Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Gamescom 2012 Preview -- Fire on the (Adorable) MountainBy Leah Jackson - Posted Aug 20, 2012
Level 5 Studios have collaborated with the famous Studio Ghibli to create Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, one of the most whimsically beautiful role-playing games we've ever seen. In the Gamescom 2012 demo of Ni No Kuni, we played through a brand new level of the game, Eruption Interruption, in which Oliver and his companions Esther and Drippy have to escape The Mountain of Fire before it erupts.
The demo marks the first time Esther is a playable character, and it turns out the little blonde sorceress packs a huge punch. As the demo begins, Drippy, Oliver's stuffed animal who's come to life to help him on his adventure, explains to Oliver and Esther that they only have three stinking minutes to get to the top of the volcano before it erupts. With that startling revelation, they quickly set off.
Right away the graphics in Ni No Kuni make it feel as though you're actually playing through a true Studio Ghibli movie; something that will delight fans of Hiyao Miyazaki and his famous Japanese animation studio. Every single detail from the bright colors in the environments to the character and monster designs scream Ghibli, and they all fit together wonderfully.
As Oliver and company make their way up the volcano, they're constantly attacked by various enemies that all have hilarious names like Little Big Horn and Deep Fry. If players can dodge the monsters, they don't have to fight them, but the little guys are quick and combat is a blast anyway.
Combat in Ni No Kuni is kind of like a mix between the action you're used to in Tales games and Pokemon. Characters can move around the battlefield in order to get the best positions against the monsters and to pick up orbs to replenish their health and mana. Additionally, you can change between characters anytime you want, and each character can summon one creature at a time to fight for them.
There are more than 300 creatures available to capture in Ni No Kuni, and aside from each of them having their own set of strengths and weaknesses, they can all level up, evolve, and use weapons. In our demo, each character had three different creatures they could send out, allowing us to switch between eight different playable characters anytime we wanted (Oliver, Esther, or one of the six creatures). Eventually a third character will be introduced, so combined with their creatures, a maximum of 12 playable characters will be available on any given battlefield.
When battles begin, you have the option to attack, use magic, defend, set up tactics, or summon a creature. Combat is Ni No Kuni is real-time, so it's important to be quick when assessing monsters, since they won't wait for you to set up a strategy before laying in to you. Oliver and Esther both seemed to be strong magic users, so whenever I was playing as them, I'd try to use my strongest spells against the enemies.
However, since we were in the middle of a volcano, and every monster was some sort of fire/lava type of thing, the best strategy was to summon Oliver and Esther's best water/ice type creatures to fight alongside them since water creatures are naturally strong against fire monsters.
Esther had one creature named Sassy (I'm not sure if you can name your own creatures or not, but I'm guessing you can) that looked like a massive Yeti, and it dealt a ton of damage to multiple enemies at a time. Each creature has its own set of attacks, and it's easy to experiment with all of them since the AI takes over your other characters for you when you're not using them.
If you don't like what the AI is doing you can even set up your own strategies for your characters to follow in the tactics section. This forces them to do things like attack the party leader's target or heal the party when their health gets too low without you having to tell them to do it.
After fighting their way through enemies and rapidly making their way over and up the volcano, Oliver, Drippy, and Esther finally reach their destination right as their three minutes are up (time doesn't elapse during fights). To my amusement, Drippy then explained to Oliver and Esther that they actually could have taken as much time as they wanted to get to the top of the volcano since it wasn't going to erupt at all. But, putting a time constraint on them made them work that much harder. Ha! That little stinker.
The demo ended with a boss fight against a massive lava monster named Moltaan who was only vulnerable from his tail. Unfortunately, our demo was over before we could kill Moltaan, but it seemed like a challenging fight that would require manipulating the battlefield and summoning the right types of creatures in order to bring him down.
While our demo with Ni No Kuni only lasted 20 minutes, it was enough to leave us starry-eyed and hungry for more. Every character is adorable, the combat is fast-paced and varied, and the graphics, while not mind-blowingly realistic, are extremely impressive in their own right. If you love a great story, beautiful visuals, and collecting hundreds of quirky creatures, then you should be as excited for Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch as I am.
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is coming exclusively to the PlayStation 3 in January 2013.