Note: This review contains very mild spoilers. This also marks my first videogame review after having to review over 50 anime series.
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is a JRPG about a boy who ends up awakening a fairy that shows him his ability to wield magic after suffering from a terrible loss. From there, he also decides to embark into another world where his lost loved one had a link to in hopes of saving them. Alas, there is a bigger picture and even bigger problems within to the point where both worlds could be jeopardized.
Storyline While this is a “being sent to another world” story, the trope is thankfully used very well and also gives access to the previous world into the plot in a good manner. The plot comes in two arcs. The first one builds the worlds, especially the magical one, gives out the goal to restore the people who had their vital emotions like enthusiasm and courage taken away and defeating the very culprit who keeps getting people brokenhearted. The focuses do switch between the magical world and Motorville, the town of the normal world and while the magical world has more emphasis due to the villains of the tale residing there, neither of them are imbalanced for the story's value for both arcs. Main characters are also developed greatly as it goes along and that also extends to both arcs alongside a few side characters that do end up joining you in the second arc, where The White Witch's focus is increased greatly after the first arc's epic final battle. From there, the story picks up as the clues about The White Witch's whereabouts and the disasters that she caused are being revealed as it goes along and ends up being quite the roller coaster ride for everyone that was involved in the magical world to the point of having a fantastic and shocking and satisfying end result. The postgame extends to an afterstory in one of the errand side quests that touches upon a relation to both worlds that comes off as a really good part of the tale after having to go through it.
Characters (and Their Mechanics) The full cast (in terms of the story altogether) is pretty huge, but thankfully not to an extreme excess and pretty much most of everyone turned out to be very solid, the villains and side characters included. For the mains, after seeming a bit typical at first due to a loss of his, Oliver develops into a very good and memorable protagonist as he goes along in his quest as it evolves into something greater as he learns of the whereabouts and events of the main villains, the great sages and even key tidbits about both worlds. In battle, he is purely a wizard with high magic and low physical attack stats on his own, but has a extremely useful and powerful arsenal of spells (including some devastating exclusive spells in Oliver's case) from the mid-game onwards. After being released from a curse during Oliver's grieving, Drippy joins in as the fairy that introduced Oliver into being a wizard and joining his home world on a mission. He also often served as comic relief, but became a very useful character as the story goes along. In battle, he purely is a supporting background character that the player cannot control, but can heal and buff the entire party at random times when everyone isn't too healthy. Esther joins in after some exploration and heart mending in the early parts of the game and ends up being a nice supporting character overall as she tags along and becomes the straight girl to everyone's antics. In battle, she is mainly a spellcaster and supporter that often heals and buffs characters in need and has the ability to charm monsters that aren't bosses or bounty hunts into becoming their familiars; creatures that help fight alongside wizards and capable beings. Swaine joins in as a questionable character at first, but develops into a pretty good man after mending his heart, joining the party and learning of his origins with one of the magical world's nations onwards. He's mostly a physical attacker in battle due to his familiar compatibility alongside his use of special handguns and with his trickshots, he can steal items from most enemies, including non-bounty bosses, inflict status aliments and can deal serious damage, thus making his usability very high.
For the memorable and notable supporting side characters, there are two that end up becoming major characters in the second arc and manage to tag along with the party, with one of them fixing an serious plague while purely staying out of battle with the main party and the other joining in as a playable character with a balance of spellcasting and physical power, despite being one of the major royals of the magical world. The former of the two turns out to be Pea, a spirit girl from Motorville that turns out to have a much bigger role for the magical world after helping Oliver out bit-by-bit early into the story onwards. The latter turns out to be Marcassain, one of the great sages and the major royal of Hamelin. He turned out to be a solid character overall as his history involving one of the other main characters get revealed in the first arc alongside his reasoning for helping Oliver and company out in general. There are other fun and good minor characters that end up increasing the quality of the story and gameplay as they go like Horace, a ghost who helps Oliver obtain more spells through his errands alongside his attempts to uncover his lost memories and Rashad, whom turns out to be another of the great sages who were afflicted by one of the main villains of the game. But while many other side characters are in the same boat of quality (there are seriously too many to mention, but Oliver's best friend Phil, Cowlipha Lowlah, Captain Kublai and Oliver's Mother are prime examples), some others aren't as good outside of serving their minor purpose like Hickory Dock and Supreme Sage Solomon in addition to his really bad attitude.
Moving on to the main villains, they both turned out to be very effective and very solid as they are developed on. The first arc has Shadaar, a dark djinn who keeps breaking people's hearts in both worlds and is also charged with trying to cause the end of the world by The White Witch. His development is at a slow pace, but turns out to be a pretty neat character after everything about him gets revealed as his fight against Oliver and company drew closer, which turns out to be quite formidable thanks to his strong magical attacks and vitality, aside of an elemental weakness. The same goes for The White Witch herself, except that there was way more to her than it had seemed at the first arc, when Shadaar was mainly helping her out with some dirty work. With her powerful magic and insane abilities, her battles are not to be underestimated either and can get players in serious binds if they are ill-prepared and reckless enough. One other side villain that turned out to leave a lasting impression was Vileheart for his placement into the main story and his moveset, which can be very damaging if players aren't careful about him.
Gameplay and Graphics
Going against the gears of fate takes some hard work!
In terms of graphics, the cel-shaded aesthetics look very nice and fitting for the art style from Studio Ghibli themselves, which have also done some key 2D animated cutscenes for the game. (It's like you're in one of their movies thanks to that.) There aren't any errors of glitches for the graphics themselves for each area in the game itself and it has aged very well for an over five-year-old game. As for the gameplay, the overworld looks open for both worlds, but far more in case of the magical world instead of Motorville due to only having three places where you can enter freely. The second world has many various locations, including a number of hidden ones in the form of the forest settlements or caves for placing treasure chests and a few related errands. While the key locations are mainly for exploring and have the ability to save wherever players want alongside the open world (unless the location at hand is under a major crisis due to the story), there are dangerous places that won't let you save as you please, with the exceptions of save points that fully heal hit points and magical points and can also come with a place where up to 400 familiars can be stored and switched out with ones in their party.
Instead of pressing the “start” button (which can get you to skip a cutscene or end your game session with the “triangle” button), the “triangle” button brings access to the main menu where players will be confused about at first, but have not only the “settings” panel, they can use multiple functions like using alchemy to create weapons, provisions and more in the “Cauldron” section, switch out between familiars and party members, feed and power up the equipped familiars (each party member can use up to three) and read the Wizard's Companion to decipher Nascaan codes and check which pages have been recovered as they go along. Thanks to the merit stamp errands from NPCs (especially a few recurring ones) and bounty hunts from places named “Swift Solutions”, quests can be completed in order to gain not only stamps for merit awards, but useful items and money. Do note that some quests and bounties like most of Derwin's familiar-related ones are tedious enough to drive players off a wall to a point, but the merit awards that are paid through filled stamp cards (especially “Jack the Giant Killer”) are mostly worth it. Thanks to a casino and the Temple of Trials, there are multiple fun mini-games; The Solluseum Battles, card games where chips bought from Guilders can be bet on and slots.
For battles, they happen to be very easy to learn as players go and have a wide range of tactics, provided that they are wary about the boss battles and bounty hunts that can be quite challenging. Players can choose who they can control at the start and can swap out to different characters or familiars as they see fit. After the leader is chosen, the other characters fight alongside as A.I.s, but they are mostly intelligent enough not to screw up, except at the rare times when they kill any charmed monsters when players are attempting to capture them with Esther (and when that DOES happen, it's very bad). To finally explain what the familiars do, they are monsters that have different stats and abilities that can fight against other monsters, but also share their owners' health and magic gauges. They can be trained to learn different abilities and have mostly branched metamorphosis lines. Most familiars can be both fun to use and be easily trained as the game goes on, but a diverse team is recommended for every character or things could become devastating when they are heavily disadvantaged. Difficulty levels can be toggled from “Normal” to “Easy” and vice versa, but some fights, especially the ones for the endgame and postgame are very formidable and epic challenges. The overall gameplay is polished and plentiful, especially for an RPG and the postgame just brings a lot more to the table in the form of golden monsters that can be charmed into being familiars, new bosses and more powerful rematches to just name a few.
Other Pros and Cons The cutscenes can all be skipped, but are well worth watching for both the English and Japanese dubs that are in the North American version thanks to how fitting everyone's voices are for both versions. Yes, there are subtitles about that are mostly accurate with the exceptions of most character names due to localization in case players are using the Japanese dub. The in-game and 2D animated cutscenes can be re-watched in the postgame thanks to the casino's VIP Room, but to do that, movie tickets ranging from Bronze to Platinum and costing in the range from 10,000 to 30,000 chips are needed in order to view them. While this does give off motivation to play the casino games (or just buy a ton of chips for them with your guilders), this may put off some players. The menus and all of their sections, especially the Wizard's Companion, which is modeled like a e-book are very pleasing to the eyes with the exceptions of the missing page image. The music is very nice to listen to for every location and battle (especially all of the boss battles) in the game. There is an alternate theme with lyrics that serves as the ending sequence theme, but the Japanese version of it sounds like the better one than the English version due to how the lyrics sound. Trophy hunters will definitely have a challenge with going platinum, but most of them are fortunately not excruciatingly hard.
For those with strict families or get bothered by swearing, there is some PG-rated bad language like “damn” and “hell” about in the game, but that is the only most objectionable thing about it other than the Casino gambling. Some spells, especially the “everyday” ones that are in the Wizards Companion that are usable can only be used once for story purposes or aren't used at all, which is thankfully addressed in the early parts of the game (forbidden spells and once-in-a-lifetime spells are exempt from this con). There are also some glitches in the game, but most of them are thankfully rare ones that are hard to execute. The least rare of them being a game crash after viewing the Wizard's Companion in a part of Al Mamoon, which is very troublesome. While the 2D cutscenes are available, all of them are only about for the first arc instead of the second one. While deciphering the Nascaan hieroglyphs is a fun challenge thanks to the chart in the Wizard's Companion, some may find it either too hard or just be lazy enough to look the answers up in terms of any related errands. Finally, to get all the nitpicks out of the way, some items and weapons that are available via alchemy are extremely hard to get to thanks to some key ingredients that aren't even hinted at in terms of being located. There is a monster compendium that reveals which ones that were already encountered have those certain items and where they are, but they are very rare drops or steals in that case.
Final Verdict For the good vastly outweighing the bad in these few months that I have been playing this game, this wholeheartedly deserves the Absolute Royalty rating for everything right that this game did. Definitely check it out on the off chance that you want to fire up your PlayStation 3 and have some time to burn. This magical adventure was well worth it.
Dream: Will post a little later what the next voted anime will be that I will watch and review.
Jan 18, 2020 19:48:38 GMT
Dream: Next anime up to cover will be Dance in the Vampire Bund. Suppose a short anime will do for now following Chobits.
Jan 18, 2020 21:32:36 GMT
Dream: Concluding things at episode 2 with Vampire Bund for the night. Hoping to get back to Basquatch tomorrow, as long as I'm not swamped with anything.
Jan 19, 2020 3:00:33 GMT
Dream: Geez, it's really quiet. No activity in the forums since I posted my review from yesterday.
Jan 19, 2020 15:57:41 GMT
Taka: I'll email the receipts. The best anime and manga of 2019 will be extended to Wed. I don't get time off for Mon because of community service. Please vote if you haven't yet. Thank you!
Jan 19, 2020 20:44:07 GMT
Dream: Hmmmm... looks like the version of Vampire Bund I'm seeing on Funi's YouTube channel's an edited version. A couple minutes of episode 2 were clearly removed with Mina in nothing but underwear battling human assassins. Then again, recall there was a good...
Jan 19, 2020 22:49:15 GMT
Dream: ...deal of controversy with the series a decade earlier thanks to the seemingly underaged nudity of Mina while in her younger form.
Jan 19, 2020 22:50:13 GMT
Dream: Not sure if I should be donning the nostalgia goggles or not giving a damn. Looks like the original Digimon Adventure series is getting a reboot airing starting in the Spring season.
Jan 21, 2020 3:21:13 GMT
Taka: I'll watch it if there's nothing catching my eye in Spring. winter 2020 was a weak anime season for me.
Jan 22, 2020 18:29:46 GMT
Dream: Wouldn't say it's all bad for me. Have a few titles holding my interest. Just it typically doesn't have as many major titles of note that would hold me over.
Jan 22, 2020 23:54:44 GMT
Dream: Done with Vampire Bund. Will be working on a review of it before I hop into the next Funi series. Hoping to get it up either tonight or tomorrow, depending on how lengthy my thoughts get.
Jan 24, 2020 1:44:49 GMT