Despite reportedly being fairly close to completion, the long awaited western release of Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is still some months away. As such, Namco Bandai Games are keen to show off the title that has already been considered as one of the finest role-playing games (RPGs) on current-generation, and with good reason. With Electronic Theatre’s first playtest Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch was referred to as ‘an experience designed to be savoured,’ after a second opportunity, it’s one we can’t wait to loose our lives to.
This latest preview build featured two brand new areas separated entirely by a menu option. Party and equipment decisions had already been made, and so Electronic Theatre’s only option was to venture forth and explore. Or in the case of the ‘Eruption Interruption!’ mission, rush up the side of a volcano to the summit. Three minutes on the clock, constantly ticking down as the on-screen enemies try to rush our hero and initiate a battle, making the task more difficult than it may have seemed at first. Thankfully, our new ally and three new combat pets make for relatively short work of the opposition.
Working as a team with an automated command prompt for each pet controlled by the videogame’s artificial intelligence (AI) – which was also predetermined, but still remained available to customise – the player could use these pets to set up enemies for combo strikes. A quick attack here or a heavy blow there would whittle away enemy health, but strategic planning of your current pet and the abilities of your AI support made for much swifter progression; in particular, playing a support role, biding your time and waiting for a stun manoeuvre to charge, allowed for the heavy hitting allies to land strikes unhindered, often felling the weaker foes in one hit.
The second area available was even briefer for those well versed in the ways of modern RPGs. The mission ‘An Errand for Father Oak’ was clearly cut from a larger chapter of Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch’s adventure, but regardless of it’s brevity the action proved to be just as enticing as any other slice of the action. A dark, densely wooded forest land played host to a boss fight. A giant green beast with trees sprouting from its back proved once again that the design team has taken familiar and traditional RPG tropes and remodelled them with the kind of panache that Studio Ghibli has become famous for. There were no new characters or combat pets available in this sequence, and as such Electronic Theatre was merely reinforcing all that the videogame had taught thus far; it’s a case of being smart with your abilities and knowing each of your pets’ weaknesses as you charge as an aggressor and then retreat on the defensive waiting for your cooldowns to end.
While largely presenting the combat element of Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, this latest preview build once again reinforced the ideal that Namco Bandai Games are set to present an RPG that can be everything to everyone all at once. Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is a beautifully presented, deep and engrossing gameplay experience, and as far as Electronic Theatre is concerned, it’s January 2013 release date can’t come soon enough.