’m not a very big fan of their anime, but so far, this game has impressed me a lot. Simply I have found so many of the features similar to Pokémon, Kingdom Hearts and Shin Megami Tensei series. But as well as that, the story has been really good, it makes you just want to know what happens next. I wasn’t really expecting the story to be that good or appealing to me since I’ve never really enjoyed any of Studio Ghibli’s stuff, but this has exceeded my expectations in story.
The soundtrack has been composed completely by Joe Hisaishi, so it’s going to sound like a Studio Ghibli movie. I’m not giving this a top score though, mainly because of how repetitive some of the soundtrack can get. But don’t get me wrong, it’s probably one of the best soundtracks in a JRPG. It kind of reminds me of how Final Fantasy use to sound (the classic ones). It just gets repetitive as they reuse sounds a lot. Get used to the battle music, as you’ll be hearing lots of it.
The voice acting is also good, right at the start of the game you have the option of using either the original Japanese voices or the English ones. Personally I went with the English ones and so far, none of the voices have sound out-of-place at all. But the choice is there if you rather play it with the original Japanese voices. As for me, I rather watch the screen than read, there is enough reading in this game, so I like the breaks.
And that’s the thing, voice acting appears to be used very rarely in this game. Most of it is done by reading, only ever switching to voices when there is a crucial piece of story going on.
The game looks like an anime basically. Characters are cell-shaded, although very basic designs and probably not done as well as Catherine’s character models which are done in a similar style but less basic designs. But enough with comparing it to other games. It’s the world that really shines in this area. It’s done in a 3D painted style, again very anime like. You have a variety of terrains covered and a good variety of towns and dungeons.
It does rival Pokémon in creature designs though. There is a ton of them. Ranging from normal types to boss types. There are some that are just really different skins though, but most JRPGs do this. Although this game has had quite a variety in it so far, I haven’t seen many different skins yet.
Some attacks are done really well too. Mainly the finishers. You won’t come along these until you fight the first boss but they are just really bigger attacks than what you normally would do, and they are unique as well. They aren’t attacks that can be done at anytime.
The story starts off with a young boy known as Oliver. Oliver lives a normal life in a town known as Motorville. That is until something terrible happens. His mother dies which makes him really upset, his tears help him discover the fairy known as Drippy. Which is one of the rudest fairies I have ever witnessed, you’ll possibly get a lot of laughs from this guy. Anyways Drippy tells him, that there is a way for him to save his mother, that he is the pure-hearted one and is destined to save his world. And with that, Oliver’s adventure begins.
Ni no Kuni means The Another World. Which is basically what this game is about, you journey to the another world. Which is an alternate universe of the one Oliver currently lives in. They are connected by the people who live in the worlds. There are these things called Soul Mates, these are people who look similar to each other in each of the worlds and probably have similar events happening at the same time.
Oliver is training to be a wizard in the game. You are given the Wizard’s Companion and a wand. These are Oliver’s and the players main way of solving problems and stuff. Oliver isn’t like most JRPGs’ protagonists. He simply wants to save his mother and takes on the very brave task of defeating Shadar who has been breaking people’s hearts around this alternate universe. He believes in being very helpful to people and doesn’t really like fighting but knows it has to be done.
You’ll be playing the story wanting to know what happens next and if this really does save Oliver’s mother. The story is really good and I don’t want to get into explaining it too much but if you are looking for a somewhat lengthy story, then this is a good one to go for. I’m 20 hours in and only really feel like I’m a quarter of the way in. I have been doing side quests and so on though.
Ni no Kuni borrows a lot of its gameplay from games like Pokémon, Kingdom Hearts and Shin Megami Tensei series. Mainly Pokémon though. When starting the game, you probably wonder what in earth I’m comparing to Pokémon, but about three or so hours in and you’ll be finding that one out. You eventually obtain familiars. These are extremely like Pokémon again. You command them to attack and they can only learn so many attacks. At later points, which they reach a certain level, you can evolve them. Sounding like Pokémon to you now? Well it should be. They also have a Tamagotchi like mode where you read them treats to increase their stats and friendship (this only increases if it is their favorite treat).
Then it’s similar to Kingdom Hearts because you run about in battles and pick up these orbs that restore you HP and MP (colored the same as the Kingdom Hearts ones as well). It also has that same kind of timed based system as Kingdom Hearts did when it comes to using commands. You can also control your familiars in the same way. Although they share the same HP/MP as what you do and they have a stamina bar, which means they can only be out for as long as their stamina lasts. I have never found out what happens if you don’t switch back in time but I’m guessing it will be a big penalty or something. You can control up to three familiars at the same time. You can only get more when actual team members enter your party. Which are controlled by AI. You can choose which team member you wish to play as so you don’t even have to play as Oliver all the time.
You also have stuff like enemy types. You’ll get some enemies weak to fire attacks, others weak to ice and so on. You can take a guess at what they are weak to by looking at them. You also have a Defend option which you mainly use to avoid too much damage from bosses’ main attacks.
Outside of battle, you do lots of exploring. You have main quests, side quest and bounty hunts to do. You’ll probably will do a lot of each. It depends on the type of player you are. Some just want to get on with the story. And well, I’m just warning you now, don’t rush this game. Bosses do get very difficult. You are best to do as much side quests, bounty hunts and side-grinding as you can or you may find yourself struggling against even the normal enemies later on.
You also have your towns with your shops and so on, some people like these while others don’t. I like towns, but I hate shops and their high prices. I’ll rather just earn my items from battles and side quests, only buying something if really needed. You’re always best to do side/bounty quests before going into the weapon shop or whatever, you don’t want to buy a weapon and then getting it rewarded to you from doing a side/bounty quests.
You also have an open world, which is rare these days in JRPGs, something players really wanted in Final Fantasy XIII. It reminds me so much of playing the old Final Fantasy games as well as Shin Megami Tensei III which also had a massive world map. It’s something I have really missed in this gen so I’m really glad it’s there.
Overall, the game is pretty good. If you pay attention to all of the tutorials it gives you, you’ll learn the system in no time. The game really does make sure you know what to do as the tutorials are really big. Even if it’s just a simple thing like moving.. hopefully you don’t need to read that one. But anything to do with battle, interacting with NPCs, make sure to read them.
So you are probably wondering if Ni no Kuni is worth the purchase. Well, it looks like it’s a really huge game. I don’t think I’m even half way in yet with 20 hours on the clock. If you are a fan of JRPGs and have been wanting a proper one in ages, this is it. If you are a fan of Studio Ghibli, then you may enjoy it for its story and it would be a great gateway into getting into JRPGs if you haven’t before. There is even an Easy difficulty there if you find yourself a bit of a beginner at this genre.