The JRPG genre has been lacking in triple-a titles as of late. Once a dominant genre with the likes of Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger and Phantasy Star constantly pumping out great titles, the genre has hit a low point over the last few years. Many fans of the genre had put high expectations into Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch to help restore the genre to the status it once was. These expectations aren’t quite met, but Ni No Kuni delivers a refreshing and enjoyable JRPG.
Ni No Kuni tells the story of a boy named Oliver whose mom passes away while trying to save his life. After his mother’s death Oliver is recruited to save the world of his toy named Drippy that was brought to life by his tears.
The story isn’t quite as engaging as most JRPG’s, the suspense isn’t there and most of the actions gamers are tasked with fall short of excitement. A lot of the storytelling comes off as rather peculiar and very kiddy. The entire game feels like playing in a Satruday morning kid’s cartoon, which may not be a bad thing for some but others looking for deep story with twists and turns that you won’t see coming Ni No Kuni isn’t that game.
The game is constantly giving off the feeling of teaching children what to do and what not to do. It felt like the game was constantly trying to enforce life lessons: “say please and thank you”, “don’t be mean”, “don’t give up even if it’s difficult”. For example, Oliver who is polite almost to a point of annoyance is constantly celebrated for his kindness and politeness around every corner.
Even when the game is just starting to grasp your attention you are yanked back out by the sheer amount of text you must read. It’s a shame more voice work wasn’t done for cut scenes and chat with NPC’s as the voice acting that is actually done is splendid, but unfortunately you will never know when it will actually pop up. Sometimes it’s for literally one word and then others the game will have voice for an entire section.
This may not seem like an issue for many, but after two hours of playing I found myself tired of reading every text box. When the story isn’t very enthralling forcing gamers to read paragraphs upon paragraphs feels like such a chore and can wear on gamer’s rather quickly.
Where Ni No Kuni lacks in the story department it makes up for in the visual and sound department. The game is gorgeous it feels like playing a live anime. Characters are pretty, enemies are well designed and interesting to look at and the world is a joy to explore.
The sheer amount of enemies in this game is outstanding, there seems to be a new enemy around every corner and it’s a joy to experience. From funny looking small creatures to giant bosses it is obvious that a lot of time and thought was spent on every creatures design.
The level of detail doesn’t stop with creature design. Gamers are graced with easily one of the best soundtracks to any video game ever. This is evident from the very first moment the disc is inserted into the PS3. Gamers are greeted with a blasting orchestral music as the main screen comes into focus. All the in-game music was performed by Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra and it shows.
It is easy to lose yourself into the world of Ni No Kuni thanks in large part to the outstanding music. More than once I caught myself humming along to the music that was playing as I guided Oliver and company through town’s and across deserts. It helps to give the feel of an epic quest and is arguably the strongest part of Ni No Kuni.
It is rather interesting that the story, graphics and feel of the game felt geared towards kids when the actual gameplay can be rather challenging. Ni No Kuni uses a Pokémon style of gameplay where players are able to capture almost any creature, called a “familiar”, in the game randomly. After capturing a familiar they level up alongside the characters and familiars even can undergo “metamorphosis” which evolves them and makes them more powerful. It is always a treat to have one of your favorite familiars undergo metamorphosis and see the changes not just in statistics but physically.
Battling starts off simple, but soon evolves quickly and can get rather hectic. The battle UI is clunky and annoying, trying to cast a spell or use an item while running away from a creature is quite a difficult task and can be rather frustrating. But when everything works right and goes your way fights are a blast.
The game gives you the option of defending against big attacks, and when this is executed can turn a devastating spell or ability into nothing more than a slap on the wrist. If I ever lost a fight it never felt like it was because the computer was unfairly powerful it felt like it was because I didn’t do what I was supposed to do.
Although battle can be fun expect to be in a lot of them, and I don’t mean meaningful ones. The game requires definite grinding and if you aren’t careful you will enter into a moment of the game that you aren’t ready for with no way out.
This is the only shortfall in the guidance department that Ni No Kuni has. In fact the amount of hand holding at times can make the game feel really easy. NPCs needed for side quests flash on the map and mini map, characters that have important items glow green and there is constantly a star pointing to where the next for the main story objective is.
Although it can feel like the game is on easy mode, more often than not I was thankful for these tips and guidance’s. Playing Ni No Kuni is more about progressing and enjoying the world than head scratching quests and riddles. It was a relief to know that I never was going to be stumped and spend three hours trying to figure out where to go next, but the hand holding can be a negative to a gamer that is looking for more of a challenge.
I enjoyed my time with Ni No Kuni it definitely scratched that JRPG itch that has gone unscratched for far too long. I lost myself in the world multiple times and I enjoyed capturing familiars and leveling them, but when it came to the story I was never enthralled. For a genre that relies heavily on story Ni No Kuni didn’t bring much to the table. Multiple times I felt like I wasn’t playing Ni No Kuni because I was having fun, but I was playing because I wanted push through a part that was dragging on in hopes that the next section would be where the game’s story took off.
Gameplay: Some of the most unique and enjoyable battling system in a JRPG.
Graphics: Nails the Anime feel, looks and feels like you are playing in a Saturday morning cartoon.
Sound: The Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra delivers one of the best soundtracks in video game history.
Ni No Kuni doesn’t quite know where it wants to fall. The gameplay is challenging and requires a lot of dedication to master, but everything else seems to be geared more towards children and kept me from fully losing myself in the world. The gameplay, environments and sound is amazing but the story fell short and felt way too kiddy. Ni No Kuni is one of the best JRPGs of late, but it won’t be resurrecting the JRPG genre to glory.