Review by legaiaflame2
Does a world full of wonder and imagination make up for a narrative lacking depth? Some would say no...
Others would say yes. Unfortunately, this game is very underwhelming when it comes to the story and gameplay.
The narrative lacks depth and is too simple. It may be charming at first, but it becomes very stale. The only time the story ever picked up was near the end of the game. And even then, it was very unfulfilling. If you have to play for 30 hours for something significant to happen, you know there is a problem.
I wanted to like the characters, but they have next to no development or growth. They stay the same throughout the entire story and don't grow at all. Oliver just does what he is told without any hesitation. The same can be said for the other characters. Also, they have almost no back story. What little there is can be summed up in one sentence, "I'm the daughter of a great sage". Or, "I'm a thief with a hidden past". Those sentences are never explored any deeper and little exposition is at play.
The battle system is so flawed I almost stopped playing the game! Once you get a second character in battle, the AI turns to HELL! For instance, if you set someone to heal, they will completely waste your MP, healing you over and over again. Most of the time they end up dying and you have to solo most of the boss battles with Oliver. It's only until later in the game that they become more manageable.
More often than not your familiars will: walk into each other and get stuck, party members will just stand there doing nothing, and your spells will get canceled out by those of your enemies. This results in wasted MP. Another problem is, when you evolve your familiars they start from lvl 1 and you have to lvl them up all over again. Evolving them makes them vulnerable and weak. It almost feels like you are constantly starting over again. As a side note, I also don't like the way in which you capture familiars. You can't just capture any one you fight right then and there, by weakening them. The capture process is random and requires pure chance. This gets very frustrating if you want to capture a specific one. As It could take 1 battle or upwards to 30 battles! IMO, the familiars have very few attacks throughout the game and things get very boring and repetitive fast.
Moving on from the battle system, we will discuss the various sidequests found in the game. IMO this is another major flaw in the game. There are just too many! And because there are so many, they end up lacking originality, adding no value or significance to the story. Also, the same kind of sidequests are repeated over and over again within each new town. This isn't an MMORPG, it's a game driven by story! Or lack of story, I should say. You are either mending someones heart or doing a pointless fetch quest that took no thought whatsoever story-wise. When you arrive at the next town you can rinse and repeat that bland formula. As a result, I sickeningly skipped through each quest givers dialogue.
Apart from the negatives, the only thing I can give praise to is the design of the characters and environments. While the various designs of the familiars you capture throughout the game can be limited, simplistic and dull, the bosses make up for it. Compared to their counterparts, they are of course larger, and more thought went into their designs. That on the other hand, makes me wish with each evolution, your familiars grew in size. Anyhow, that is not a possibility because of the limited space in which you have to fight your battles.
lastly, we move on to the game's rich world. The environments make you feel like you are playing and not just watching a Studio Ghibli movie! Even though everything is 3D, the environments no matter what angle you turn the camera, feel like they have a hand painted background! The characters of which you control, serve as the foreground; just like an animated film! This is most impressive and I found myself just starring at each environment with awe. For all the games flaws, you get immersed into the world and that in itself, is a great accomplishment!
In conclusion, I believe some people might be blinded by the immersion and imagination the game's world and environments have to offer. This in turn might allow some people to overlook the many flaws contained within the narrative. This aspect of the game might also not be enough for some people. The artistic design comes with a price. As I said, the story is very unrefined and lacks much needed depth. The battle system which is another important aspect of the game, needed a great amount of refinement. I would give this game a 7.5 and on a good day an 8. It got a lot of things wrong and only a few things right.
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (US, 01/22/13)
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