35 Reviews

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch review: Ghibli's godsend to gamers

Level-5 fuses with PS3 adventure

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There's a new spin on the old side-quest formula - in order to interact with certain denizens of Ni No Kuni, some of the characters require a personality trait they're lacking in, such as confidence, eagerness or kindness. To lend these traits to one character means they need to be taken away from another - think of it as a 'The Wizard of Oz' stock market.

It's still elementally a fetch quest, but it requires you engage with multiple strangers - and unsurprisingly Studio Ghibli has maintained its remarkable standards for fusing charm and wonder into its characters. The community within Ni No Kuni is a joy to lose yourself in.

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The battle system boasts satisfying sense of depth and discovery, though mechanics are introduced carefully and gradually to prevent them from overwhelming. Battles take place in real-time in an open space and can be quite frantic - fans of the Tales games should adapt to it quite quickly.

Attacks carry a timer system, so once a player elects a manoeuvre they can't escape it for a sustained period - it means that the trick is to study each enemy's movement and behaviour and the right move at the right time.

There is another significant, deep layer of strategy added to gameplay with the 'Familiars' - these are essentially 300 Ghibli-crafted Pokemon and are absolutely as fantastic as that sounds. These small creatures can fight for you during a battle (the player takes control of them in real-time), and also can be upgraded and taught new moves.

Once caught, they need to be taken care of (and fed), but having a platoon of these creatures next to you in battle can be key to victory. A massive, almost overbearing subsection of the game comes in the challenge of turning every enemy in the game into a Familiar. It's not necessary, of course, but it could very well be a post-adventure obsession.

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For a game built by two groups of different styles and standards, it is remarkable how cohesive Ni No Kuni feels and how minor its faults are. On occasion there are some difficulty spikes, and the magnificent Ghibli-animated cut-scenes become less frequent in the second half of the game, but there's little else to pick at.

Ni No Kuni is a miracle. Doused in character and constructed with depth, its first half hour is awe-inspiring yet the challenge can carry beyond the hundred hour mark.

Games have been burdened with controversial and scornful associations in recent times. The wider impression is that this interactive medium, one that's still finding its feet, has become little more than a gore-fest for youngsters. Ni No Kuni is not just an essential addition to any Studio Ghibli collection - it is a breathtaking example of how games can be worth anyone's time.

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The verdict

A magnificent achievement - Ni No Kuni is an enormous adventure that impresses at every moment

  • Looks and sounds absolutely magnificent
  • Incredibly deep battle system
  • Heaps of side-quests and post-game collecting
  • Trickier moments can be a little frustrating
  • Ghibli-animated cutscenes appear less as you progress
9.3
Format
PlayStation 3
Developer
Level 5
Publisher
Namco Bandai
Genre
RPG

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