REVIEW: Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

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Ni no Kuni Oliver and Drippy Title: Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
Publisher: Namco Bandai, Level-5
Developer: Level-5, Studio Ghibli
Console: PlayStation 3
Release Date: January 22, 2013
Genre: Japanese Role-Playing Game
Official Site

It’s been a long time since I’ve played a game as visually and thematically vibrant as Ni no Kuni. Every town, every location seems to burst to life with genre-defining elements that come together in a way that not only respects Japanese RPGs from the past but also paves a path for the future of the genre. As I followed the young boy Oliver on his important journey, I realized that Ni no Kuni is a work of art that opens its arms to an audience of all ages, and that it will likely resonate most with those who can appreciate the small things in life. If there was ever a title where at times you feel like you’re stepping in the shoes of a young child, this would be it.

Every time I sat down to play Ni no Kuni, I knew I was in for another chapter of fun storytelling. Level-5 did a fairly good job at pacing the story so that every hour or two there would always be some form of a new turning point. The narrative is simple at first and almost heartbreaking with the central theme of Oliver’s mother suddenly passing away, but it helps set the tone for the ambitions and willingness of a young child. Your main companion on this adventure is Drippy, king of all fairies, and he doesn’t disappoint with being your entertaining guide throughout the game. There is a nice balance between story progression and sidequests, but it seems that if you don’t participate in helping the people of Ni no Kuni’s world that you will find yourself underleveled at times. Thankfully these sidequests are usually entertaining and provide a more fulfilling experience. The one thing that really gets me in terms of narrative development is the last quarter of the plot. To me, it leaves more to be desired after a thunderous beginning and middle.

Ni no Kuni Oliver

Ni no Kuni is a visual treat that makes you feel like you’re consuming an animated world. When I entered the game’s first true town, Ding Dong Dell, it was a feast for the eyes. The world is crafted in a way such that location has its own vibe that bleeds through your television’s screen in bright color and consistent quality. We can in part thank Studio Ghibli for the animated cutscenes throughout the game, and for the familiar style that Ni no Kuni strongly showcases.

Ni no Kuni features a soundtrack written by Ghibli’s famed Joe Hisaishi. He has created a wonderful blend of memorable town and location themes, along with a sweeping main theme. The battle theme, one of the most important songs in any JRPG, always made me feel like I was entering a perilous dilemma. And while we’re on the topic of game audio, Ni no Kuni’s English dub is crafted well and is fairly pleasant to the ears. I did toggle back and forth for a bit between the Japanese and English audio tracks, but for my playthrough I landed with the language most familiar to me. I almost wish there was a bit more voice acting within the game as certain scenes could have benefited. I do not mind reading text dialogue whatsoever, but I think the dub is good enough to deserve a more starring role.

At first, Ni no Kuni’s combat system is built upon a layer of simple principles. You are introduced to “familiars” that fight for you in battle against a large assortment of enemies, and later on these enemies become attainable and can fight by your side. When additional characters were introduced, I felt rewarded with a new level of battle gameplay. You can customize your familiars to a certain degree by feeding them and leveling them up, and you can move them around to share with different characters. The battle system kept me awake at all times because one simple move was all it took to quickly lose a fight. If you’re lazy like me you’ll find yourself sticking to the same two or three familiars throughout the entire game, as there isn’t any real need to switch things up. But the potential is there to satisfy those who enjoy creating their favorite teams for battle.

Ni no Kuni Battle System

There’s a lot more that could be spoken for in Ni no Kuni, such as the expansive world map, mending the hearts of the brokenhearted, and attaining pages of the Wizard’s Companion book. But I will leave those features to be discovered by your own adventure. Ni no Kuni is a game that focuses primarily on superb storytelling and defined gameplay, both brought to life with vibrant visuals and a hint of Ghibli music magic. I would say that it should satisfy the majority of JRPG fans when rounding up the game’s stand-out qualities, but some may find themselves asking more from the story or asking for less sidequests. It’s a simple-hearted adventure that caters to an open mind, and I believe that Ni no Kuni is a title created for every age to experience. Absorb this title if you receive the chance, and may it take you to another world.

Review Score

Review copy purchased by author.

About Jared Cyhowski

[Former Staff] Jared is a recent graduate from Fitchburg State University where he studied communications, video production, and English. He enjoys playing video games, watching anime, writing, and of course pizza. His favorite games are Shadow of the Colossus and Final Fantasy IX, but he can’t possibly choose a favorite anime. Jared enjoys following the games industry and observing what will happen next, and he puts out an invitation for discussion on these topics. He loves a great story in these mediums and prefers a stronger narrative design over most features. Jared is personally responsible for creating and managing the Anime section of the website, and hopes to inspired and entertain with everything he writes.

  • I love this game. Personally one of my favorites. I sorta laugh how it sorta spits in the faces of other RPGs. But seriously I really do hope that they will make another game like this.

  • MusubiKazesaru

    too bad that it’s an exclusive

  • xHeraCross

    How exactly does one ‘consume an animated world’? and how exactly could one ‘absorb this title’? really?

    • It’s called using vivid word choice and figurative language.

    • xHeraCross

      ‘Figurative’, meaning being based on a figure of speech? As far as I
      know, ‘consuming an animated world’ or ‘absorbing a title’ are not
      metaphores people commonly use. If it said that the animated world consumes the player, that might make a bit more sense. Colour can be good for writing, but that doesn’t mean the entire piece needs to be
      vivid and bright; it primarily needs to make sense.

  • MagmarFire

    If Level-5 and Studio Ghibli don’t make another game together, consider me among the brokenhearted. This game was one of the most beautiful games I’ve ever played. The aesthetics were paid so much attention that it really does feel like you’re walking through a Studio Ghibli movie, and the amount of content to match is no sloucher, especially when you consider that you’ll be spending more time taking in all the eye-smashing visuals and ear-serenating music.

    Speaking of the music, I think I’m going to listen to the credits theme now.

  • Roofus

    Kind of a short review based on how long ago the game came out, don’t you think? Either he played through the whole thing or just got it today. If the former is true, what gives? I wish it was more detailed and girth-y… maybe this reviewer can try again next time.

  • I should probably get a PS3 one of these days…

  • This review really seems a day late and a dollar short.

  • I’ve just recently completed the game, did all sidequests before finishing the game and took me about 65 hours. There is however, a lot of post game content which I didn’t bother with.

    This review is fine, since I don’t think there’s not much else to say about the game. The graphics are beautiful, soundtrack is great, but there is an inherent simplicity to it all that might be slightly disappointing to some (there’s a lot of help, the brokenheart quests are EXTREMELY simple, etc.).

  • Dillon

    I agree with Heracross. I am too distracted by how poorly written this article is to even begin to process what it says. How many adjectives can the author fit into one sentence? It’s not a contest. The writing belongs to that of a high school freshman whose main objective is to complete a word count. The author’s incompetence is made most obvious by his elementary word choice (“fun,” “good,” “wonderful”, “pleasant”). The actual content of the article is drowned out by the author’s pathetic attempt to come across as a cultured writer. A suggestion for the author: expand your vocabulary, but learn to be more concise. Your job is to be a critical reviewer, but you inject too much emotion and your writing involves too many unnecessary pleasantries for you to ever become a successful one.

  • This game is EASLIY the best PS3 game I’ve ever played. If you have not played this game yet, you should really consider finding a way.