This is just going to be a quick impressions post as I’ve finally bought, played and finished Level 5’s 2013 Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch.
The game is a very traditional style RPG – it has a three person party system, with magic, physical or healing type characters, in a wide free roaming world with monster encounters. What it does a bit different from other RPG’s I’ve played is that while you can play as the main characters, you can also use captured creatures of different types and elements. It’s a bit like Final Fantasy meets Pokémon weirdly enough.
It’s a fun enough system with lots of different play styles you could use. I mostly played with a few creatures levelling them up a lot, rather than having lots of different ones.
Alongside this RPG/Pokémon game play there are many side quests and extra mini game style elements to play with. You can craft consumables, as well as weapons and armour. You can play casino style mini games later on in the game.
The other big thing the game has going for it, obviously, is the Studio Ghibli involvement. The game engine and cut scenes are all in Ghibli style, and the story and characters feel a lot like Ghibli ones too. There are parts of the game that will remind you of The Cat Returns, parts that remind you of Laputa, and so on. It’s actually very charming, and if you’re a fan of the games you’ll love it.
I especially liked the fully realised spell book within the game. It’s an interesting idea of have a proper guide to the game, with items and enemies and lore, actually in the game, and completely readable and beautifully rendered. The special edition of the game came with a fully printed and bound copy of it, which would be tempting if not for the prohibitive price.
All of this aside, the important thing is whether or not the game was any good, if it was enjoyable, was it worth the money.
The game is very long. In the end, completing almost all the games side quest, and doing a reasonable but not terrible amount of grinding, the save registered about 100 hours played. So you do at least get a lot of game play for your money.
I say all this because while in the end I do think it was worth the money, the first half of the game is the portion I really genuinely enjoyed. It was more full of interesting quests, wonder, charm, and getting into everything – while the second part felt…well, grinding. It started to drag on as more and more of the game revolved around hard combat and repetitive missions. Eventually the game seems like it’s ending, and it’s a really good ending – only for the game to keep going. Unfortunately, and to try and not spoil the content, it leads to essentially what is a long dungeon crawl location; with increasingly difficult battles one after the other. It ruins what is an otherwise very enjoyable game.
I was also unimpressed by the game difficulty. I’m not the most fantastic at games, but even trying it in the easier difficulty setting, it didn’t always feel…well, easy. Which is what I expect from the easy difficulty setting: you just want to experience the game, and watch the cut scenes. You know, get to see the game you’ve paid for. This was especially annoying as the game seems like it supposed to be an adult and children marketed game. It’s only a 12 age rating here in the UK, and I’m pretty sure kids will find the ending battles frustrating if impossible.
I did finish the game proper, and it did feel like the ‘second’ ending, as it was, was a touch less satisfying (If you’ve finished this game, do you know what I mean?) The game does have a post game play mode, where you can complete all the side quests and extras you missed, alongside unlocking some missions that were locked until defeating the final, final boss.
Overall, I liked the games charming feel, lovely art, and great story. But the actually playing through the game all the way to the end was painful. It dragged. Maybe I should have set it aside for a while and become less fatigued with it. I don’t regret getting it or finishing it in the end, but I wouldn’t play it again. It could have been better, but it’s a very interesting foray into video game/film mix territory.