So I just finished this game called Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch and what a journey!
To start this review I have to start to talk about the soundtrack. It is beautiful, the whole soundtrack is based on a few basic melodies, which could make the soundtrack sound repetitive, but that's the thing, it doesn't. The melodies fit so well with the feel of the game that it never gets old. I'd recommend the reader to go hear some tracks.
|Oliver casting "Gateway", to go to the Other World.|
Next, I will talk about the characters and the voice acting. A good thing about the game is that you can choose to keep the voice acting in Japanese or change it to English. The main character (Oliver) has a child has a child voice (well duh) but the studio managed to not make it too sweet. The sidekick (Drippy, Lord High Lord of the Fairies) is a character that doesn't worry about almost anything and speaks with a Welsh accent which I think is unusual and the expressions he uses just make him even more funny. The writing is excellent as well, Drippy is dropping puns all the time and it doesn't make the game too melodramatic (Square-Enix could learn a thing or two with this game). The rest of the characters have voice acting just as good as well.
One thing that annoys me a lot is the excessive amount of dialogues you have to go through to get pieces of heart (I'll talk about them later on) and to do side-quests. I mean, it's nice to have context for everything that happens but you get a little annoyed after a while and start pressing the skip button all the way through.
The story in the beginning starts off with a tragedy which ultimately leads Oliver to the "Other World" to try to fix what happened. There he learns that an evil wizard is stealing pieces of people's hearts, like a person's enthusiasm, which leaves them brokenhearted. Oliver's goal is to stop the evil wizard and try to fix the tragedy that happened in the beginning. The story seems simple but closer to the end there are some twists that really makes it unique.
|Oliver and Drippy in Ding Dong Dell|
In terms of gameplay there is a lot to talk about, and I mean A LOT. The amount of content this game has is just amazing. There is an open world you can explore, first by foot, then by boat and later on by flying. The battle system allows you to select any character in your party and then fight with the character itself or with one of the familiars available to them. You can give some equipment to the characters and familiars, or give treats to the familiars to optimize the stats. The familiars can learn tricks, they can evolve (Methamorphize) and you can actually "catch" wild enemies to have them as familiars.
Oliver can use spells outside of battle, like "Chart Chests" and "Veil", to show chests that are close to him and to hide himself from enemies. There is alchemy, with which you can produce armor, weapons and consumables. There are rewards for doing side-quests too, you get stamps on cards for completing quests, and when you have a certain number of fully stamped cards you can trade them for perks, like increased battle experience and more rare drops, or increased speed while walking.
This huge amount of content can be a down side because it can be overwhelming for some people.
The battle system can be annoying and the game itself is not easy at some points. You have to be fast to block attacks, so you're able to survive through boss battles, and mana is something you will want to hold back, because you don't have much of it. There are "orbs" that drop from enemies (Drippy provides them as well) that restore a bit of health or mana, but its not much, and because only some familiars can learn a trick to resurrect you will want to keep all the consumables that can do that. Also, since you don't recover HP or MP after a battle, while on dungeons you will want to have consumables or it will be very difficult to survive.
|Oliver fighting with a familiar.|
The graphics are stunning, the cel-shading art style that is used in the game just fits so well with this type ofgame that I couldn't think of any other way that should have been done. All in all the world looks amazing and the quality of the animation is excellent. I have just one small complaint about the cutscenes. They used still image animation and while it does look amazing the "non-fluidity" of the animation wasn't a plus to me.
This game also has end-game content, mainly a bunch of side-quests where you can side upgraded versions of bosses and such. You can also fight the last boss again if you'd like to. There is also the trophy collection for the PS3 which I might try to complete one day and it adds to the replay value.
In short, this game is a must buy for any fans of a good JRPG. The beautiful world, amazing soundtrack, clever writing and huge content will have you glued to the screen and you will want to just keep playing.