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Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Review

Since the first screens started to emerge for Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, this new game from the dream team of Level 5 and Studio Ghibli has been far too long in arriving on the PlayStation 3, however it's finally here, bringing plenty of high hopes and anticipation with it. Studio Ghibli have created some truly great animated films over the years and Level 5 are no slouches either, bringing us games such as White Knight Chronicles and the Professor Layton series; So how does Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch fare against these previous releases?

Fresh from playing Persona 4 Golden (review to follow closer to release date) on the Vita I was not expecting many games to rival its pure addictiveness, let alone be caught up in yet another huge RPG, but Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch has proven otherwise, from the opening scenes right through every minute and hour of gameplay you are whisked away to a beautifully imagined fantasy world, teasing you with often familiar but also otherworldly characters full of life and colour.

Starting off on a rather sombre note, you play as Oliver, a young lad who resides in the small town of Motorville. All seems fine in Ollie's world; he is obviously adventurous but also full of respect for not only his friends but for his elders as well but with the sudden passing of his mother he is all alone in the world, residing in his room, stricken with grief. When all seems lost for this young life a miracle occurs, with his tears somehow freeing a fairy from his prison, the confines of a soft toy. This fairy is not what you would expect, a diminutive gruff Welsh speaking creature with a lamp attached to his nose, Mr Drippy soon convinces Oliver that his mother is alive and in danger in his world, who in fact is a mighty sage. In reality it is not Oliver's mother who is in danger but her soul mate, with every person and creature in Motorville directly connected to their soul mate in Mr Drippy's parallel world of Ni no Kuni. All was well in the two worlds until the evil Shadar began taking over, stealing pieces of people's heart to keep them subdued, thereby affecting the inhabitants of both worlds. With this slim chance to save his mother, Oliver equips himself with a wand and a Wizards Companion book and transports this unlikely pairing to the new world where Oliver quickly gets up to speed on Shadars evil plans, learning that many are fearful of Shadar and for those that stand against him, a terrible fate awaits them. Being the kind natured boy he is, Oliver is more than happy to start helping many locals and through this learns the Great Sages and the powers that they possess and hopefully teach him.

The world of Ni no Kuni is huge, split into many different continents that you soon learn how to traverse, but at first it is all on foot, taking on a familiar JRPG trait of the field view, with Oliver making his way through the miles of wild lands, collecting hidden treasures and more often than not getting into fights. These fights occur when a monster spies you and decides to come at you, with the game then moving to the battle screen.

The fighting mechanics are initially a little fiddly, with Level 5 creating a very original way to participate in fights. As Oliver you are able to either get your hands dirty and start throwing whatever magical powers you have unlocked or send in your familiar to do your dirty work. The actual action will have you moving the chosen warrior around the arena, then by using the shoulder buttons moving the menu in the bottom left of the screen to your required move, be it a special, defend, escape or item usage depending on the character. When using a special your character will then cast the move and attack, or if just generally using melee, will run up to the target and punch away until the timer for that move has run out, granting you full control again and letting you choose another move. The majority of this is in real time, with the action only pausing when you go to select special moves and items so most of the time the enemies are attacking; with this it can get very hectic and many early deaths in the game are down to just not knowing where to look. Things are made a little easier once you have a larger party, each using their own familiars, allowing you to pass leadership to each character and command them, granting you use of their specific skills whilst the others go on the automatic fight or follow your tactics.

Though the goal of the main quest is very clear, getting there is an entirely different matter as the world of Ni no Kuni has so much on offer. For starters the Wizards Companion mentioned earlier is incomplete, with pages scattered all over the realm, requiring Oliver to talk to many people to gain as much of the book as possible, with each page granting monster advice, tales from the land, maps and even more magical powers. Each town Oliver and gang visit has a host of shops, though the majority are all the same, with a hotel, armoury, items and finally a bounty shop, where you can take up bounties, from hunting down monsters that roam the lands that have wronged its inhabitants to small favours like collecting ingredients or trying to find a missing crab, all of which earn you not only cash and the occasional gift but also stamps that you use to fill in a merit card. With each merit card completed you can then redeem them at the bounty shop for additional abilities, some are pointless like the ability to jump, others allow you to move faster in the field areas whilst others allow more health and mana orbs to appear on the battle field, making some of those fights not so close to the bone.

The biggest draw and one that will keep you from the end game for some time is the 'gotta catch em all' mentality when it comes to Familiars. With your initial Familiar, a little Mite armed with a sword and shield you are taken through the basics of battle, both of you levelling up and learning more special moves along the way. Later in the game you meet another character who has the ability to serenade and then capture the monsters that roam the lands, effectively making them one of your Familiars and there are plenty to catch, each with different elemental powers and special moves that unlock through constant use. Via the Creature Cage menu, Oliver is able to feed the Familiars, giving them treats to boost your friendships and also their own personal stats, plus when the time comes, metamorphose them to their next stage, making them even more powerful with even more specials to unlock.

Almost every part of Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch has been presented in a way not many games bother with, drip feeding you vital powers and plot, making sure you are used to one area before offering the next, never once feeling like it is getting to much to take on but at the same time not being patronising in its presentation. There is so much on offer in the game, with it continually offering more and more as you play, like adding the power to travel across the oceans, create new items with a cauldron, help towns folk who have been cursed by Shadar by using a locket to locate people who have some extra 'heart', be it courage or kindness and then transfer it to whoever needs it, usually resulting in a little gift to sweeten the deal, with every town and person you meet there will always be a chance to learn something about the world.

The often argued point of "do you play with the original or English track" is made even harder in this instance, hard core fans will love the Japanese track but will surely be missing out on the outstanding English version, with the main cast sounding great but the show easily stolen by the Welsh tinged accent and mannerisms of the fairy, Mr Drippy. This area of the game brings me to the only negative I have come across and that is the choices of when to use dialog and when to change to plain text. The game never really seems to settle on one approach, one moment you are watching a fully animated scene, then it changes to the in game engine, still with full speech, then for no reason it will then go to text only; strange and a little jarring, but with the voice acting done so well, your inner monologue still sounds like the familiar character voices. These choices do not really spoil the game as such but they are a strange choice considering the high level of quality offered through the rest of the game.

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch turns out to the perfect marriage of animation studio and games developer, with the power of the PlayStation 3 allowing for their ideas to come to fruition and in turn creating a beautiful and more importantly, enjoyable RPG.

Words by Ash Buchanan.

(Version Tested: PS3)


- The screenshots speak for themselves
- When in action the voice talents are entertaining
- Original battle system
- Catching and ranking up all of the Familiars


- Falls back onto text only far too often

Edited On 24 Jan, 2013

( 43 )
0000000000 3 years ago
No No Kuni joe? Ni No Kuni lol.... Wow i need to get my hands on a ps3 cheap so can get a hold of some of these top games im missing out on.. any1 can help me out with this be sure u do :D i will love u forever
Sorry typo :D
Joe Anderson (Editor) 3 years ago
You need a PS3 :D
Joe Anderson (Editor) 3 years ago
got 1 there spare joe? lol
0000000000 3 years ago
got a ps3 im all set lol
0000000000 3 years ago
Wow that was quick lol. Where'd you get one from and how much?
LFC Bywater 3 years ago
my cousin has given me his because he only uses his vita :D score
0000000000 3 years ago
Score indeed well done
Loli-Nox-Tan 3 years ago
Mikeyboy 3 years ago
Looks quality pre ordered my copy before!
DynamiteWhyte 3 years ago
I didn't want this game. I had only heard of it and it was just all bleh. But after reading two reviews, seeing a video review and learning about the collection side, I want this...
amd500 3 years ago
Sounds excellent. Looking forward to next week so I can finally get my hands on it.
lol, i've been waiting 3 years for this game. I'm going to explode unless i can play it soon !
klarax 3 years ago
Bindiana 3 years ago
Looking forward to playing this got my special edition ordered any chance you can send them now joe :D cant wait a week!
Salvo 3 years ago
Ordered this and can't wait! Now if shopto was to have a discount on Xcom for PS3 soon, the gamer in me would be %100 satisfied.
Loli-Nox-Tan 3 years ago
I have had this game on Pre-order since July last year so I can't wait till i finally get it either way it's time to get my PS3 back from my sister i think. PS: Review reads like a gem
PrometheusFan 3 years ago
Gotta admit, I've genuinely been taken by surprise by how hard this game has been blowing the roof off the review circuit. I was trying not to expect too much given how mixed Level 5's game output can be, but it's reassuring to hear they've nailed it in this instance.
runebr 3 years ago
Has been a while since last I come here, but you don't put grades anymore Joe? (like: Excellent, good, etc)
iMerle iDixon 3 years ago
Looks interesting and unique, which is the kind of thing I like.
Pyroloveridge 3 years ago
someone has a trigger happy mouse finger lol
Think that is only thing that lets these forums down, not updating the post as soon as its posted lol. Get so many repeated posts.
DynamiteWhyte 3 years ago
They are deletable though so that makes up for it.
LFC Bywater 3 years ago
Garrick 3 years ago
I've got both this and Fire Emblem: Awakening coming up next month (assuming I give in to my temptations of importing FE:A and a Limited Edition Fire Emblem 3DS, that is), and then South Park: The Stick of Truth the following month. This is already a fucking great year for RPGs if you ask me!
Is South Park still going to make it's original release date?
PrometheusFan 3 years ago
I doubt it will, But can still hope that it will.
LFC Bywater 3 years ago
LFC Bywater 3 years ago
This game looks amazing. Makes me sad i don't have a PS3. That bird from the 2nd to bottom pic looks very similar to a spearow tho... :P
James26 3 years ago
Tempted to get this. I knew nothing about it until a week or so ago and now I've read a couple of reviews I may be swayed. It sounds great....
James26 3 years ago
Tempted to get this. I knew nothing about it until a week or so ago and now I've read a couple of reviews I may be swayed. It sounds great....
Phantombane 3 years ago
Everyone needs to own this game! Such a powerful and epic storyline to be expected of Studio Ghibli!
Robichoico 3 years ago
Looking forward to this one. Of course it's Level 5 who are doing it. Looking back they did the Layton series, Dragon Quest VIII (I think), Rogue Galaxy and Dark Cloud....and White Knight Chronicles (we'll ignore that.) so yup. Can't usually go wrong with them
shiny miller 3 years ago
So many positive reviews of this! Shame my 'to play' pile is so big at the moment.
vulpine 3 years ago
Level 5 wrote the story.
rick75fowler 3 years ago
hmm i have to amitt i am not a fan of these types of games as just bore the death of me but after watching this video and reading up on it i feel i could be a changed man and buy it from what i seen. its given me that nice warm feeling,now the only thing is its seems a bit of a girly game,should i be hiding in my living room at night with headphones on!!! im sure it will entertain me and my son would love to watch it as a cartoon that will keep him quite for ages lol.
Afrododger 3 years ago
Nothing could make me happier than getting this game - it looks simply incredible :D
fusearts 3 years ago
Level 5 and Studio Ghibli ... perfect combination.
Gummy 3 years ago
Is it fully voiced when you play it in Japanese though? With the Atelier games, more of it is voiced with the original audio. Different company deals with them, but still, it seems like a possibility. It would certainly help in deciding which language to play in.
The game has three tiers of presentation. The Studio Ghibli animated scenes, the Level-5 in game voiced scenes and then there unvoiced text dialogue. This is the same in all languages. Here is an article on deciding whether to play in English or Japanese that you might enjoy reading:
AlisterCat 3 years ago
AlisterCat 3 years ago
Great review. How do you go about reviewing seriously long games like this? Do you get journalist access to play it ahead of time?
Skiba 3 years ago
not long now game sounds great.
Salvo 3 years ago
I think the text-only parts were maybe an attempt to keep the size in check for an already huge game. I've read so many reviews that I can't wait to try it for myself. The demo was just to show battle mechanics and the enemy encounter mechanism so that one doesn't count. I'm especially excited for the side quests! Is something wrong with me? Getting a huge JRPG with semi-turn based battle, gorgeous graphics, potentially great music (+performed by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra for crying out loud) should be a day of celebration for us!
CookieMcCrumble 2 years ago
Would love this, haven't had a good RPG in a while and that void needs filling. Thanks for the review, definitely adding to my "to get" pile.
Oli_1 2 years ago
Got the Wizards Edition of this but haven't started yet. Need to finish Valkyria Chronicles which i'm currently playing (and its awesome) then get stuck into this good and proper.
Zippedmantis 2 years ago
Would love to play this game, haven't been hooked on a JRPG in a long time but I don't have a PS3 and just can't justify getting one at this point.
smityjoe 2 years ago
This game has so much character, love it.

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