Game Review – Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
For anyone who wasn’t able to read my review of the Secret World of Arrietty last year, or for those of you who just plum forgot, I fucking love videogame developer Studio Ghibli. Their animation is unmatched by any studio in North America or otherwise, and their ability to tell engaging stories with interesting characters will always put a Studio Ghibli work up on a pedestal. When it was announced that Studio Ghibli would be collaborating on a video game to be released exclusively on the Playstation 3, the instances of nerd-boner bludgeonings increased to epidemic levels. Despite online-exclusive collector’s editions and shipping foibles, Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is finally here. If I were to sum up the game in one sentence, it would be this: if you do not own a Playstation 3 yet, Ni No Kuni is as good a reason as you’re going to get to purchase one.
Ni No Kuni tells the tale of Oliver, a 13-year-old boy who is orphaned when his mother dies while saving him from drowning. While crying tears of unfathomable sadness, Oliver’s doll comes to life. As it turns out, this doll is really the high lord of fairies by name of Drippy. Drippy informs young Oliver that there’s a chance that his mother can be saved by rescuing her soul mate in an alternate world where magic is the order of the day, and anthropomorphic animals are everywhere.
From the opening credits, it’s easy to see the cues that Ni No Kuni has picked up from other RPGs – a dash of Kingdom Hearts, the cell shading of Wind Waker, and a battle system reminiscent of Tales of Vesperia. The game begins in the earthly Motorville and, before long, ships your ass off to Ni No Kuni. From there, you’re treated to a Zelda II top-down view of a huge map full of enough wandering monsters, side-quests, and hidden treasures to make even the most daring adventurer’s head spin.
But where does Studio Ghibli fit into this cacophony of pure awesomeness? Occasionally, the game will be interrupted by cut scenes that have been fully hand-drawn by the animators at Studio Ghibli. These cut scenes simultaneously advance the over-arching story and serve to cement Studio Ghibli as an absolutely elite animation studio.
Be warned though; Ni No Kuni is a long game. The main story is purported to take roughly thirty hours, and another thirty if you want to finish the game 100 per cent. Those that tackle it are going to find breathtaking visuals, gorgeous music, and a JRPG experience that tries its best to break the genre mold. Whether you’re a fan of Japanese animation and video games or not, you owe it to yourself to play Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. We’re only a month into 2013, but Playstation 3 owners already have a serious contender for game of the year on their hands.