OK, I learned my lesson. I won’t be proclaiming “Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch” game of the year after only spending a Saturday with it.
I probably wouldn’t have anyway, but I just wanted to make that clear. And Mike will have a full review later on. But since I’m a big Studio Ghibli fan, I kept it to play for a while (until I hit my first undefeatable — to me, anyway — boss) before sending it his way. And I couldn’t keep my thoughts to myself.
So what does Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli have to do with a video game? Well, the folks there provided the visuals, and they’re awesome (no surprise). Longtime Miyazaki composer Joe Hisaishi also scored the sweeping music.
Like many of Ghibli’s films, “Ni No Kuni” is a great all-ages experience. I had my quibbles, sure, but I totally got caught up in the story and visuals. The game follows a boy named Oliver, who travels to another world to help save it from dark forces and possibly bring his mother back to life.
He’s accompanied by Drippy, king of the fairies. He’s a cute little fellow with a lantern hanging from his nose. He helps Oliver unlock his hidden magical talents and escorts him through the land (and the tutorial). As Oliver progresses, he gains familiars that each bring special skills to battles. They’re adorable. He also makes allies.
It’s semi-turn-based (ala “Final Fantasy”), but you can’t spend too much time sorting out your attacks because the bad guys are attacking you and won’t always wait. That was my downfall — too many things to keep track of, and I kept dying in my last boss fight, but up until then it was pretty much smooth sailing.
The story does drag a bit getting started, but, like the “Hobbit” movie, it moves along well enough once it gets going.
What really sells the game are the Ghibli touches. Many of the cutscenes are classically animated (though not all of them, which creates a bit of disconnect). The characters and beasts are wonderfully, whimsically designed (and feature some pretty bad puns for names). My favorite is the cat king, His Meowjesty of Ding Dong Dell.
The game uses cel-shaded animation, and I didn’t hate it nearly as much as I usually do. I think it’s because they didn’t do as much awkward shading as most games. I wish it had stuck with a more flat style to match the Ghibli cutscenes, though.
There’s also a strong sense of story, and I was enjoying that much more than the fighting and what-not as I made my way through the game.
“Ni No Kuni” is a real winner, and I look forward to seeing what Mike can make of it.