Some games are just worth the effort.

Level-5 has produced some of the most memorable J-RPG games to date. Their non-typical approach to storytelling without re-hashing the "same old", and their production and core gameplay being their accolades. Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch follows this trend which makes it a very attractive offering in our current role-playing drowt. Things aren't like the used to be, PS2 owners will agree, and "Ni No" is exactley what we've been missing. While slow in the opening hours, Ni No Kuni continues to naw at your attention and eventually draws you into to its wonderfully crafted world.

Ni No Kuni audience targets those unafraid of an interesting “all ages” tale mixed with more “traditional” role-playing game values. The tale alone of a young boy who loss and love for his mother drives him to save an alternative world from darkness is nothing short of clever and rich with heart. "Ni No" has everything you need for a “classic” tale, and more crucially, it delivers.

The boy, your character (Oliver) and his pet stuffy who comes to life (Drippy) are the main protagonists who ultimately challenge the “White Witch” from the title and her minions. Taking place between two world, "Motorville", the human realm and a 'Ni No Kuni” an alternative “fantasy-styled” realm, the two go on an epic journey against the odds. More than a quest to defeat the “bad guy”, Ni No Kuni is a coming of age tale that is deep, emotional and humorous. The writing is top notch, which is accented by beautiful animation and voice acting. Although the high-production values never trump the story which remains the main focus; a tribute to a great tale, you betcha.

Credited as the one to save the universe, Oliver learns the skill of magic which is a driving force for the narrative and combat. In a youngster “Harry Potter” vibe you abilities grow with each wand and spells you learn. Spells impact both combat and minor puzzling elements. At first I wasn't sure how using the “boy-wizard” formula would work, however against my trepidation, Olivers' clumsy mastery of the arts becomes quite interesting and inventive.

Characters are also well-developed throughout the game's progression, and while at times the immediate story becomes predictable or simple, it never grows boring, or worse, nonsensical. There is a fair amount of humour sprinkled about, as well as plenty of creativity and unexpected events. All in all, the fundamental story is not a narrative masterpiece, but it is nonetheless strong. A few of the themes do end up repeating, epically in side-quests quests, however, if the main prose is strong.

While the side-quests might require the same actions remixed in slightly or not-so-slightly situations, they are plentiful. Aside from fixing randoms emotional flaws, there is a large world to explore. Filled with different towns, hidden areas and dungeon sections, hours of side-tracking can be accomplished. Although some elements like puzzle solving and actually figuring out what to do next are pretty much given away, they are fun to perform, nevertheless. A little more free-will would have been welcomed for those gamers with a little more experience with the genre.

The gameplay which is heavily based in combat is a mixture of collection elements, mixed in the standard(ish) J-RPG formula. Main characters can perform in battles, although they are often weak, or not equipped to handle each situation. Fixing this is the ability to bring in creatures (Imajinns) to aid you in scraps. This “Pokemon” flavoured addition makes for a more interesting and addictive combat system. Caring about these little guys are also important, such as feeding them and improving their love for you. Imajinns can be switched in-and-out of combat with the click of a button across the board. Each main character can carry up-to three fighting friends, which makes for quite the cluttered mess as you progress. Thankfully, you progress along with the rate new characters are introduced, so things never feel too overwhelming.

Combat is in real-time with a hybrid turn-based feel which makes “Ni No” more than a hands-free button-masher - strategy and upgrading are the ruling factors on this battlefield. Health and magic is shared between all unit making your choice of which character to use more impact. Most situations will have you experimenting with your tribe of Imajinn's, while your main characters direct traffic. However, it is important to know each units strength and flaws when you're not overpowering the enemy with XP. This is all you can do on your end as the A.I. takes control of your other teammates. The A.I. isn't as resourceful, often wasting all your magic during battles, although it is clunky to manage, you can switch up their actions somewhat. It's a little frustrating when you are not in total control, however, something that is common when role-playing games get away from the turn-based structure.

Level-5 can't take all the credit for the games impressive look, the highly praised animation filmarkers Studio Ghibli also had a hand in creating the visual take on Ni No Kuni. Ghibili's art style might have a “kid” ascetic attached to it, but that's all an option of taste, and overall, kid or not, the style fits in perfectly within the games' world. The world is rich with diversity and distinct art styles. Vivid would be a great word to describe the visuals and their imagination.

The tricky part about “Ni No” is how smart Level-5 was in managing the animated scenes between those rendered with the game engine. Not only smooth in appearance, the transitions are air-tight. This absolutely pushes up the immersiveness, which only helps drag you further into this fantasy world. Feeling like a half-movie/half-game, Ni No Kuni is an advancement for the role-playing genre as a whole.

Ni No Kuni is an one-of-a-kind experience and highly gratifying. Rich with emotion and packed full of charm, don't let its childlike demeanour fool you, this is one solid role-playing game, and dare to say, an instant classic.

  • Interesting world to explore.
  • Narrative is deep and charming.
  • Lots to do, this one packs on the hours.
  • Production visuals are out of this world.
  • Combat is fun and tactical.
  • Childlike appearance might throw off mature gamers.
  • Side-quests become repetitive.
  • A.I. adaptiveness is dull in battles.
  • Some reading is necessary, entire game isn't overdubbed.
Quote: "Rich with emotion and packed full of charm, don't let its childlike demeanour fool you, this is one solid role-playing game, and dare to say, an instant classic."
Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | 02.07.13 | Platform Reviewed: Playstation 3

Similar Games: White Knight Chronicles (5.8) | Jean D'Arc (8.5)


Ni No Kuni
Wrath of the White Witch

Namco Bandai



US Release
January '13



Players 1
5.1 Surround
HD 480-720p