Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch – Review
Follow Genre: JRPG
Developer: Level 5, Studio Ghibli
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Platform: PS3

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch – Review

Site Score
Good: Story, graphics, sound & music, familiars
Bad: Battle GUI, AI
User Score
(2 votes)
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Rating: 8.5/10 (2 votes cast)

Finally! That’s what everyone thought when Ni no Kuni got a release date for Europe. Finally JRPG fans had something to look forward to again. A cooperation of Level 5 and Ghibli? This had to be awesome. Japan has this game for more than a year already, but it finally reached our region. Time to find out if it was worth waiting for!

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The story is about a young boy called Oliver, living together with his mom in a small and peaceful village Motorville. Cars play a very important role in their village. Not only adults build cars as their job, but even kids build them, just like Oliver’s best friend. His best friend challenges Oliver to try out a new car he just built. He accepts the challenge and a little bit later he’s ready for a ride. Not long after he started, a wheel of the car breaks off. Oliver loses control and drives right into a pool. Lucky his mom is there to save him out of the water. But then, something happens, Oliver’s mom has a weak hart and gets a heart attack right after she got her son out of the water and dies. A tragic start…

A few days later, Oliver is sitting in his room. He kept himself strong the past days, but that evening he couldn’t resist his tears anymore. His tears drop on his favorite teddybear, Mr Drippy, which he got from his mom when he was a child. Mr. Drippy starts glowing and comes alive. Oliver is completely confused, but Mr. Drippy immediately starts his explanation. “No time for crying mun! An other world, Ni no Kuni, is about to be destroyed and you are the chosen one to save that world!” Oliver kindly refuses the offer, but Mr. Drippy has another offer for Oliver. He tells him that he might be able to save his mom in that other world. People’s souls are connected in both worlds and his mom isn’t dead, but in great danger, in Ni no Kuni. When he saves his mother there, he might be able to save his mom in his own world too. Although Oliver is still confused and not sure if it will work, he wants to try it. It’s his last chance to save his mom. Shortly after, Oliver receives a magical wand and a magical book and off they go, to Ni no Kuni!

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Cutscenes in Ni no Kuni are amazing. These drawn by hand cutscenes have the quality of a real Ghibli movie, but they are a little sparse. Some more of them would have been welcome.
In-game graphics are a little different. Characters and monsters are completely cell-shaded and very original. They are a good example of how to express pure fantasy. Environments aren’t cell-shaded, but they still look very good and colorful. Every time you visit a new city or village, you’ll want to take your time to look around, enjoying all the details, visit every shop and check out every little corner.


At the start of the game, you’ll be able to choose the in-game language: English or Japanese. In both languages, voices are done very well for most of the characters. Especially the Scottish accent of Mr. Drippy sounds awesome (when you choose to play the game in English of course). The only minus about the voices is the sudden interruption of spoken dialogue. Dialogues might start with a few spoken phrases and suddenly switch to written dialogues.

About the music then. You know the feeling when you can’t get a song out of your head? That’s what Ni no Kuni will do to you. You’ll hum the songs even after you turn the game off. It’s hard (even impossible) for me to say anything negative about the soundtracks.

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Since Ni no Kuni is an RPG, you’ll be fighting and leveling up the main part of the game. But let’s start with other stuff first.
In Ni no Kuni you’ll need to solve puzzles. A lot of puzzles! Sometimes you’ll need to complete riddles, sometimes you’ll need to look for secret places or rare items and other times you’ll need to repair people’s broken heart. People are “broken hearted” when Shadar (your main enemy who wants to destroy Ni no Kuni) takes away a piece of their heart. This might result in losing some of their belief, kindness, courage, or other emotions. You are able to use your magic to take a piece of someones heart (of people who have way too much of some specific emotion) and give it to a heartbroken person. You’ll do a lot of these quests and they might even feel a little repetitive at some point.
Of course these aren’t the only puzzles you’ll need to solve. For some puzzles you’ll need to travel back to Motorville, to see what’s wrong with a person’s soulmate to save him in Ni no Kuni. Those parts of the game are very original and very enjoyable! Other times, Oliver needs to use his magic to move statues, turn objects back in time, make plants grow faster, etc…. The list of possibilities is too long to mention them here. A few of these puzzles are pretty challenging, but most of the times they are fairly easy to complete.

Then the most important part of the gameplay: the battle system. You will fight together with 2 other characters, controlled by the AI, and each of them will have 3 familiars. Familiars are little monsters which you can compare to pokemons. Each familiar can level up, learn new tricks and even transform into a stronger (better looking) version. You can catch up to 400 familiars and stock them (just like a pokecenter) and you’re able to switch your active familiars at save points or in cities.
Each character can fight as himself or he can use one of his familiars. You and your familiars are sharing the same health and mana bars, so you won’t be able to keep switching familiars to stay full health. The regular battles, which you’ll encounter on the world map by example, are pretty straight forward. Choosing one of your melee familiars and bashing X will do the trick most of the times. Since your health won’t regenerate after every fight, you’ll need to use a potion or a healing skill now and then, but that’s about as hard as it will get. Bosses are more challenging and will require some more tactics. You’ll need a correct setup of familiars and attack bosses’ weak spot to do some decent damage and win the fight.

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One of the main issues in these battles is the GUI. More than once you’ll need to decide pretty fast which action you want to take, but the weird design of the GUI makes it harder than it should be to quickly pick the correct action. An other issue is the AI. Mana is sparse for your characters, but your AI-driven partners will spam skills like crazy. This way they’ll be out of mana after 2-3 battles. You are able to pick tactics for your characters to fix that, but unlucky there is no option “Don’t waste too much mana”, there’s only the option “Don’t use abilities at all”. That might be good for regular fights, but it’s not really the tactic which you want to use during boss battles.
Above that, some enemies sometimes drop so called “glims”. These glims recover health, mana or makes you (or the familiar who took it) able to perform a “Miracle move”. These miracle moves are different for every character and familiar. That’s nice, but it makes it a little annoying when you wanted to pick the glim up to go full attack, but one of the AI-driven defensive familiars picks it up before you could, resulting in a ruined plan.
I might seem a bit negative about the battle system, but even with these shortcomings, the battle system is still enjoyable once you learn to live with it. There are a lot of familiars, each having more than 10 skills, which will keep you busy for a while to find your personal favorite setup.

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The game has its shortcomings, but there are so many things in this game which make up for them. An interesting storyline, a large variety of familiars and skills, colorful and beautiful graphics, some challenging puzzles, music which is a delight for your ears… This game will definitely keep you busy for a while. It will take about 40 hours to complete the game, but make that more than 100 when you want to finish all sidequests, catch and level familiars, etc… And I can tell you, once you started the game, you’ll want and will complete the game and save Ni no Kuni from destruction.

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Rating: 8.5/10 (2 votes cast)
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Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch - Review, 8.5 out of 10 based on 2 ratings

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