With movies like Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro, Studio Ghibli creates amazing worlds that you wish you could visit. With Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, you get that chance! In the first hour of the game, you almost get confused as to whether you're watching a new animated movie from the legendary studio or playing a video game. But soon the cut scenes move to the background and you're playing pure old school JRPG magic.
You play as Oliver, a normal boy in a pretty normal world. But Oliver soon discovers that there is also a hidden parallel world and he has the ability to travel between both. In order to rescue his mother, he will have to embark on a grand adventure in Ni no Kuni with a funny fairy named Drippy and defeat a powerful dark magician. Oliver learns powerful spells as you advance through the game, but most of the fighting is done through familiars, magical creatures that you control. Juggling these creatures and using them at the right time is the secret to getting through the various challenges the game throws at you.
Ni no Kuni is very deep in the amount of diversions it offers. There is the RPG staple of earning experience points and leveling up, but that's just the beginning. There are bounty and collection quests, monster taming and training, collecting stamps, and even an alchemy-type system that doesn't open up until later in the game. All this stuff sounds confusing, but the way it's presented is the strong point of the game. Clearing the boss of an area and then tackling all the side quests is very straightforward and fun. In fact, it's one of the best parts of the game. You are also often required to teleport back to your home world and solve problems there. Because people from your world and Ni no Kuni are linked, you'll have to spend time going back and forth.
The game might not be for everyone, but if you loved Dragon Quest 9 on the DS, this game is definitely for you. The combat is turn-based but with the ability to move your character around the field to avoid attacks or to get in better range of enemy weak points. The story doesn't overwhelm the gameplay and all the different side quests offer a great break when you don't want to progress too quickly. There's even a Pokémon-style part of the game where you can evolve your familiars into a new, stronger creatures!
My only complaint so far is that there is no visual change to the characters when you equip new gear. My main familiar starts off attacking with a little sword even when he has no weapon equipped. Give him a new cool fire sword weapon and while he now does more damage, the rewarding feeling is lessened as he's still holding his same little sword during battle. But it's a minor complaint. And after playing today's big budget RPGs, the old school and old world charm of Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is a breath of nostalgic fresh air.
Hint: Feed your familiars the various sweets like Cakes and Ice Cream that enemies drop. This will increase their stats and make taking down enemies a lot easier.
by Alexis Kirsch
Official Game Website