atwa's Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (PlayStation 3) review

Masterfully flawed

Ni No Kuni is one of the most well made games I have ever had the pleasure to experience. The most notable thing being how wonderful it looks, always awakening the sense of a magical adventure only present in the very best cartoons. I say cartoons because Ni No Kuni has been collaborated with Studio Ghibli, one of the most famed Japanese animation studios in existence so not only does the game look like one of their movies in video game form there are also gorgeous fully hand drawn animated pieces that highlight the most important events.

The story in the game follows Oliver, a young boy that after a very traumatic experience awakens a magical fairy that takes him on a journey to another world. It certainly will seem familiar if you have seen any of Ghilbi's movies and while the story in Ni No Kuni stutters at times it manages to be a very emotional tale about loss and friendship. It certainly has problems in its pacing, a movie is 2 hours while this game will take you up to 60 hours if you want to do everything so its easy to see how it can drag. Which it will at parts, though its never enough to take away from the greater whole which is one of the biggest and most well made role playing games you will ever play. I really want to emphasis just how well made it is. For example when Oliver stands still in water he lifts his feet in discomfort, when you are in a cold place he shivers. These small touches add to what is a game you can tell have been crafted with a passion. Nothing feels like they ever cut corners or lazily pushed out.

Meet Oliver.

Battling in Ni No Kuni you will do a lot it is very much the meat of the game. The combat plays out in the following. You have a party of three members who each can have three companions known as familiars. These familiars will surely be familiar(eh?) if you ever played a Pokemon game. They are basically wild creatures that you have the ability to catch and then use to fight for you. Battles happen in real time where you can change between the three active familiars or the character themselves which also has magic spells available to cast. Unfortunately the combat just lacks something that holds it away from being as good as even Pokemon. Pokemon was always straightforward but simple, Ni No Kuni tries to be more complex but never manages to make as much sense. The biggest problem I think is in the AI of the characters you are not currently controlling, their behavior never gets in your way but they will also not do much to help. Most battles its just you with some minor backup, and that is fine because the game is pretty easy, at least until you finish the game and get to the post game content. In the end the combat just doesn't feel that engaging and there is so much of it that you might tire of it after a while. Hopefully the other things in the game are so good that it won't matter, for me it was.

Just look at it!

Good English audio in Japanese games is for me very hard to come by. Ni No Kuni might have the best dub you will ever hear. In fact I played through the first 30 minutes twice, once in Japanese and then in English. Ultimately I went with English which is huge. I tried unsuccessfully to remember the last game that gave the option to chose where I actually went with English. It will occasionally make you cringe but for the most part it is very good. I would also have wished they would have voiced a bit more of dialogue, as it is you will read a lot of text. Which is understandable with how massive the game is, at least the actual story progression is mostly voiced. Writing is also good for the most part with some amazing puns that most notably stand out. Its never poorly written but I do think it plays it painfully safe at times. Most characters have one single motive and a single personality that they stick to, I get that Ni No Kuni is essentially a childrens story but a bit more depth in the characters would have been welcome. The script essentially does its job, no more no less. The musical score in the game is generally very good though you are bound to tire of some of it as it repeats a lot. Overworld music, I am looking at you.

Ni No Kuni is a wonderful game, but it has enough flaws to keep me from giving it a perfect score. Though I fully recommend it to anyone that is known to like Japanese role playing games in the past. It is so well made and so much passion has gone into it. The world is huge, the game is super long, there is so much things to do. It even has tons of content after you finish the main quest. I wish more games did, Ni No Kuni has tons of optional bosses and quests to send you on even after the credits have rolled. I want to like the game more than I do, which is a whole lot. It is just a shame that the whole game cannot live up to the immense quality it sometimes achieves.

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