Ni No Kuni Wrath Of The White Witch Review
To seasoned RPG gamers Ni No Kuni will feel very familiar right from the start. You take on the role of Oliver a young boy who recently lost his mother (essentially through his own stupidity) and with the aid of his stuffed toy Drippy (who magically comes to life by way of Oliver's tears) journey to another world to try to find his mothers soul mate and basically bring his mum back to life. It's a simple story of loss and mourning at the start and anyone will find it easy to relate to Oliver right from kick off. Along the way we meet some rather interesting characters not to mention the plethora of side quests on offer but the story isn't really the major selling point here, it's not exactly Bioshock Infinite. It does the job and keeps things progressing on while keeping some intrigue with background scenes with the Council Of Twelve and the last third of the game is full of enough twists and turns to warrant the tried and tested RPG staples trotted out for the first two thirds.
Ni No Kuni borrows gameplay mechanics heavily from Pokemon, classic Final Fantasy and Zelda, however developers Level 5 have managed to create a unique blend and it works very very well indeed. An ATB style battle system where you can call on familiars or choose to fight the battle as Oliver or one of his companions. The art design for the game was handled by Studio Ghibli and this very obvious right from the opening cutscene. Possibly the finest cartoonists in the world handling art design on a video game for the first time has train wreck written all over it but here it is pure artistic perfection. Say what you will about the excellent graphics in Beyond: Two Souls or The Last Of Us but look back on them in 10 years and they will look like PS2 games do now compared to current games. But look back at Ni No Kuni in 10 years and be dazzled by just how beautiful it is all over again. Cutscenes blend perfectly into gameplay and both look flawless running on the PS3 with not a single glitch in sight in my 70+ hour playthrough.
The only real let down for me was the lack of character development from Oliver, he starts off as a pure hearted lad and ends up a pure hearted lad and though he learns a lot of new skills along the way nothing (even one of the surprise plot twists) really affects his character in any way.
Sweeping soundscapes abound the score as well with many memorable tunes in there that keep you focused on what's happening but this is to be expected from RPG’s these days. The voice cast is mixed with some of the performances being excellent (like King Tom and The Cowlipha) and others being under par (Swaines voice in particular seemed miscast), and it's here that the lead character Oliver with his prepubescent slightly whiny tones is completely outshone by the real star of the show here: Drippy. Drippy The Lord High Lord Of The Fairies is a fabulous character brought to life expertly by Steffan Rhodri. Sounding like Tom Jones on speed, Drippy is quick to speak his mind and is a constant companion to Oliver acting as the Jiminy Cricket wise conscious to his Pinocchio naivety. Drippy has clearly been around a while and loves to dish out advice both in battle and in the field. The way he talks is hilarious and he has many genuinely funny one liners, it's actually a shame that some of them are buried in the text and that Steffan wasn’t given the chance to perform them as the dialogue in the game overall is about 75% text and 25% spoken which is a real shame as I really wanted to hear more from Drippy but perhaps this is something we could see in a sequel.
Easily better than the last main entry in the Final Fantasy series and for me the best RPG on the PS3/360 generation I consoles (and yes I am including Skyrim in that) bold statement I know but when you happily plough this number of hours into a game that looks and plays this well it is well worthy of this high praise.
Andy Urquhart 42 Level One