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Posted December 14, 2012 by Peter in Previews
 
 

Preview: Ni No Kuni – Wrath of the White Witch

Preview: Ni No Kuni - Wrath of the White Witch
Preview: Ni No Kuni - Wrath of the White Witch

When Ni No Kuni: The Wrath of the White Witch was released in Japan in 2011 it received excellent reviews, and now that its release is imminent in the UK the question has to be “why was there ever a delay?” Well, translating a game of this scale probably had something to do with it… Gamesfiends got to have a hands-on closer look…

Animated offerings

The first thing about Ni No Kuni that will strike you is its style – Namco-Bandai’s collaboration with renowned animators Studio Ghibli is evident in the cel-shaded animation. When running, the game does feel like a cartoon that could sit alongside My Neighbour Tortoro or Spirited Away – and not just in terms of visuals, but also story themes.
Preview: Ni No Kuni - Wrath of the White Witch
The story follows Oliver, a child from the real world – represented in the game by the 1950s Americana themed town of Motorville – as he comes to terms with the death of his mother. When his tears bring a stuffed toy to life, the toy introduces himself as Drippy, a fairy who had been trapped and is now seeking someone who may be the saviour of his world… a role that Oliver may fulfil, and is tempted into by the chance to save his mother in the process.

At its heart, Ni No Kuni is the evolution of the JRPG. It is very heavily story based – including some interactive segments, the time between starting the game and being able to start exploring the world is approximately 45 minutes, although thanks to Ghibli’s animation style and some better-than-hoped-for voice actors this time does not drag.

Looking for a fight

The explorable world is populated with wandering monsters, and these – a random selection of the cute and dangerous – will more often than not attack you as they see you. However, if you are able to sneak up behind them to attack you will gain an advantage at the start of the fight; be warned this this can go both ways though!
Preview: Ni No Kuni - Wrath of the White Witch
Combat is a semi turn-based affair, with monsters encountered in the main exploration areas representing individuals and groups that are then fought in a separate combat instance. While Oliver can fight for himself, he quickly gains familiars which can do so more effectively. However, as they all share a common health and magic bar, and only Oliver can cast spells, swapping in the right person for the job becomes the main focus.

To add to the strategy, your fighters can be freely run around the area to keep some distance, or take a defensive stance against attacks… and when struck monsters occasionally drop little motes of health or mana that can restore you – not often enough to plan a strategy around them, but often enough to keep the fight going. All of which means that when in combat (with at-level opponents at least) you will need to keep adjusting your approach accordingly.

Cymru Am Bith!

The imminent release is a sign that the regionalisation is complete. While the game can be played with the original Japanese audio and subtitles, voice actors have recorded new audio for the UK release. As was previously mentioned, the voice acting is better than average. Child voice actors can be a very hit-or-miss affair in terms of irritation factor, and mercifully the actor playing Oliver doesn’t annoy.

Another key voice to mention is Drippy, who has been given regional accents in all the releases – Osawan Japanese in the original release, a Texan accent for the US, and a solid Welsh-English dialogue for the UK, complete with regular uses of “Diw” and “look you” dropped in!

There are other points of the game where the text isn’t simply translated, but has been rewritten – the sheer number of puns in monster names or character dialogue showing how extra effort has been put into interpreting the game for the new audience.
Preview: Ni No Kuni - Wrath of the White Witch
This is a world that players should want to spend some considerable time in. Which is just as well, as the main storyline is estimated to take 40 or more hours to complete, which should keep players out of trouble for a while.

Completionists especially could find themselves living the dream – defeated monsters are recorded and added to an info book, early areas have hidden elements such as chests that can only be opened later in the game, numbered side quests are available to run… The game offers nothing if not plenty of activities.

In conclusion…

It is easy to see why the Japanese release received good reviews. While it presents itself as a game suitable for children, underneath it all is also a solid JRPG. The portion of the game played as a preview – which seems to have just scratched the surface of what is available to do – is high quality entertainment, and hopefully when the full game is released it will show the remainder to be to the same standard.

Ni No Kuni: The Wrath of the White Witch is due for release on January 25th on the PlayStation 3.


Peter

 
Peter can be described as an old, hairy gamer, a survivor of the console wars of the 1990s, and a part-time MMO addict. He has an especial fondness for retro gaming and observing the progressions in long running gaming series. When scandalously not caught gaming, he can also be found reading comics and fantasy fiction, or practising terrible photography.