Ni No Kuni: Wrath Of The White Witch is one of the most anticipated games releasing early in 2013 exclusively on the PS3. The game is a collaboration effort between Level-5 and Studio Ghibli, the former famed for its JRPGs while the latter for its animated movies. In a generation where JRPGs have been lacking on consoles and the PC, it’s no wonder fans are hoping for a really good end-product here. Gamers got their first feel of the game through a newly released demo that showcases two different sections of the game.
Firstly, a bit of back-story. The main protagonist is a boy named Oliver who tragically loses his mother early-game. As he cries away his sadness, a doll given to him by his mother comes to life. The doll calls itself Drippy and claims to be a fairy from another world. Drippy introduces Oliver to a magical book that can invoke magic and allow its owner to travel to the other world, known as Ni No Kuni. Drippy claims that Oliver may be able to find his mother there. Thus the adventure begins where Oliver traverses this other world to find his mother. Along the way, he’ll find some friends and companions to help him through his journey.
In the demo, the player can choose between two different scenarios to play. The first features a romp through some woods before fighting a boss and then returning to the main town. The first thing you’ll notice are the lovely graphics in the game. The game uses 3D cell-shaded art and the game looks beautiful for it. The graphics are crisp and vibrant whether during battle or exploration or even while walking around on the world map. In the second scenario, Oliver and friends find themselves heading into a volcano to sort out a particular issue. Here too, whilst more restrictive than the first scenario, the graphics still look impressive with the contrast between the red hot lava and blackened ground especially noticeable. The game definitely looks aesthetically good.
Another element you’ll notice are the sounds of Ni No Kuni. Always important in RPGs, background music plays a pivotal role in engaging the gamer. From the little that was available in the demo, Ni No Kuni looks to have gotten that aspect right too. The music during exploration and traveling the world map is smooth and calming whilst battle music is intense and gripping. Altogether, it sounds really good. Another point to note is voice acting. Voice acting is present in the game, however, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of it. The game seems to have kept voice acting only to important cutscenes rather than a majority of conversations. As such, you’ll find yourself reading and scrolling through text on screen. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but with what looks like a good degree of variety in accent usage with the English voice acting, it feels like such a shame to not have more of it. The opposite of that of course is that some gamers might have a problem with some of the accents in the game. Drippy himself might be hard to understand, and he’s a main character.
Let’s move onto the most important aspect now: gameplay. In true JRPG fashion, battles take place on battlefields that are transitioned into much like old-school JRPG games. No battles happen directly on the exploration field. Enemies all appear on screen too, meaning there aren’t any random encounters. The battle system itself is akin to an action-rpg like the Tales Of series. You can freely move around the battlefield during battle to better position yourself or avoid enemy attacks. Once you’ve gained enough experience, you’ll also be able to use many different familiars during battles. Familiars are small creatures that replace your character during battle and attack or defend in your stead. You can quickly change between familiars or between human characters, adding a lot of variety to gameplay. From the brief demo, it looks like a lot of thought went into the gameplay of Ni No Kuni and many more strategic and tactical battles could be on the horizon for those willing to buy the game.
Ni No Kuni: Wrath Of The White Witch is scheduled for release in North America on the 22nd of January 2013 and in Europe on the 25th of January 2013.