Review by noz3r0
Welcome to Another World
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch was originally released in Japan on 11/17/11. It roughly translates to The Second Country, fitting for a game that focuses on two worlds, The First Country being our world. The game is based around Oliver, a 13 year old boy who loves life. Unfortunately, his mother passes away but his pure-heartedness awakens a fairy named Drippy who explains of a way to bring back his mother. Oliver eventually agrees to venture to Another World where the majority of the game plays out.
Ni no Kuni brings together some interesting aspects of various RPGs to make for wonderful gameplay. The game as whole isn't that difficult but the boss battles can present some interesting mechanics and required skill/timing.
The World - This game features a world map where you can navigate to and from towns. You'll encounter creatures called Familiars and will battle them. There are items that can be foraged for resources and ingredients. There are 100 Hidden Treasure Chests to be found as well. It is easy to navigate, enjoyable to run through, and provides a good feel to the adventure. Cities and towns feature easily identifiable buildings and the Task System is great for logging your Side Quests. You often get to interact with the world through spells, using them to change things or communicate with animals/undead.
Battle and Mechanics - The battle system is different from a standard RPG. You have the ability to freely move around the battlefield and switch between characters. With the characters you can summon your Familiars to fight in battle for you. Because you can so readily switch between characters and Familiars it is simple to come up with a good combination for almost any situation. Familiars run on Stamina though and will have to be recalled after a certain amount of time, they do recharge their Stamina though so you can re-summon them into battle. All HP/MP for a character is linked to their Familiars as well, so you can't simply rotate in and out to avoid death that easily. You'll have the ability to set tactics for the characters you aren't using and have shortcuts to control their general actions, such as an All-Out Defense or Attack. The AI does take a hit here though. There isn't a way to go in-depth with how the characters will act. Telling one character to "Keep the Party Healthy" often results in over healing and wasted MP or having another character "Do What You Want" sometimes means auto-attacking for 1 point of damage. It's not difficult to switch between characters and control them, but sometimes it is hard to get everyone on the same page.
Familiars and Side Quests - For the most part, you'll be fighting with your Familiars. They take on a Pokemon-esque nature, ie; you catch them, level them up, feed them to make them to increase their stats, and evolve them to make them more powerful. With that said, each Familiar has three forms. The first and second are standard, while the third evolves into one of two different forms giving you the option of different skill sets and stats. The downside to this is the leveling system to a degree. When you "metamorphose" into a higher form you go back to level 1. This makes things complicated because your stats are typically lower after evolving, forcing you to only evolve a few at a time or else you are seriously under-leveled and out-matched. The Side Quests in this game, referred to as Errands and Bounty Hunts are much like any other game but they earn Merit Stamps which fill out cards that can be exchanged for minor bonuses, like increased map movement speed.
Ni no Kuni is a somewhat original story of a young boy named Oliver who seeks out a way to bring his mother back to life. The world of Ni no Kuni focuses on links to both worlds in the game. Every person has a soulmate in Another World and things that happen in one world are likely linked to the other. Oliver journeys through out Another World to become a powerful Wizard strong enough to defeat Shadar, a Dark Djinn that has imprisoned his mother's soulmate. Oliver believes that saving this Great Sage will help restore his mother's life. He eventually meets up with a few other people that wish to help defeat Shadar for their own reasons, if not only to restore balance to the world.
The game gives a nice feel with Studio Ghibli doing the art. It feels and plays like you are in an anime and the cutscenes are done that way. The soundtrack is nice and the travel music never becomes monotonous.
To complete the game it could take almost 40 hours if you don't rush through it. Completing all the side quests will clock in another 20-30 hours of play. It might not be worth a replay because there is post-game play. That is, after beating the final boss you can continue to play and actually receive additional quests.
Buy this game. It's worth it. It might not be a classic like some of the older RPGs (FF7, Chrono Trigger) but it's certainly outstanding.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (US, 01/22/13)
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