Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Hands-on Preview -- Under Whimsy's SpellBy Kevin Kelly - Posted Apr 17, 2012
Interestingly, this whimsical and adorable project, aka Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, started as a 10th anniversary project for developer Level-5, and Studio Ghibli only became involved after they happened to run into someone who worked there and told them about the project. Later the two companies met, and Ghibli was brought onboard to provide the animation for the game. At this point, it is impossible to imagine the game without the gorgeous artwork and characters that Ghibli has truly brought to life.
We did get to play the PlayStation 3 version of the game, which provides a nice twist on the standard JRPG genre. Combat is fairly traditional, but Level-5 said that they tried to develop controls that would make the game more appealing to North American and European audiences. So instead of characters squaring off in a line against their opponents in a text-based attack, they will now move completely around the target, and you can issue commands to the characters.
You can also freely switch to any of the characters during combat instead of waiting for your favorite one to come back up in rotation. Each character also has multiple sidekicks they can access, which is where many of the fun spells and abilities come into play, like fireballs and ice beams.
But the heart of Ni No Kuni lies in the exploration of this magical realm that you have found yourself transported to as Oliver, the main character in the game. When he sheds tears on the strange stuffed animal given to him by his late mother, it springs to life as Drippy, a fairy with a lantern through his nose. Drippy takes him to this wondrous new world where Drippy tells him his mother might still be alive.
The music, the voice acting, and especially the animation make this an extremely touching and beautiful game, one that nearly transcends the bounds of video gaming and becomes an artistic experience. Yes, there is the fan-gasm you will experience when you realize you are controlling some of Ghibli’s animations, but you’ll quickly get drawn into this touching and fun story as well.
Sadly, Level-5 has no plans to bring the Nintendo DS version of the game to North America or Europe. One of the producers on the project told us that it was because the magical “book” they had created that you used alongside the game would be difficult to reproduce in other languages. It’s a real shame, because that game is gorgeous as well, and has sold half a million copies in Japan.
Still, if you love anime and JRPG games, Ni No Kuni has been handcrafted just for you. Look for the game early in 2013.