Review: Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is beautiful, grand and a shining example of a JRPG done right
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For those obsessed with lore, the game contains an entire book titled the Wizard's Companion that includes anything and everything a player would ever want to know about the background of the world, its inhabitants, magic, the creatures and even short stories. The game sometimes even calls upon the use of the book to read a passage or figure out a recipe for a quest. There is even an entire alphabet in a language called Nazcaan, which you will need to use in order to decipher some of the game's hidden messages. Hint: The alphabet is also on the back of the game's manual.
Ni No Kuni borrows heavily from the core Pokemon games. You start off with a set creature, however down the line you learn to tame creatures encountered in the wild and then use them in battle. Aside from everything else that Ni No Kuni does right, combat is absolutely spectacular, as it mixes both real time movement with turn based attacks. Either you or your summoned familiar is given the freedom of movement. Commands are then given out and acted on during a set amount of time. The key to getting the most out of each battle is triggering commands at the right time, as well as cancelling them to defend yourself or use a skill. It's a simple formula at first that gets far more strategic the more party members and familiars you have.
If you've been privy to the game's existence before, you're certainly aware that the game looks absolutely gorgeous. The cel-shaded in-game visuals bring every character to life, while Studio Ghibli took care of all the cinematic animations to create a wondrous and magical world. Honestly, they couldn't have picked a better animation studio to oversee this project. Ni No Kuni isn't just pleasing to the eyes, it's also a treat for the ears. The entire soundtrack, which is performed by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, is filled with memorable tunes that are sure to linger on in your head hours after you've turned the game off. With such beauty, both aesthetic and musical, it's easy to sometimes just stop and take in the glorious sights of the environment while the background melody complements the scenery.
Certainly the voice acting isn't too shabby. While I tend to be a purist when it comes to playing Japanese games in their native language, I have to give Kudos to the American voice actors behind every character. Mr. Drippy especially is quite a fun character to listen to.
So what could possibly be wrong with such a stellar title. The one thing that ultimately bothered me at times was the fact that the game never really focused on the real world problems that Oliver and surrounding characters are going through. Death, abuse and even child neglect get brought up in the game, yet instead of tackling these problems through a real world solution, the solution always seems to be "use magic." I get that the developers wanted the game to stay more lighthearted than serious, however I feel like it's a missed opportunity for the game to feel more "real" in that sense.
Minor gripes aside, Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch proves that some developers still know how to make a stellar JRPG, fusing old school and new school into something absolutely breathtaking, memorable and most of all, fun.