With the deluge of games set to be released over the next four months, it’s easy to lose a lot of the best ones in the shuffle, especially as they’re released early on. One of the first major releases of the year, this is especially true of Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, a PS3 exclusive set to release on January 22. Here are five reasons why this Level-5 /Studio Ghibli hybrid needs to be on your must-play list.
1) A Unique and Heartfelt Story
The creators of Ni No Kuni are some of the most experienced in the business, bringing with them years of experience and knowledge about making games and telling stories. As such, it’s no surprise to find that the narrative of Ni No Kuni is one that is not just striking, but also heartfelt and compelling.
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch tells the story of Oliver, a 13-year-old boy living in a small town called Motorville with his mother. It’s obvious from the start that Oliver has a very close relationship with his mother, making the plot that much more hard-hitting when a tragic accident causes her weak heart to fail her and leave Oliver an orphan.
In his despair, Oliver turns to a doll once given to him by his mother that awakens and turns into a living creature. Named Drippy, the doll is actually a fairy-type creature who asks Oliver to join him in his parallel world to help the other creatures and have a chance at bringing his mother back to life.
Early preview builds of Ni No Kuni have shown that great voice acting and character development have led to Ni No Kuni being a very compelling game with a deep story filled with twists and turns as only master Japanese storytellers could deliver. Fans of story-driven games, take note.
2) Creatures and Characters
Ni No Kuni hosts a wide variety of characters, including the humans Esther and Oliver, a robust town full of fleshed-out NPCs, and of course, Oliver’s friends and mother.
But on top of that, the game has a strangely Pokemon-type feel. Once you enter the parallel world with Drippy, you’ll encounter a wide variety of creatures throughout your travels, including in the wild. These creatures, called Familiars, each have their own unique sets of strengths, weaknesses, and attacks with specific uses in battle. Creatures can be “captured” and added to your roster or stored away in retreats throughout the world and switched out at any time to customize your party in the best way. Coupling both of these ideas, Ni No Kuni presents opportunities to both connect with characters and have the chance to continually meet new ones along the way.
3) Combat Combines the Best of Many Worlds
Riding on the notion of Familiars and capturing creatures throughout Ni No Kuni‘s campaign, the game’s combat borrows elements from other RPGs and blends them together in a format that’s anything but simple.
Oliver is armed with a wand he can use for both melee attacks and casting spells, but he isn’t necessarily the best go-to character in combat situations. Rather, you’ll want to turn to your Familiars for the bulk of the fighting.
Ni No Kuni couples classic JRPG turn-based strategy with real-time elements, making for a challenging scene when taking out enemies. You’ll control several Familiars at once, assigning attacks and actions to each as you navigate the battlefield and use tactics to capitalize on your enemy’s weak points. It borrows heavily from the combat of the Pokemon games, using different creatures and their abilities all while managing your own hit and magic points and making for a deep and complex battle system.
4) Captivating Art Style and World
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is made by legendary developer Level-5 alongside the famed Studio Ghibli, making for one hell of a collaboration in the game itself.
Ghibli was used mainly to provide the overall art design and aesthetic of the game, and it shows upon execution. Developers at Level-5 were careful to design the game in such a way that it would retain the same hand-drawn look and feel of a classic Studio Ghibli project, all while taking on a life of its own as a game. The result is a breathtaking design and aesthetic that lends much to the game’s whimsical feel and personality. The fantasy world Oliver travels into is lush and alive, with diverse environments and an overall feeling of being ripped straight from a fantasy-based Anime.
5) Not Just a Kid’s Game
Don’t let the look of Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch fool you; this is by no means a baby game. The game’s narrative itself deals with heavy and deep ideas of death, loyalty, and purpose, and the creation of the game’s whimsical world makes for an experience gamers of any age can appreciate.
On top of that, the combat system of the game alone is a deep and complex one rife with opportunities to use tactics and strategy in battle that other JRPGs in the past haven’t offered. It’s unique, it’s new, and it’s definitely a game that RPG and Anime fans alike should keep in mind when they pick up their new games this year.
Look for Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch on PS3 January 22.