If you like Hayao Miyazaki movies and video games, I’m about to BLOW YOUR FREAKIN’ MIND. Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is the new Studio Ghibi piece that most everyone is going to want to get. It’s a nostalgic adventure RPG with a familiar collection system reminiscent of Pokemon. The plot is to be taken with a grain of fairy-tale salt, though despite the apparent linear contortions necessary to make a good RPG, Ni no Kuni is still very much a/the Studio Ghibli game.
Oliver is a young boy living with his single mother in the old-fashioned town of Motorville. He and his good friend sneak out one night to try out their new itty bitty custom made car, when the player witnesses a strange figure and her pet talking about killing the protagonist lad, calling him the Pure-Hearted One. Oliver’s car crashes into the river due to the figure’s meddling, but his mother manages to save him before he drowns. She suffers a heart attack and dies as a result of her exertion.
That’s when Oliver meets Mr. Drippy, the Lord High lord of Fairies, who tells him that he must come into the other world in order to save his mother’s soul mate, which may just save her in the real world. In order to save her soul mate, however, he must defeat the dark mage Shadar, and the evil White Witch. While the fairy tale standard may convince you that this is a trivially easy game meant for children, I regret to inform you that this game is one tough son of a bitch. Time for mechanics.
Combat is a creative take on turn-based playing. When choosing an action to perform, you perform that action until its timer runs out and it goes on cooldown. You can cancel the action beforehand, but that doesn’t shrink the cooldown at all. Fight with the main characters, or with their familiars; HP is shared (though not between human characters), so it’s probably a good idea to be rid of that “low HP, swap to a different familiar” reflex. Because it’ll kill you. Certainly killed me. Items, tactics, spells; the game teaches you everything you need to know, and keeps a tutorial compendium if you ever need to brush up.
There’s a difficulty scaling mechanism implemented that makes it particularly difficult to over-level yourself, even with braindead levels of grinding. You will probably grind a fair bit if you want to capture one of every familiar, especially considering each one has two final forms, each with different benefits and drawbacks. And that there are “shiny” versions that appear during the post-game sequence. So that means you’ll need to capture four of each familiar. I’m going to do it, so you can too!
As the story moves along, you’ll witness Miyazaki animations befitting a feature length film, along with fully voiced dialogue and a plethora of puns. In this game, there are MANY puns. There are puns and references, which will either cause you to bleed from the ears or giggle from the mouth. It’s all good fun. Anyways, the game’s easy to follow, challenging to play, the puzzles sometimes get difficult, but you can always expect to feel that Ni no Kuni is trying to engage you. It’s the first official Studio Ghibli game, to my knowledge, and thus far I haven’t experienced a single thing that outright irks me. That’s fairly abnormal. So get this game and play it and try to sleep regularly, because it’s that fun. Oh yes indeed.
Jason Wilson offers a balanced leaning towards positive, legitimate review of Ni no Kuni. According to him, the combat system (particularly the action timer aspect) and allied AI are the weak points of the game. This may prove true if you’re expecting a greater level of flexibility in combat, though in my eyes these factors simply encourage the player to interpret, adapt, and improve. But that’s all very subjective. The final word is: BUY. It’s a fantastic example of a classic-yet-modern RPG. Here’s the review link: http://venturebeat.com/2013/02/04/ni-no-kuni-wrath-of-the-white-witch-review/