Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the FFoP Review

January 29th, 2013 -



As you may or may not know, Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is the new collaborative game between Level-5 and the highly acclaimed animation company Studio Ghibli. If you know anything about Level-5, you know to expect an RPG that is a bit different from everything else that is currently acceptable in the eyes of the Western demographic. This isn’t Skyrim, Mass Effect, or The Witcher – this is more along the lines of Dragon Quest, White Knight Chronicles, and Pokemon. And while the latter games were recently released, their sales and popularity have been declining. So does this game break away from that mold?

Let’s start this off by saying it’s the Pokemon game I’ve always wanted. Since Pokemon Blue and Red came out on the Gameboy, I’ve wanted a 3D version of the game that would be akin to Final Fantasy VI or VII. This game takes the idea of capturing cute monsters, training them, and evolving them to a new level. Level-5 is no stranger to beautiful art styles, as can be seen in Dragon Quest VIII and on, as well as Rogue Galaxy. So their art style lends itself well to the cuteness of the monsters. If you’ve played Level-5’s recent PS3 RPG series White Knight Chronicles, the battle system should be very easy to pick up on (and you’ll most likely recognize the cities, as they are constructed similarly). You can control either a character or their familiar (monster), move them around the battlefield, and choose from several commands to do during the battle. Catching familiars is based on chance, similar to Final Fantasy XIII-2 (and I think the Dragon Quest Monsters series, though I haven’t played it since the first one…) – that meaning that after a you defeat a monster, there is a chance they’ll get up after and give you a chance to serenade them onto your team. You’re guaranteed the familiar as long as you don’t take too long to serenade it, or your teammate doesn’t perform an AoE attack, which may cause your blood pressure to rise depending on the chance to catch the familiar. Overall, the fighting is solid.

Make no mistake, this game is made to be kid friendly. It’s for all ages, so don’t be put off by the fact that some of the side quests hold your hand as to what to do; if you think the game is too easy, go to the options and turn off all the help options. Part of the fun of older RPGs for me was figuring out where to go, so having a constant waypoint defeats that gameplay element. Random encounters in this game are not so random, as you see the monsters on the field allowing you to approach or avoid them. When you’re a high enough level, most will run away from you, which is appealing for many people of this generation. The story can be pretty deep for a child, but as with most Ghibli movies, complex subjects are presented in a way that anyone can understand. And accompanying the Ghibli likeness the game holds, composer Joe Hisaishi (if you’ve seen pretty much any Miyazaki Hayao movie, you’ve heard his work) scores the whole adventure with the Tokyo Philharmonic bringing his work to life.

Post game content is where the challenge of the game is, though it’s not terribly difficult. Alchemy is where the grinding for items comes into play. In addition to that, the game has a Colosseum (the Solosseum), a casino, bounty hunts, and a secret boss that you can fight if you manage to finish all the other quests and bounties. Almost every familiar has a base form, a middle form, and two ultimate forms that you can choose from, which leads to well over 400 monsters in the game. The game even has its own form of “shiny” monsters once you beat the game, where they appear gold and hold different items to steal/drop.

If it’s not obvious, the game is a BUY. I haven’t enjoyed an RPG this much in years. Most of my favorite games are old-school JRPGs, and this takes me back to the time when these were popular. I’m going to go ahead and say this is my Game of the Year, despite it still being January. I can’t think of another game I’ve been more excited for in years, nor can I think of any coming out in the next eleven months. Even if you don’t like anything I’ve mentioned in this review, you should buy it so Level-5 will make more stuff like this, and so Studio Ghibli continues to work in media other than movies.

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