Guest Review: Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

Today’s guest post is by Marty X. We call him that because Marty is his name and X is the sexiest letter there is. So for today, you get to hear the ramblings of another, but I’m still in control of the captions. This is the first review on the site that wasn’t written by me, so there’s a certain level of uniqueness to it. Anyway, sit back, internet, and enjoy the far more personal blogging style of Marty X.

I’m going to be completely honest, I was perfectly willing to skip this game. I had watched the trailers for it, played the demo and looked at many screen shots. Up until the day after release, I was perfectly willing to either buy the game when it went on sale, or save my money for other my impending Wii U purchase. It wasn’t until word of mouth reached me that this game is two things: Fan-friggin-tastic and rare (at the time of release), that I decided to buy it. Nothing gets me into a video game store like a limited release. I don’t know why but if a game is difficult to obtain, I make it my mission to find it (I scoured 2 micro-plays, 8 eb games stores, and then finally a future shop, before I was able to locate Fire Emblem: Awakening). I ran to Microplay, put my name on a list and got the game the next day. Who needs to pre-order games when sloth pays off!

Ni no Kuni means “Second Country” which would have been a better title in the west, Level-5.
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Now, when people say this game is good, they are not lying to you. I love studio Ghibli’s art style, the music is incredible and I was really craving a retro-style rpg. However, I do find that the game does like to hold my hand a little, which is fine at first. 25 hours into the game they still remind me to cast spells, collect pieces of hearts and what to do when a boss gets stunned? That’s not cute anymore. I love Mr.Drippy, but he’s just bossy. He’s your companion and guide along Oliver’s Post Traumatic Stress Disorder fuelled adventure. Mr. Drippy is one of my favourite characters in the game (who doesn’t love a Scottish ‘fairy’ who says knickers all the time, and dances around when you’re piddling about town. It’s great), but he can get a little annoying. This is rather indicative of the way the game treats you. All the hand holding, and reminders (seriously, they tell you where to go on the map with a big star, and have a written reminder in your journal AND a little tagline at the top of the screen JUST INCASE YOU’RE HELLEN KELLER). There seems to be a disassociation between the perceived difficulty, and the actual difficulty. For the first few actual boss fights, I was finding myself a little harried. I kept having to run away, heal, and go back into the fray. Who doesn’t like a good challenge? So, the gameplay can catch you off guard at times. It’s nice to have to be diligent, so I don’t understand why they challenge you at one moment and then treat you like a child the other. Not that the bosses trouble me now, I have become OCD and started to collect everything, and fight everything I see. It’s a living…

Above – A rare picture of Marty X getting his mouth filled by cement.
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Speaking of collecting, Ni no Kuni has a wonderful monster collection aspect to it’s gameplay, which I love. I’m trying to catch ’em all, which can be irksome, but you just have to be persistent. There are a lot of monsters to choose from, each with their own *adorable* look, as well as different skills and affinities. It’s nice, but I have yet to find one that stands out as powerful. There are some very useful ones, and then the rest of the monsters I find seem to not be worth the time in levelling. However, the game is extremely long and detailed, so some monsters may seem weak, but I’m sure it’ll be worth funnelling some levels into the majority of them (early bloomers notwithstanding). It’s nice to play a game that has such detail put into it. There are always little things to be looking for, like watching Mr.Drippy when an event is going down, or little wisps of wind that appear on the world map, as you travel. Oh, and did I mention this game has A WORLD MAP! That you can walk around on! It’s like an old school Dragon Quest Game (Which will always be Dragon Warrior to me, though), complete with little town icons, mini enemies to avoid (or murder!), and little hidden gems all over the place. I could not be more thrilled about this map, except it looks small on my T.V. screen that’s 400 miles away from my couch.

Anyone denying the beauty of this game needs a doctor immediately.
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The attention to detail when making this game sure shows, and it even applies to the music in the game. In the intro credits they state that the music is by the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra, so this game doesn’t just have music; Ni no Kuni  has a full score. Which makes you feel very grand, wandering around a new fantasy world while a whole orchestra plays behind you. The music is lovely, even the little dings that go off when you find items, or help people and it adds to the charm of the game. Ni no Kuni is a beautiful experience, one that fills me with nostalgia (weekend nights spent watching Princess Mononoke when I was an entering my teenage years). It goes without saying that this game is a visual feast with such a mastermind studio behind the art style. Studio Ghibli (creators of Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle and Princess Mononoke…and almost every other awesome anime movie you can think of). I won’t spend too much detail on the art, because it’s just stunning. Period. 

You can’t say studio Ghibli doesn’t have a style.
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Overall, the game takes my expectations, and destroys them. I was dead wrong about this game, I don’t even know why I considered passing on it. Monster collection (some even resemble Totoro!), classic style game play (while still feeling fresh and fun), beautiful music and stunning visuals all compliment a grand story that could either end happy or with a crippling realization that it’s all escape/coping mechanism for Oliver as he slowly becomes a sociopath. My one gripe (other than the hand holding), is that at times I crave MORE from the game, and Ni no Kuni doesn’t go all the way, all the time. I feel like for such a grand adventure, it’s not as well narrated as it could have been. Sure, the voice acting is hilarious, and charming, but I want more of it to be voiced. The characters are great, they’re funny and endearing, but you get like 10 seconds of voice acting for every 10 minutes of text. Just a little more, and this game would have been PERFECT… fuel my escapism!

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch: 9

– Marty X

Second Opinion 

I couldn’t let a full review go up without saying something, especially since I actually played the game.
The motto of Ni no Kuni is simplicity. The characters are simple; the art is simple; the music is simple; and the gameplay is simple. There’s nothing wrong with a certain level of simplicity, but it is definitely one of the bigger issues with this game. I agree with Marty X’s assessment on the beauty of the graphics, the grand nature of the music, and the charm of the characters; however, after playing the game, I fully stand by my assertion from my demo impressions that the gameplay is not at all impressive. There simply isn’t any depth to it with every encounter being more of less the same and no real way to customize your characters or monsters. True, there is a monster collection component to this game, but monster collection is becoming more common in games, so this system is open to comparison to other games, notably Final Fantasy XIII-2, and Pokemon. As it stands, this is one of the weaker monster collection gameplay mechanics I’ve seen. It’s fully functional, but, once again, there is no depth. There are some monsters that are clearly superior to the vast majority of them, and no real way to raise them outside of mindlessly feeding them food for an incredibly tedious and meagre stat bonus. This isn’t even to talk about your party A.I., which will burn through their MP resource within seconds of leaving town, making them next to useless quite a bit of the time.
And all of your abilities will do more or less the same damage if they aren’t completely useless!
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The game is still good in my opinion. Charm goes a long way. However, it is hard to get past the simplicity especially since the game is quite long and repetition will set in very early. I’ve heard the argument that the game is for kids so it has to be simple. Well that argument doesn’t hold any water. The aforementioned Pokemon series is for kids, but it also has incredibly deep mechanics. As it stands, all of the story, graphics and sound are top notch, but the elements that are directly attached to gameplay just don’t hold up. It’s RPG 101, which may be refreshing to some, but even the most elementary JRPG gamer will find the game handholdy. I remember when Level-5 added vast amounts of complexity to their games such as in Dark Cloud 2. Now, for the sake of making a “kid’s game” (I put in quotations because, in reality, the game is for everyone) they’ve dumbed down the genre to its most base form. I’m only harping on the negatives here because Marty X hit on most of the positives, so I don’t really feel the need to go over them again. In other words, don’t take my two paragraphs as a condemnation of the game. Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is a good game, but handholdy and incredibly outdated gameplay stop it from being a great game in my opinion. 
Pros

– Beautiful graphics
-Amazing art style
-Good music
-Fun, endearing characters
-Good length

Cons

– Weak gameplay mechanics get old too fast
– Handholdy segments are unnecessary
– Weak monster collection aspect to the game



Score    8

– Mistranslation for the Modern Gamer
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