I went into Ni No Kuni having never played an old-school JRPG before. With this being said, I didn’t really know what to expect from the game. The only things I knew were that it was a long game with a great story. I wasn’t sure how the game would play, how the characters would be, or how the game would look. Therefore, I had a bit of an open mind going into the game. I didn’t have any sort of opinion going in and that was a good thing. This let my awe of the game be amplified. The game is obviously beautiful aesthetically; but the game is so much deeper in other aspects that I didn’t expect. I was taken aback by the sheer beauty of nearly everything about the game. There is so much to see, do, and hear; and, for the most part, it is all so amazingly done.
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful games on the PlayStation 3. While it takes the anime approach, as is common with Studio Ghibli’s works, it is extremely polished with great animations in-game and during cutscenes. The cutscenes, while not as common as I would have liked until near the end of the game, are all fun to watch and very well done. The game has varied and interesting locations, each of which resembling a culture from the real world. They all are living worlds with people moving around the world and having something to do. Also, every person around the world has something unique to say. They all comment on something going on in the story or give you some side mission. The soundtrack, which takes over most of the game as there is little voice acting outside of the main story, is catchy and does not get old. Even after almost fifty hours of gameplay, the soundtrack was still interesting and fun to listen to.
The game has interesting characters, for the most part. The main characters of the story have great character arcs and dialogue. However, I wasn’t a fan of some of the main villains of the game. They seemed to be there just to be there, and didn’t serve a large purpose in the story. Nonetheless, the voice acting for all characters except for Oliver is great, having emotion and delivering lines masterfully. Oliver’s English voice actor, on the other hand, was not so well done. He is told as being from Motorville, USA, yet it seemed he could never figure out which accent he wanted to have. This wasn’t a huge problem, as the rest of the voice actors make up for it, but it does stand out compared to the rest of the actors.
The story of Ni No Kuni is also very well done. It starts out with a tragic event in Oliver’s world and, after an unforeseen turn of events, Oliver must go to a parallel world to fix the problem. The story goes through Oliver’s travels to fix his problems and help the other world as well. The game has a very clear message that is not hidden, although this is not a bad thing. It plays directly into the latter part of the story and ends up giving Oliver some inspiration. The story, as is common with JRPGs, is very long and goes through many twists and turns all for Oliver’s final goal. These plot points are mostly interesting and fun; although there are some odd plot points that stand out in the end.
However, there is one main plot point that seemed unnecessary to the story. The final main plot twist seemed to be there just to add more time to the story with more boss battles and plot points. The game goes on for another ten hours after this and the game didn’t really need it. The final part of the game did have some interesting plot points and a satisfying ending, but it seemed that it was not needed for the story and if the story would have ended before it all, I would have been satisfied. This isn’t common in the story, though, as most other plot points are engaging and I rarely got bored with the story.
Ni No Kuni’s gameplay combines elements of other JRPGs and refines it to have a stand-out gameplay system. Its main elements are an open batte system and taming different enemies to become friendly creatures, called familiars. In gameplay, you can play as any of the main characters themselves, or you can put out any familiar you have tamed to fight for you. They all have their strengths and weaknesses to learn and use strategically. There are a seemingly endless amount of enemies in the world to tame, meaning that there is always another creature to tame and level up so he can fight for you as well. It is a very deep system that can be used many different ways, whether it be choosing to play as Oliver or any of his many familiars.
The other main aspect of the gameplay of Ni No Kuni is the open battle system. The enemies in the world are roaming for you to see and will run toward you if you are of level to fight them. However, they will run away if you are overleveled. This system lets you choose which fights you want to engage in. You can run from any fight you want or stay and level grind for hours, it is all up to you. You can sneak up on enemies to gain the upper hand or vice versa, where the enemy has time to pull off an attack before you can defend or counter-attack. This means that running away from an attack is discouraged, even though it is possible.
Within the actual fights, there are also many possible options to take. While using any character, main or familiar, you can attack or defend, as well as using a special attack assuming you have enough MP. As you lose health or magicka, you can use spells or provisions to regain these. You can also wait for glims to drop on the ground. These glims give either MP or HP, or they can be a gold glim, the rarest of the glims that allow the character to perform a miracle move- a move that deals much damage to any or all of the enemies on the battlefield. The game encourages the player to level up Oliver and his friends so they don’t run out of MP or HP during battle.
During fights you can also command your teammates to either all attack or defend at once. This is where my only real problem with the gameplay generates. This command doesn’t always seem to do much. The friendly AI, especially Esther, rarely listens when telling them to defend and gets killed fairly easily. This can get frustrating late in the game when the enemies have very powerful attacks and you need to defend in order to survive. Plus, they always seem to use all of their MP at once, even against the weakest of enemies. This can also prove frustrating when you need them to perform a spell and they are out of MP due to a fight much earlier. The only way to offset this is either to level them up after the battle, which gets much more difficult later in the game, or use some provisions, which should be saved for absolutely necessary times like a boss battle. These are not game-breaking issues, but they can frustrate, especially late in the game.
The game also comes with a myriad of side missions and bounty hunts to complete. These come with merit awards that give Oliver merit cards which he can redeem for rewards, from the useless to the necessary. The side missions are, for the most part, varied, with the exception of a few that have the same objective for five or six separate missions. Nevertheless, many of the side quests are fun and easy to do, adding on an extra layer of story and gameplay along with the main story. Plus, some of the merit awards can end up giving you necessary abilities, like more XP during battle and extra MP and HP for Oliver. These give Oliver extra power against the most powerful enemies in the game and can turn a difficult boss battle into a trivial one.
There is a lot to do in Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. The main story took me just under fifty hours to complete, with many side missions and other things in the world still incomplete. These side missions could take another thirty to forty hours to complete. The game itself gives dozens of hours of gameplay along with many more hours of gameplay just having fun battling enemies. There is so much content in the game, and it is almost all very well done.
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is a beautiful game with a great story and deep gameplay. Although there are some minor complaints, they don’t lessen the overall quality of the game. Its beautiful soundtrack, surprisingly interesting story, and deeply strategic and unique gameplay stand out and make this game something that stands out in this huge year of gaming. As I was a newcomer to the JRPG genre coming in, this game definitely makes me want to go back and play more games in the genre. Ni No Kuni is truly unique and is something that outshines many other games this year. It is something that anyone should play if they like a good story, good gameplay, and dozens of hours of gameplay, even if they are new to the JRPG genre.
+Dozens of Hours of Gameplay
-Final Plot Point
-Bad Friendly AI
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch: 9.2/10