Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Review

Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
Publisher: Namco-Bandai
Developer: Level 5
Release Date: January 22, 2013
Reviewed on February 19, 2013
Platforms: Playstation 3
Written by Dexter Jaekel

I want so desperately to like this game. It has everything that I would love: classic JRPG fighting styles, classic corny Japanese characters, and fun Anime styling.  I'm not saying that Ni No Kuni is a bad game, but I just cannot get myself to like it. Let's back up for a minute and explain a little bit about why I, of all people, should love this game.

I've been a fan of JRPG games since 1997, not nearly as long as some people  in the gaming industry, but that's still a very long time. I cannot count on one hand the number of times I've beaten Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII. I've also spent numerous hours playing Final Fantasy IX and X. I even tried to stomach Final Fantasy XII and Final Fantasy XIII. When I first saw videos of Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, I was ecstatic. The idea of a classic JRPG game being made with full force had me so intrigued and the fact that Studio Ghibli was behind the animation had me even more excited. I was ready to lose myself into this wonderful, simplistic, childlike world and have fun battling the evils that oppose me. Unfortunately, whenever the game came out it just fell so flat in my eyes.

Don't get me wrong, I make it sound like it's a terrible game but it's not. There is so much here to do and so much to fall in love with, but something about it just isn't striking me the way I would like it to. Let me explain to you all the things that there are to love about this game and I will stop ranting about the things that I don't like.

The Story

You play as a young boy named Oliver who lives in the city of Motorville (which looks like a small town straight out of the 50s in the United States). Oliver is a kindhearted little boy who loves his mother, loves going to school, and has no ill will towards anyone. Tragedy befalls Oliver early in the game and leaves him in a deep pit of despair. After this, the real adventure begins as Oliver is thrown into a world of monsters, evil forces, and oppressed townsfolk.

Oliver is not your typical JRPG Protagonist. He doesn't wield a giant sword, he is never brooding, his stature is small, and his confidence is low. Oliver is essentially the opposite of a standard JRPG hero. This is one place where Ni No Kuni stands out. Oliver's ultimate strength comes from his infinite compassion and kind heart, he just happens to be able to fight using magic and familiars.


Everyone knows the most important part of a JRPG is the battle system. Ni No Kuni combines elements from several different games, the most notable being Pokemon. Oliver and his friends don't fight enemies directly most of the time, they command familiars. As you travel the world and battle creatures, you will have the opportunity to capture ones that you like.  You use them in battle to level them up, and evolve them to make them stronger.

The battle system is active and not turn based. Every action you perform has to cool down before you can us it again, but you can use any other action immediately. You move your character around the battlefield during all this, trying to avoid damage and looking for weak spots on your enemies. At anytime you can switch familiars and characters. If your character gets K/Oed, you automatically switch to one of the others. The beauty of this system is that it can be very simple, but you can bring a lot of depth into it if you so choose.


Playing through the story is very straight forward (like a classic JRPG) but the meat of the game is in the side quests. It will take you about 40 hours to beat the game, and almost 80 hours to do everything and achieve a platinum trophy. The side quests are divided into 2 basic types, errands and hunts. Hunts will send you out to find a specific monster and kill it. Luckily these monsters are displayed on your world map and are usually easy to track down. Another nice feature is that you are allowed to take on multiple Hunts at a time, so it's easy to sign up for several hunts and then execute them as you are brought through the map during the story. The Errands are just like they sound, "I forgot where I left this, can you find it?", "I'm in need of this, bring it to me", and so forth. In addition to these errands, there are missions to help fix people's broken hearts. In order to do this, you must identify what part of their heart is missing, find someone with extra, and bestow it upon the broken hearted. The pieces that are missing can be anything from "Love" to "Enthusiasm." The unique reward for these side quests is Merit Points. Earn 10 merit points and you can turn them in for awesome benefits that range from extra experience to making it easier to capture monsters.


The visuals of this game are stunning. This is to be expected since Studio Ghibli did all the artwork for this game. Think of Studio Ghibli as the Disney of Japan, they make wonderful kids movies that are both enthralling and thought provoking. I have to say that Ni No Kuni has the best cell-shaded graphics in any game that has been made. Everything is expertly crafted and imaginative. The landscape, characters, creatures, and magic effects are all dazzling.


The orchestral music sets the tone wonderfully at all the right times. The voice acting leaves something to be desired though. I believe that here lies my biggest problem with the game. I can't for the life of me understand why such a high budget current gen game would have so little spoken dialogue. I can understand not voicing every bit of dialogue that is part of side missions or sub-plots that are secondary to the main story, but why force us to read roughly 70% of the main story. A single dialogue can jump from voiced to written from sentence to sentence. It makes no sense. Final Fantasy X, a game released for Playstation 2 back in 2001, had a story just as massive as this one and yet it still managed to voice every bit of main story. I understand that Level 5 was going for a classic feel with Ni No Kuni, but there are somethings that should be done up to current standards. Fully voicing the plot is one if those things.


Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is NOT a bad game. Despite some of the harsh words I have used in this review, it is fun and brings a lot of value for your dollar. Hearing what others think about Ni No Kuni, I know that I am in the minority with my feelings on it. It does so much good, I just have a difficult time overlooking this pet peeve of mine. Ni No Kuni is worth your time. I think this would be a perfect game for introducing your children to the genre, I know that my kids will be playing it in a few years.



Images Courtesy of Level 5

Written by Dexter Jaekel
Editor-in-Chief of TheTechFixation.com


  1. JRPGs are a genre I always struggle to get in to despite trying with numerous Final Fantasy's, and I don't know why. Good review, surprised by the high score at the end but get why you've given it that. The game has sold well in the UK, some outlets are out of stock, and this was expected to just be another under the radar release, so good to see that new and different IPs still can have an impact in the current gaming environment.

    1. I couldn't have said it better myself, Matt. Great review Dexter.

    2. Thanks guys. I tried to be fair to the game even though it wasn't exactly what I had hoped for.

  2. That's a really good review, thanks.

    One of my boys has been playing the game a ridiculous amount. I love the styling of Studio Ghibli, Spirited Away is one of my favourite anime films.
    I just hate the mechanics of the game, I think I was too old to get into Pokemon. This reminds me heavily of those games, and you too.

    You've made me tempted to give Ni No Kuni a go when he's asleep. I'm just not sure I can devote the time required to finish it. Well done for not giving away any spoilers too.