Hands-On: Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (PS3)December 8th, 2012 | Written by Danreb Victorio | Topic: PlayStation 3, Previews
The PlayStation brand was known to be a haven for many RPG fans, especially with its former exclusivity of popular IPs like Final Fantasy. Unfortunately, the cliché stories, long cutscenes, and repetitive gameplay have since made Japanese RPGs almost unplayable this generation, and they’ve become more scarce as a result. But there’s always a diamond in the rough, and in this case, it just might be Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch.
Anime fans and manga fans alike may find the artwork in the game to be quite familiar. That’s because assisting Level 5 in development is the famous animation studio, Studio Ghibli. Made mainstream by animator Hayao Miyazaki, who directed gorgeous films like the Oscar-winning “Spirited Away” and “My Neighbor Totoro,” Wrath of the White Witch marks the debut of Studio Ghibli’s foray into console gaming. The game’s graphics are arguably the best ever for any manga-themed RPG, and it is bound to further Studio Ghibli’s legacy with animated artwork.
The narrative follows a young boy named Oliver in a grieving state due to the death of his mother after saving him from drowning. All Oliver has left of his mother are memories, and a weird stuffed toy that resembles a cross between an anteater and an aardvark. In typical Ghibli fashion, he finds out his toy is magic and is really a fairy from another world who states that both Oliver and his mother are also from that world. With information saying that Oliver can be reunited with his mother, their journey begins.
The demo we tried out featured two chapters in the game, one that takes place shortly after the beginning, and another that takes place much later in the game, since Oliver and other characters in his party are at experience level 18. The first of which puts the duo in a lush, green forest where upon exploration, we were immediately thrown into a boss fight with the “guardian of the forest,” which gave us a pretty in-depth look of the battle system’s various features.
Combat takes place in real-time on a fully maneuverable 3D plain. The left analog stick controls movement, and the directional buttons allow players to cycle through easily understandable menus. So while running around, Oliver can throw fireballs at his enemies or approach the enemy and use the attack command. All the trimmings of a traditional JRPG battle system are here, such as defending, escaping (non-boss battles), and using items to temporarily improve stats.
What sets these battles apart, however, is the ability to summon little companions to do the dirty work for you. While Oliver’s companions can deal more damage than he does, since they’re small, they also can’t defend the same way. And if one of his animals dies, he dies along with it.
After the fight, there’s some dialog between the main characters and a tree, and the two press on for the nearest castle town via the World Map–which unlike a lot of world maps nowadays features actual exploration rather than a list of menus to cycle through in order to get your destination. Along the way, you’ll come across monsters that will try to fight you. They can be avoided, but some are also really quick on their feet and can attack you from behind to give yourself a disadvantage.
Before long, we made it to the castletown where people weren’t allowed to go in because one of the two guards lacked “enthusiasm.” After bottling up some enthusiasm from another guard and giving it to the lackey, they opened the gate allowing our heroes to press on… and the demo ended.
The second section, despite taking place way after the first, was a lot less interesting. Oliver and his companions have to scale a volcano and prevent it from erupting, and they only had three minutes to do so. Scaling the mountain required the party to carefully sidestep through narrow cliffs with steam-spouting walls all while fighting (and avoiding) monsters to reach the top, only to fight a molten boss.
This time around, Oliver had a female companion who could cast healing spells (surprise, surprise). And at the same time, he also had more little critters to summon with even more commands. After a few stabs at the boss’ weak spot, the tail, the demo ended.
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is shaping up to be a very promising game and should definitely quench the thirst of fans who have been clamoring for a legitimate JRPG to spend time with since the release of Tales of Graces F which, not surprising, was also published by Namco Bandai.
The game is slated to be released late next month, but players can get a feel for the game by downloading the demo we played now available on the PlayStation Store.