Undeniably one of the most anticipated role-playing games (RPGs) coming to current-generation systems in the next twelve months, the confirmation of a western release for Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch was unsurprisingly met with a great amount of enthusiasm. So much so in fact that it stands to eclipse all other PlayStation 3 exclusive titles set for release in early 2012, and judging by the hands-on experience Electronic Theatre was recently presented with, the enviable position Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch finds itself in is most certainly merited.
From the very start of the videogame, Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch promotes an imaginative variety of characters with some truly unique voice casting. Designed by the critically acclaimed Studio Ghibli, the cast is a credit to their stable even before taking into account the unique visual presentation. The opening sequence sets the scene of a mischievous young boy and his friend, Oliver and Phillip, who have a destiny completely removed from their every day activities. The untimely death of Oliver’s mother sets a wheel in motion that sees him becomes more and more restless in his own world. As Drippy, a strange fairy turned into a doll by a spell, breaks his Wrath via Oliver’s tears, he tells our hero of parallel worlds and evil megalomaniacs.
After the gentle introduction to the characters and their world, the exploration and puzzling mechanics, Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch gets stuck in to the real meat of its design. The world map is a gorgeous, brightly coloured series of rolling hills, mountain ranges and forests. Towns nestle snugly in valleys and rivers run peacefully alongside lush green plains. Well, that is the case at the start of the videogame, exactly where your adventure will take you is not yet known.
Combat is a strange combination of real-time movement and time limited attacks, clearly influenced by the Tales Of franchise. Battles are typically entered into willingly as enemies are shown on the screen as is the case with the most recent entries in the Dragon Quest series, as opposed to random encounters ala Final Fantasy. There are two difficulty settings available at the start of Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch which only come into play at this point, as they affect nothing else but the combat. And of course, Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch falls foul to that age-old trap of asking the player which difficulty is suitable for them without even offering them a taste of what each entails. It’s an unfortunate issue, but if this is the only grievance Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch offers then players are in for a remarkable adventure when Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch arrives early next year.
A hearty mix of traditional RPG values, stunning visual design and intended innovation, Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is not a videogame to be swept aside in any regard. It’s an experience designed to be savoured, and even this far from release it shows signs of being the perfect example of a videogame which is more than the sum of it’s parts. There’s no doubt that Namco Bandai is on to a winner with the western release of Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, but if the videogame can manage to deliver forty hours at the same quality as the first two, they’ll have a potential ‘game of the year’ on their hands before 2013 has even kicked into gear.