Level 5 have always had a certain charm attached to their games. Studio Ghibli have always been one of my favourite film studios, and their unique way of storytelling and lush animation have always been close to my heart. Put both together and something very special happens. Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. This game is, in my opinion, the epitome of JRPG’s in recent years.
The story of Oliver, a boy who loses his Mother to illness and attempts desperately to bring her back in any way imaginable, is one of the most gripping and endearing that I’ve ever experienced in a video game. My view may be slightly biased, given my love for both parties involved, and the fact that I am a huge fan of JRPGs, but I digress.
Oliver is brought to a land by the name of Ni No Kuni, roughly translated from Japanese means ”Another World”. Drippy, the plush doll that belongs to Oliver, comes to life when it sees Oliver’s sorrow at the loss of his Mother. Drippy invites him to embark upon a journey where he, along with his soon to be band of unlikely heroes, will search for a way to fulfill what they have set out to do, save Oliver’s Mother. Drippy believes that the aforementioned ”White Witch”, has inflicted the ailment upon her, and believes that should they go to Ni No Kuni, they can put a stop to said Witch, and bring Oliver’s Mother back.
A somewhat cheesy and cliché premise, I’ll admit, but this game will grow on you faster than you can imagine.
The game has an element of Pokémon about it, with the player having to capture and Metamorphose (a process similar to Evolution in Pokémon) creatures all around the game world known as Familiars. Another reason why this title will go down as one of my all time favourites, being a massive Pokémon fan. Each member of Oliver’s party also have familiars, always willing to lend a hand in battle.
Although Ni No Kuni’s battle mechanics are not the typical turn based, waiting style of more traditional JRPGs, I found that they were well structured and different, while not being too different to feel familiar, and comfortable. It may take some getting used to at the start, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be hearing that victory music more often than your alarm clock in the morning. The player can control Oliver, who casts offensive magic, or you can control one of multiple Familiars that accompany him, who each have different and unique characteristics in battle. Type match-ups among familiars definitely play a big role in how battle will play out, giving another nod to possible influences to Pokémon. With each battle, comes Exp. and as to be expected, Leveling Up, for Oliver, his Familiars, his companions, and their respective Familiars also.
The vast open world of this game will leave you staggered, with it’s breathtaking anime-esque visuals, the quality and sheer beauty of which being quite unique. The many different terrains and eco-systems we’ve grown to expect from RPGs in general also make an appearance in the game – the sandy dessert, the fiery volcanic mountain, the lush green forest, you get the point. Each have their own charm and unique atmosphere.
Each of the various towns that Oliver and company will visit on his journey are ever more charming than the last. With names like Ding Dong Dell and Castaway Cove, how can one not be charmed by this intriguing land??
The best thing about this game is the characters. Hands down. They grow on you seemingly from the moment you meet them, almost as if we already knew them, before they were introduced. As the story unfolds, so does each of their respective backgrounds, giving us narrative and information into who they are and where they’ve come from. Hats off to the writers.
All said and done, I can’t seem to find a bad thing to say about this game. I thoroughly enjoyed every second of it, finding myself longing for more each and every time I put down the controller. That’s what a game should do, make you want more, nearly to the point of craving. This game did this for me and then-some, I couldn’t wait for the next part of the story, or to hear Drippy say ”Mun” a thousand times more. This was the JRPG that I had been longing for, for years, and with Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom just around the corner, I’m practically salivating.
Good job Level 5 and Studio Ghibli. Good job indeed.