NI NO KUNI: WRATH OF THE WHITE WITCH REMATERED Review: Gets Better With Age

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If there is one thing about Studio Ghibli that a person can count on, it is their unbelievable amount of dedication and polish to whatever project with which they associate. My goodness, this game looked good in the past, and it looks just as good now. It also plays just as good as it did, if not better. Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remastered by Level-5 was a masterpiece then and it still is now, but with a crisp coat of paint.

Story

Being the shy and adventurous boy he is, Oliver finds himself in trouble a lot quicker than in most games. After some serious accident involving his recklessness and an evil witch, he finds himself in great pain and hopeless. Then magically, an opportunity to go to a new world appears in which he might fix the earlier tragedy and save that magical world. This leads the young Oliver on an amazing journey through beautiful vistas, and smart and fun combat with great storytelling. The story is done through text, voice acting and a number of beautiful, fully animated scenes.

I love how much the story and side quests drive every single moment of the game. Never did I need to grind my character or go off and do my own thing because I was bored. I was happy to engage with all the NPCs and the main quest to fix my own life and save the world from darkness. All the voice acting is as good as any anime, it won’t win any Oscar awards, but it tells a genuine story of love, pain, and hope that feels like a classic fantasy adventure.

Gameplay

Combat in Ni No Kuni is a nice blend of action, active turn-based battles, and monster collecting. As you travel around, you run into closed battles with various creatures and enemies and then choose between yourself or a number of familiars to do battle. With various abilities, timing attacks, defending enemy attacks and items, the battles always feel like an entertaining challenge instead of just menautnessly smashing the attack button.

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The combat is in direct relation with the player’s various familiars. Familiars are slowly acquired and can be trained, given equipment and treated to make them more viable in battle. There is a good amount of depth, if a player wants to search the world for great items and build a specific fighting team, they can do that. However, if a player just walks through the motions, they will do just okay too. All the familiars work like team member of any other RPG, but because they don’t have any real personality or tie to the story, the player can focus on Oliver and his story arch.

Along with battles, there are various spells that can be used by Oliver and some familiars in or outside of battle. From fireballs to lock picking spells, the array of different magic at one’s disposal is vast, but never cumbersome.

A few spells in particular bring in a fun story element to quests and the game in general. As darkness has gathered over the magical land, many people have lost a part of their personality. For example, a guard might not let people into a city because he is totally zapped of energy and willpower to do anything. But, a player may run into a person overflowing with enthusiasm. The player can then ask to take some of the excess enthusiasm and bring it to another person, in this case, the guard. The guard then becomes chipper again and allows people through with your spell to obtain and give these emotions. Things like this run throughout the game, simple quests that have a lot of personality which makes the player feel more involved in the world.

All of the gameplay, puzzles, combat and quests all feel great to play through. All the poslish of a Ghibli movie has not only gone into the visual style, but making sure the game is always a joy to play and explore. There are still elements in the game that I haven’t mentioned above, just know that there will be plenty to do, it will all be pretty awesome and it is worth the time and money.

Visuals

This game came out in Japan in 2011. Eight years is a long time for things to age and grow stale or look far worse than they did then. However, Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remastered looks much better than many games that come out today. Yes, there was sizeable work on the details, colors, and many little things. But all the style, personality, and general design hasn’t changed a bit, and it never will need to change. The timeless, cartoon style looks amazing, every moment feels like a finely animated anime. The fully animated scenes do spoil some of the in-game moments by not being as beautiful as their anime counterparts, but overall, this game has a visual style to boast about for days on end.

Audio

Although not as perfect as the visuals, the audio side of Ni No Kuni is still amazing. I was very impressed with the music, even just walking through a normal town street, I found the music to be very catchy while never getting old. The sounds of all the creatures are fairly good, pretty standard. The voice acting could use a little bit of work, especially better-timed dubbing and sometimes there would be audio bugs which would cause the audio for a character to cuts out for a few seconds. But this rarely happened, so nothing to be upset about. Overall, the game is just about as good to listen to as it is to watch.

Replayability

This adventure is one that is worth coming back to every once in a while. Although I can’t find too much to do differently in a second or third run other than higher difficulties, coming back to this game would be like coming back to an old classic movie that just fills you up with happiness and hope.

What Could Have Been Better

A person could ask for more intense combat, more side quests or more animated scenes, but honestly, why fix what’s not really broken? This game is a masterpiece for a reason. Yeah, the remastered version could have had a number of new costumes, or ways to speed up certain exploration areas, special features like artwork or a theater mode, but overall, there isn’t much to fix if anything at all.

Verdict

If you enjoy RPGs, anime, Studio Ghibli movies, cute monster battles or just a great story with just as great combat, this game is a great addition to a library. It would be hard to find someone who likes all the above mentioned and not like this game.

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