Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Review
- Posted January 21st, 2013 at 08:30 EDT by Steven Williamson
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If the dazzling production values don't win you over, the storyline, characters and engaging combat will.
- Looks and sounds amazing. Dazzling art-design and musical score.
- Strong storyline that has genuine moments where you'll feel touched.
- Engaging battle system that grows in challenge.
- Side-quests involving spells offer little challenge. You're just going through the motions.
- Can be irritating when you just want to go from A to B quickly, but weak enemies keep attacking.
You know a videogame has grabbed your full attention when you step into its world for the first time and six hours later you haven’t even moved for a toilet break. Generally, though not always, it tends to be role-playing games that have the power to absorb me in their open-world environments, lose me in their in-depth mechanics and keep me glued to the screen for hours on end, franchises like Oblivion, Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts.
Ni No Kuni: Wrath Of The White Witch, a JRPG from Level-5 the creators of the White Chronicles and Professor Layton series, is the latest game to have that effect on me, whisking me away from the outset into its colourful land full of charming characters, feel-good quests and strategically-engaging battles. I went to bed the other night with in-game scenarios whizzing through my end before Mr. Drippy popped up in one my dreams. When you wake up thinking about a game, you know it’s something special.
From the moment I wandered through the intricately-detailed town of Motorville, laid eyes on the rolling hills surrounding the quaint town of Ding Dong Dell and met Mr. Drippy, the hilarious side-kick of the game’s main character, I was sold. Ni No Kuni is a beautiful-looking game and part of its charm is enjoying the characters you meet and the environments that Level-5 has created, but equally as absorbing are the slick animated cut-scenes that help tell the story so superbly.
Created by world renowned Japanese animation company Studio Ghibli, the anime-style animation and art-work combine impressively to deliver a variety of attractive locations for gamers to lose themselves in. But it’s not just how things look; it’s also about how it feels controlling and being the game’s lead character Oliver. The way he slots into this world and makes you feel like you’re starring in your own anime movie, the way he runs down a set of steps, meanders through a babbling brook or casts a spell just feels right and sounds spot-on. The attention to fine details, how movement complements the impressive audio work, is commendable. Ni No Kuni delivers an audio and visual experience that has regularly made me grin from ear to ear.
STORYLINE SPOILER – The following couple of paragraphs tell you what happens to Oliver right at the beginning of Ni No Kuni.
The opening sequences, which switch between cut-scenes and gameplay flawlessly, set up the storyline superbly. Mummy’s boy Oliver, just thirteen years of age, bows into peer group pressure by a neighbour and sneaks out of his bed in the middle of the night to joy-ride around the streets of Motorville. The picture-perfect town of Motorville paints an idyllic canvas of his life but things turn sour when he crashes the car into a lake. His mother meanwhile, discovering that Oliver is missing from his bed, has taken to the streets to search for him. She finds him drowning in the lake, dives in, saves him and then…dies. Ouch. Days later, when Oliver is seen holding the precious toy that his mum had bought for him when he was younger, he’s shown crying into it hysterically calling out for her. The drama and emotion of the tale is portrayed with the skill of a seasoned producer who knows how to affect the audience; and at this point, I welled up.
The toy comes to life and becomes Mr. Drippy, one of the first members of a cast of loveable and interesting characters that you meet. Mr. Drippy sticks with Oliver through most of the adventure, helping to build the storyline and keep you entertained with his humorous quips. You soon learn that there’s a parallel world where everyone has a soul mate. We’re also told that Oliver is the child who can save the world and after stepping through a gateway the adventure begins. You get a wizard’s book, which becomes populated with all kinds of interesting information and spells, grab a magic wand, and receive a Familiar, a small creature that can be conjured up to help fight alongside you. You’re then off into a colourful and dark world filled with fairies, trees that talk, bizarre creatures and the evil Shadar, who Oliver will one day come face-to-face with.
I’ve yet to complete Ni No ... (continued on next page) ----