Ni No Kuni is something special. That is the first thing that comes to mind after playing this game: special, something to look out for. RPG’s have been around since the early 80′s, letting you control a character and build him or her how you see fit, adventuring through massive worlds and meeting a myriad of different characters. Some would argue that RPG’s are not as relevant as they were thirty years ago, but I am here to say: Ni No Kuni is changing that mindset.
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is about a young boy named Oliver who is destined to save the world. Yawn, I know. But, hold on. It gets better. Oliver is greeted by the Lord High Lord of the Fairies, Mr. Drippy, who was under a dark spell that Oliver was able to break, being all destined and stuff. Oliver is then rushed off to save his world from the evil Shadar and from the White Witch. Ni No Kuni is Japanese for “The Another World” which is exactly what this game is about. Oliver teleports to “The Another World” as they call it. This Another World and our world are connected. Each person in our world has a person in The Another World that we are connected to. Throughout the game, you will traverse back and forth correcting the wrongs Shadar has made, but you will mostly stay in The Another World. It is up to Oliver and his companions to save the world.
I must put this out there now. This game is beyond gorgeous. The landscapes are breathtaking. The art style is truly visionary. This is probably the prettiest game I have seen in a long time. Now, prettiness is subjective, because Call of Duty games and Crysis look great, but the art and character design is truly amazing to look at. The colors and shell shading are very well done. I just love this type of art design. Most of Level 5′s games are done in this sort of style like DragonQuest.
Where Ni No Kuni hits its climax is in the gameplay which, I think, should be the best part of an RPG. If you are going to spend over fifty hours with the game, you better enjoy how it plays.
The gameplay is hard to describe. It is time-based, but also a little strategy, but also a little turn based. So, in “The Another World” that I mentioned before, there are creatures that you defeat called Familiars. Familiars are also what you use to fight with. Oliver and a few other characters can capture and train Familiars to fight for them. There are hundreds of different Familiars, each with their own special abilities and stats.
You traverse on an open world with visible enemies that go agro if you approach them and will trigger a fight scene if you run into them. This is when the battle arena pops up and you fight. You can choose to fight with Oliver or one of his Familiars. Familiars are your best bet. There are four different signs that Familiars can be born under, and each of these signs have strengths and weaknesses against opposing signs. Like, Moon can beat Star and Star can beat Planet. Familiars level up in battle and at a certain point can Morph into a better version of themselves. It is advised to morph as soon as possible because even though you drop back down to level one, once you hit that same level, you will be more powerful.
You can feed your familiars different treats to help level them up in different aspects. You can hold up to three familiars on each playable character, along with three extra familiars to hold onto if you decide to switch out.
Along the way to saving the world, you can embark on sidequests called errands. There are over 80+ sidequests. After completing an errand, you will receive an item along with a certain number of stamps. These stamps are used to fill up stamp cards. After gathering ten stamps, you can exchange the finished stamp card for an ability like jumping, or better experience, or faster running. You can also go on bounty hunts. These are hunts for special, stronger monsters that are terrorizing parts of the world. Once you defeat them, you usually get better equipment for your Familiars, along a bundle of stamps, so those are worth doing.
The music in Level 5 games are always incredible and memorable, and this is no exception. The Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra delivers beautiful music composed by Joe Hisaishi who has done many works with Studio Ghibli and Level 5. The music really gathers up every emotion you could portray and delivers it in every piece. Very wonderful to listen to.
All in all, Ni No Kuni is a gold mind. Great RPG’s are hard to come by these days, and Ni No Kuni really delivers. The characters are extremely enjoyable (Did I mention every non-playable character’s name is a pun? So great), the fighting system is great, easy to access and hard to master, the graphics are breathtaking and the voice over and dialogue are charming. This is definitely a game you should look out for in the Game of the Year category come December.