In preparation for the release of Ni No Kuni 2 next year, let’s take a walk down memory lane to remember the game that introduced us to the colorful world in the first place.
Publisher: JP: Level-5
Release Date: January 22, 2013
TURNING BACK TIME
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch follows a young boy named Oliver who is determined to save his mother from an unfortunate accident. In his despair, he is led to another world where everyone has a soul mate connected to his world. But in this new world, hearts are broken and it is up to Oliver to mend them. If he can save his mother’s soul mate, then maybe he can save his mother as well.
Late Reaction is all about looking at games with and without those wonderful nostalgia goggles everyone loves to wear. We all remember those games that had a lasting effect on us growing up. But if we were to replay them now, would they still hold the same level of wonder? Ni No Kuni is not that old of a game, only releasing in North America in 2013, but with Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom to release this year in November, I decided to replay the game to remind myself what it was that I loved so much about this game. That said, let’s jump in and get to it.
By 2013, the video game industry was releasing games with incredible graphics. Looking back at those games that wowed us so much, the don’t look half as good as we remembered. Ni No Kuni is not a game that tried to ‘wow’ us with graphics. Taking on an animated style, it strives to pull us in with it’s colorful atmosphere and equally colorful characters. The little animated scenes there are should satisfy any anime fan out there (though we all wanted more, I’m sure).
Graphically, I saw no real issues in the game. Pop-in’s have always plagued games, and Ni No Kuni is no exception, but those things never bothered me to begin with, unless something I needed to interact with was taking it’s time to make it’s appearance…
Let’s start with music. Ni No Kuni is one of those games where you remember the music for years to come. The music is just wonderful. It’s something every RPG should strive to have. Sitting here now, writing this review, I am remembering all the time I spent running in the outer world with that tune playing again and again. If that sounds sarcastic, that’s because it slightly is. Only slightly.
The music really is great in this game. Dungeons, the outer-world, towns and even travelling has it’s own tune. Battle music as well as victory music is always important. Though gifted with memorable tunes, Ni No Kuni suffers one draw back here. There isn’t enough of it! I feel like if I bought the sound track it would come with only six tracks: Battle, Victory, Outer-world, Dungeon, Town, Travelling. The one I remember the most is the outer-world music. A lot of time is spent in the outer-world – I mean A LOT – and it would have been nice if different areas of the map has different music.
For instance, the Summerlands seems perfect for the tune we get. Then you get to Teeheeti and…the music is the same. Next is Autumnia and the music…is still the same! And it keeps going like that with every new area you visit. I would have loved to hear something new for each continent. With the great music they did write, I can’t help but think we missed out on some amazing arrangements.
Autumnia could have given us a bit of an edgy, dark orchestra. Teeheeti could offer a lighthearted bounciness. No Longer Mine would have sounded great with a baritone leading the melody accompanied by some percussion.
In the end, the music we get is great, but a few more tracks would have put it at the top of my list with all time best video game soundtracks like Final Fantasy VI or Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
The controls for Ni No Kuni were what you’d expect in an RPG today. The characters traveled smoothly, running in the direction I wanted them to go. Each button was mapped to a specific function. Camera angles worked well enough, never causing me much frustration.
The only problem I had was the context sensitive situations. If I needed to use a spell on an NPC, if I wasn’t exactly in front of them facing them, then the spell would fail, even if I chose the right one. Aside from that, things worked the way they were designed to and provided a mostly smooth game play experience.
Speaking of game play, let’s talk about how Ni No Kuni operates as a whole.
Where to begin?
Ni No Kuni operates like any other RPG. You have your towns, your dungeons and the outer-world. Nothing more and nothing less. You eventually gain a spell that lets you fast travel to previously visited locations, but be warned, you can’t use it while in a dungeon. You will get an vacate spell that will let you escape a particularly perilous area if you are having troubles.
All the enemies can be seen roaming randomly, so there are no random battles. You can choose to ignore them, or fight. Be careful though as strong enemies will chase you down. Some are slow and easy to run away from, but some are fast and will catch you quickly. If they come up from behind, you will be at a disadvantage and unable to do anything for the first few seconds of battle aside from run around. Adversely, if you sneak up on an enemy, they will be disadvantaged as well, giving you a leg up in the fight.
Like any RPG, as you travel you will bring more characters into your party, intent on fighting with you for their own reasons. You get up to three characters to fight in battle in Ni No Kuni, but here’s where things go a bit deeper. Remember those enemies I just mentioned? Well, you eventually get an ability to catch them and add them to your fighting team. See, the main fighters in this game aren’t Oliver and his team, but the familiars they fight with. This doesn’t mean you can’t control any of the human characters, but you won’t be doing it often.
Each familiar you catch has a class and a genus. Oliver and his companions are better paired with a class/genus they like over ones they don’t. Be sure to check this when pairing a familiar with one of your characters. Oliver and his companions can bring up to three familiars at a time, so be sure to try out as many as you can. It’s daunting at first, but you will become familiar (no pun intended) with the ones you like the most and will probably stick with them for the majority of the game.
While we are on the subject of familiars, let’s talk about how you can level them up.
The familiars level up like any other RPG, through experience gained in battle. Aside from that, you can also feed them treats to increase certain attributes like attack, defense, evasion, etc. Feed them their favorite treats and they will gain points to their attributes faster. Be sure to utilize this as each point to an attribute is very beneficial.
There’s not much to talk about here regarding Ni No Kuni. The mechanics were fine and the physics were natural enough. Really the only thing that stood out to me was while jumping (yes you can jump, and it is most certainly useless. So useless, in fact, that they even tell you it’s useless when you unlock the ability) Oliver seemed to always hit some invisible ceiling. He’d get a certain height and just stay in the air a little too long before coming down. There was no crest, no arch that he followed. If jumping was actually useful then this would have been a real gripe.
The story in Ni No Kuni is like any other story in an RPG. Unsuspecting hero gets thrust into a conflict he/she may or may not want a part of. Gather team mates along the way. Mini reveal in the middle, big reveal at the end. Everyone goes home happy in the end. Maybe someone dies in the process.
Ni No Kuni really isn’t all that different, but what’s a story with no conflict that doesn’t get resolved? I wont spoil anything here, so just play the damn game or read the Wikipedia page if you don’t want to play it before Ni No Kuni 2 comes out.
The interface for Ni No Kuni worked well. Aside from the map that you can turn off, there wasn’t anything else to take up screen real estate while exploring.
The menu had a lot going on, but was easy enough to understand. I liked that to save (outside of a dungeon) all you had to do was access your menu and press the start key. In my humble opinion, save points outside of dungeons should be a thing of the past.
The Wizards Companion is really the only thing I wish was displayed better. I can’t say how they would have done that, but it was tiring scrolling through that book for information. I just kept wishing there was a Ctrl+f function. That’s actually a good idea…games need to allow for a search function to access needed items/spells/information quickly. I felt like I would scroll through my menu all too often just to find what I was looking for. Imagine how much time that would save. I probably would have spent 40 hours on Ni No Kuni compared to the 107 I put in if I could just Ctrl+f.
That’s obviously an exaggeration, but the function would still be nice.
During battles was when the interface got the most cluttered. It did the job just fine though, so no real complaint here.
During my play through with Ni No Kuni, I neither experienced any glitches nor came across any unresolved issues. It was a pretty solid game through and through.
Actually, scratch that. There’s one minor issue that did piss me off from time to time. During the battle sequences, once you chose an action you cannot control your familiar until the action is completed. Usually this wasn’t a problem, but when you have three hulking familiars all trying to get to their target they’d frequently run in to each other. The problem here is these familiars intelligence resembles something less than a rocks. They had the hardest time figuring out how to run around each other. If a familiar was in my way, mine would mindlessly try to run forward wasting my action away. Sure, I could have hit circle to cancel and run around myself, then command my familiar to attack again, but I don’t want to have to do that. My familiars should be smart enough to do this on their own.
My final verdict here is: Play it! Aside from horrendous hand-holding in the beginning and a fun, if clunky, battle system Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch was a lot of fun. The colorful characters and quirky dialogue from Mr. Drippy makes the game a delight. There’s a decent amount of end game material to mess around with. More would have been nice though, like an extended arena or more dungeons and hunts. I also felt no real reason to complete the end game material aside from getting my shiny new platinum trophy.
Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom comes out January 19th, 2018. If you’re interested in it, but want to experience what you might be getting in to before dropping $60+ on it, play Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. It’s a fun and – at times – challenging RPG any fan of the genre can enjoy.