In the Console Now (Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch)

It occurs to me in that vague, hazy way that things tend to occur when they aren’t really that important on a personal level but other people think of them as notable events that E3 is happening as I’m writing this.  I realized that after I was checking my blog stats the other day and saw that someone clicked on my post from last year about the dust up surrounding issues of sexual harassment at the 2013 E3.  To anyone else who might stumble upon my blog because they’re looking for E3 news this year, I apologize in advance, because I’m just not that interested in what’s up and coming in gaming at the moment, and you’ll probably end up looking at a post that has pretty much nothing to do with what’s actually being unveiled at the expo.


Cover art for Ni no Kuni. (Image credit: Wikipedia)

That’s not to say that I’m not still enjoying video games; they’re great fun, and I have to admit to spending probably more time gaming in the last week than I should (I do, after all, have a blog to run, not to mention real life responsibilities).  The reason for the upswing in game time is twofold.  First, I’m on summer break, which means that I suddenly have about fifteen hours of unstructured free time every day (it is, objectively, the best thing).  Second, now that I have all that free time I’m able to jump into games that typically play better in long stretches (mostly RPGs).  In fact, I’ve been saving one game that I got for Christmas this year specifically for the summertime because I knew it was going to be a heavy time investment: Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch.

Now, there are probably a lot of things that can be said about this game, most of them good.  This was a highly anticipated game for 2013 in North America, primarily because it’s a standard JRPG with art direction done by Studio Ghibli.  The game features cut scenes that were created by the acclaimed animation house as well as a cel shaded graphical style that’s reminiscent of Ghibli films’ signature look.  It’s not really a stretch to say that my eyes bleed with joy the whole time I’m playing this game.

Besides the visuals, the game also has a fantastic soundtrack composed by Joe Hisaishi.  It’s great music, and I just want to crank the volume up while I’m playing, except that the balance on my sound system is really wonky where the voices get crazy loud in comparison to the music (the voice acting isn’t bad, but this is a game that revolves around the adventures of a boy who seems to be around 8 years old and a really pushy Welsh fairy; their voices can occasionally grate).

In terms of gameplay, it’s best to think of the meat and potatoes of Ni no Kuni‘s gameplay as real-time Pokemon battles.  The conceit is that your party of adventurers, while capable of fighting on their own, typically battle using familiars that they’ve tamed and trained.  Each party member can have up to three familiars at a time, and the flow of battle generally involves rotating between familiars to meet the needs of the current situation.  It’s a solid system, and there’s a lot of potential for depth-of-play for players who want to get really technical with how they manage fights while more casual folks can just hack and slash their way through without a whole lot of difficulty.

The story’s about as standard as JRPG stories get.  We follow Oliver, a young boy from Motorville, USA, who gets drawn into a quest to save the soul of his mother, who dies after rescuing Oliver from drowning.  With the help of Drippy, Lord High Lord of the Fairies, Oliver begins learning how to be a wizard and sets off on a journey through a parallel world to defeat Shadar the Dark Djinn.

If you’ve not played this game yet, and you happen to enjoy JRPGs and/or Studio Ghibli films, then definitely check it out.

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