Title: Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remastered
Release Date: September 20, 2019
Reviewed On: PS4
Publisher: Bandai Namco
There are a few adventures that all video game fans should experience. You see these games in “Best of” lists or just in normal chat rooms. However, with the lack of backward compatibility in current-generation consoles and new gamers being born every day, some of these titles are just not accessible. Thankfully, Bandai Namco is bringing one of these adventures to new platforms with the release of Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remastered.
Ni no Kuni tells the story of Oliver, a boy who does things like play with his friends and break rules. One night, he ends up in an accident and his mother ends up suffering from his actions. This all leads him to be forced to deal with emotions like guilt, frustration, and loss. However, there is some magic in Oliver which brings to life an imprisoned fairy known as Drippy who informs Oliver that all hope is not lost. You see, Drippy’s world is under the control of a powerful witch and it has been foretold that Oliver might be the one who can stop her, even though he doesn’t know that.
Shadar, an evil wizard is hired to put a stop to Oliver. This wizard is known for stealing the hearts of anyone who defies him, which works as a way to keep anyone from stepping out of line. Thankfully for Oliver, he has the magic that can replace hearts and bring people back to normal. This is a recurring theme throughout the entire game and will be something is returned to often.
The focus on emotions in Ni no Kuni is easy to pick up on. These characters are each dealing with their own set of issues. However, over time you watch the cast of characters grow and begin to rely on the people around them and they visible change during the later parts of the game. The biggest, and most important, character growth in the game is from Oliver himself who is timid and weak at the beginning of the game, but as he meets new people and accomplishes goals, he becomes confident within himself.
I should also mention that playing Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom isn’t needed to enjoy this story as they both take place at different times. But if you have played it, yet haven’t played Ni no Kuni you’ll visit some recognizable kingdoms and places in your journey as you get a chance to see what the world of Ni no Kuni was like hundreds of years before the events of Ni no Kuni II.
The game’s battle system is action-based, but time stops when choosing actions. When encountering an enemy, players will choose who they wish to enter a battle with. Each human party member has an attack and ability of their own they can also equip up to three familiars. During battles, players can capture creatures and, if used to fight, they’ll gain levels and new skills. More interesting about these creatures is that they each hold a special ability. Aside from magical elements and powerful strikes, familiars are capable of doing things like defending and evading attacks. If done at the correct time, players will negate a large attack from an enemy.
Additionally, familiars are given treats to power up certain stats as well as improve their relationship with their owner. While this increasing stats, the best way to tap into their true power is to level them up and evolve them into stronger familiar. Yes, this is a lot like Pokémon, but the evolutions also have a branching path which allows you to choose which abilities you want your familiar to learn, depending on your playstyle.
Combat is not the easiest in Ni no Kuni. The encounter rate in the game is extremely high in the field and dungeons, especially when you are a little slower at the beginning of the game. Enemies pretty much chase you down to start a fight until you are too powerful and then they just run away from you. Regardless, fights are exceptionally challenging, especially if you aren’t utilizing enemy weaknesses. The game’s easy mode makes these battles less of grind, but don’t expect a handout with it, you just don’t need to grind as many levels.
Exploring in Ni no Kuni is perhaps the best part about the game thanks to the level of design and detail that went into creating this world. Each town is unique and has this amazing attention to the architecture and layout that make it fun to just roam around and try to find new things. The world map and dungeons are just as brilliant to explore, but while it’s possible to attempt to go off the beaten path the game is fairly linear until a certain part in the game where the world is pretty much open to you.
Throughout the adventure, Oliver will collect new magic abilities that he’s able to use. A symbol represents these abilities, which can do things like transport him between worlds, open locks, and even talk to ghosts. Throughout the adventure, there are a lot of spells to discover and while some of them are only used once or twice it’s a great way to show the progress that Oliver is making on his journey.
Each town has side quests that the player can accept for more items and money. These quests typically include replacing someone’s heart, fighting a tough monster, or delivering items. They are optional, but they generally leave some nice rewards for the players as they fill up merit cards after each completed mission.
My gripes with the game are the same ones I had the first time that I played it. The AI companions are almost impossible to keep alive during boss battles. This is mostly because the battle system is so reliant on timing when it comes to dodging or blocks huge attacks. The game expects you to not only time your Evade perfectly with the boss’s ability animation, but also command your allies to go into defense mode. This is all done within a 3-5 second window and it’s just a lot of pressure in the heat of the battle.
Graphically, Ni no Kuni still looks like it came out of this generation. It is as beautiful as ever and the world is just as great to explore. I spent more of my time this playthrough reading through Oliver’s book and admiring the amount of detail that went into creating it. The game also runs a lot smoother with some of the larger abilities and bigger fights not affecting the game’s framerate.
Musically, Ni no Kuni is as good as video game soundtracks come. You’ll be humming these songs in your head long after the adventure is complete, which will only make you want to play it again. This game’s fantasy world complements the brilliant soundtrack that only gets better throughout the game.
If I had to describe Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remastered in one word, it would be “magical”. The game truly takes the player to a new world of exploration and discovery as you experience it through the eyes of a boy determined to fight for the ones he loves. This is a journey that uses emotions as its main theme, which is something that we all experience no matter how old we are. It’s for that reason that this game can easily tap into the player’s imagination, no matter the age.
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch was a great game when it released and it’s a great game now. There could have been some improvements made to the AI or perhaps options to take out the events of the fast action in battles when evading and dodging to make them easier, but nothing takes away from this timeless adventure. I didn’t think this game could get any more beautiful, but after replaying it’s remastered version, I’m even more excited to see new players experience it.
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