The Japanese-style RPG is not a happy genre right now. The 16- and 32-bit glory days are long gone, but every now and then a ray of hope bursts through that, maybe, those times could return. Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is looking to be a highly promising candidate to show off exactly why those older RPGs are so fondly remembered while still being a thoroughly modern game. It’s promising to be exactly what one would hope for when mixing the talents of Level 5 and Studio Ghibli.
Oliver is a young boy who has been pulled into an alternate world on a quest to bring his mother back from the dead. He’s good with magic while not being so hot with weapons, but fortunately his familiars can pick up the slack. Battles are a combination of real-time movement and turn-based menu commands, and while you can only control one character at a time, it’s easy enough to switch between them at will. The battle system is looking pleasantly sleek while still offering a good amount of choices from one moment to the next.
While the fighting promises to be an entertaining way to exterminate the multitudes of strange creatures wandering the land, Ni no Kuni’s real draw is the world and its people. Studio Ghibli’s world and towns look like places people might live, populated by people you’d believe would dress that way. There’s a level of overly-ornate design that’s seeped into RPGs over the last 15 years that’s escalated to truly silly levels of extravagance, and it’s refreshing to see it almost completely eliminated in Ni no Kuni’s art. Wandering through the forest looking at the plants lining the path, chatting with villagers, or just gazing in anticipation at the the world map and planning where to wander next, Ni no Kuni’s art invites you into its world and makes you want to spend time seeing it all.
As lovely as it looks, there’s a disappointment worth mentioning- the Wizard’s Edition appears to be sold out at Namco’s online store. This edition came with the 300 page book, The Wizard’s Companion, that contains stories of the world, character and monster art, and much more. While portions of the Companion have been duplicated digitally in-game, it’s much more fun to hold an actual book in your hands, even if that does mean you’d need to be careful of spoilers. It’s a shame that the deluxe edition is gone before the demo let people know whether it was worth wanting or not.
Other than the unavailability of the lovely deluxe box of shiny, though, Ni no Kuni is shaping up to be a wonderful journey through a gorgeously realized world. Studio Ghibli Feels The Wrath of the White WitchThe main quest of a boy trying to undo the death of his mother is immediately relatable, and whatever obstacles the story may put in his way, it’s going to take a harder-hearted gamer than I am to not want to see it to completion. Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is promising to be a gorgeous RPG backed up by a sharp combat system, and a lovely treat for RPG fans everywhere.