Developed By: Level-5
Published By: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Platforms: Playstation 4, PC
Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch first launched on the Playstation 3 at 2011 and it was the first (and to date the only) game that Studio Ghibli was involved in. With the artistic talents from the renowned Japanese animation studio and creative game development from Level-5, the game was considered a major hit and even winning awards along the way. Thus, following the current trend of remastering old games, Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remastered has been hatched on current-gen platforms namely on the Playstation 4 and PC. Remastering a game can be a good opportunity to give the new generation of players to experience what they have missed out as well as for those who did not manage to get the chance to play it. Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remastered is actually one good prime example that not all good games can actually age well even if they were given a major facelift.
At the basis
Let’s start with the basis of things. The game begins with our protagonist, Oliver, a resident of Motorville is fated to be the child that will save the world. Unbeknownst to him, he is being watched by the White Witch who is pulling strings from afar to end his life. Unfortunately for Oliver, his mother’s life was taken instead. As he cried over the death of his mother, his tears dropped onto a doll which brought it to life. Drippy is the name of the doll and according to him, his and Oliver’s world are connected. This connection revolves between the people in Motorville and in the other world are called soulmates. Soulmates are a parallel version of the same person that also share the same soul but in different worlds. Drippy informs him that Oliver’s mother is the same and there is a way to save her at his world. And thus this begins Oliver story as he journeys into the other world to save his mother.
The story is nothing too spectacular but it has some merits. Firstly, the plotline is rather straightforward from the very beginning, making it easy to follow even for the younger audience. It does not add anything too complex to comprehend. Furthermore, the dialogues between characters are also easy to understand which further allow for players to be able to ease into the flow of the story. Secondly, the build-up in the story is well-paced. You won’t feel that it tries to rush on certain parts nor feels like a drag to follow. The usage of the usual anime-esque clichés, as well as cleverly used puns, are in here as well if you are fan of these sorts.
That said, it still as conventional as any other JRPGs out there. While Studio Ghibli had some influences in the game the story does lack that distinct Ghibli charm and while Level-5 are a competent studio, it still feels that the Japanese video game developer could really use some new unconventional ideas to freshen up their storytelling skills.
Beauty in the eyes, music to the ears
I just got to get this off from my chest. This game is absolutely gorgeous to look at. While graphics of this sort is not new but to see it in motion is an absolute wonder. This is also the first time that I find a remastered game look a lot better than the sequel, Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom. The bump in resolution really helps showcase the true beauty in its art style. That’s not to say that the original release back in 2011 wasn’t pretty but current tech brought even more out of it. The character models are stunning as well. Each character, especially their 3D models, looked a lot more polished and detailed.
Almost the entire game is beautiful however the best part of the game that actually looks stunning is actually the world map. The vibrancy in the colours and the sharpness in the contrast is so jaw-dropping to look at. I actually at one time, just put down the controller and just stare at the world map and soak in all of the tiny details that I can spot. Looking at the world map alone is like looking at a beautifully painted canvas. The cutscenes themselves are a huge pleasure to watch which are drawn beautifully by the talents from Studio Ghibli.
Each place that you will be visiting in the game, all of them have a unique and distinctive look to them. The town-ish charm in Motorville, the grand look in Ding Dong Dell Kingdom as well as the sandy deserts of Al Mamoon. All of them looked so well designed although the denizens in each of these places are very generic. Many of them are just another duplicate of another. Even more so for each town’s inn, weapon shop, as well other shops do not showcase each town’s unique personality and character. The NPC and their respective shop aesthetics all look identical. While there are other towns that do look different but those differences are very minor and not consistent with each town’s visual representation.
While the graphics department in this game is nothing short of spectacular, the music in this game is no exception. After all, the scores in this game are composed by renowned Japanese composer, Joe Hisaishi. From the music representation of each town which fits so perfectly well to the epic fanfare during some tense moments in boss fights, these music accompaniments enhance the experience and made playing the game a sheer joy. That said, I am a little disappointed in the normal battle music. That’s not to say that it was badly composed. It is a good composition. It is just the normal battles don’t last long enough for me to get into the best bits of the music. If the music is good, I would actually deliberately prolong the battle just to satiate my musical excitement. Unfortunately, I can’t do that much as the battle gameplay itself isn’t as exciting as the music itself.
On the other spectrum in the game’s audio. The voice acting in this game is pretty good for both English and Japanese voices. I am usually more towards the Japanese style of voices but I decided to go through with the English one during my first play-through and I actually like the voices from each character. While the Japanese voices are what you can come to expect, the English side incorporates more on different types of accent in many of its characters. For instance, Oliver is a very soft-spoken English lad that is both soothing and fits the pure boy persona while Drippy has that rough but lively Irish persona. All of which fits very well into each of the main characters.
Conventionals and Grinds
The gameplay mechanics in this remastered game is very conventional as well. Many of them are good and while some not so. The battle system here to me, unfortunately, falls onto the latter. In battle, everything happens in real-time but choosing a command has a cooldown time. You get a set of commands you can choose from attacks to casting spells and using provisional items. When you choose a command, you next choose a target and confirm. All very conventional and being conventional is fine for me as many JRPGs do still use this route. However, what I find rather unpleasant to play is how certain mechanics work. My number one issue in battle is how my AI-controlled party members are not very good at taking care of themselves. Many times, they would end up either not utilizing their skills properly or they can, at times, stand there do nothing. Which end up me trying to heal them more than I can stay on the offensive side of things.
This game incorporates a monster-catching system much like Pokemon which in this game’s case, they are called Familiars. In order to capture, you need to switch to a party member who is the only one that can do this. This to me this breaks the flow of battle. Furthermore, the chance to capture a defeated familiar is very random. There is an item or equipment that actually increases the chance to capture but all are under the reliance of pure grinding. While it can be cool to have a big roster of familiars at your disposal it does feel odd that the game has only three human party members. Majority of times you would be relying a lot more on your well-fed and trained familiars more than your human party members. That’s not to say it is actually a bad thing but seeing how each battle plays our mechanically and inflow, it can really feel very rigid and restrictive.
And grinding is what you be doing a lot. Much like in Pokemon, you get to feed food to them in order to increase certain parameters as well as increasing their affection towards you. Some foods are favourite to certain types of familiar which mean you will level up their parameters much faster. You can also evolve your familiars to new forms or in this case, it is called metamorphosis. In order to unlock their new forms, you need a specific Drop item to feed them. After the metamorphoses, your new familiar will have its level reset to one while the parameters can be increased further. There are plenty of familiars to catch and to metamorphosize them but getting the Drop requires an abundance of grinding and the higher the metamorphosis, the rarer the certain Drop is to obtain.
You probably read the word grind far more than once that’s because it will be something you would be doing a lot in this game. Apart from those Drop items, money is very much needed as many items you wish to buy are pretty expensive even in the early stages of the game. Furthermore, if you do fall in battle, you will lose 10% of your current amount which to me is a very inappropriate choice to penalty the player.
While there are other mechanics such as alchemy which you will be utilizing a lot especially when you lack money to buy certain items, you will still need to try to grind out some of the materials needed in order to craft those items.
What I Really Liked
- Visually looks stunning and a lot better than its sequel.
- character models already looked good originally but the upscale and resolution made them look even better.
- Anime cutscenes bring in the Studio Ghibli vibe which is a good thing
- The story does not take itself too serious hence easy to follow but heavy on the anime-esque clichés
- Voice acting for both English and Japanese are well done
- Music by Joe Hisaishi is huge boost in every section of the game you are at.
What I didn’t like
- Battle gameplay is rather slow-paced and unenthusiastic.
- AI party members are not good taking care of themselves.
- Only three human party members, the majority made up with familiars
- Dumbfounded why take away 10% of your money when dying.
- Capturing a familiar feeling like a chore.
- Grind money, grind familiars, grind materials. This game is a heavy grind.
- To upgrade familiars, you need items which again you need to grind it out.
In retrospect, Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remastered, isn’t a bad game at all. In fact, it is a good quality game. Playing the game allowed me to understand why this was considered one of the best JRPG’s that was ever released during the PS3 days. However, for it to come at a time when there are tons of JRPGs out there making some changes and improvements over the generic formula make this Remastered addition a tricky one to enjoy even if it is a very well-made game. Some things just don’t age very well. Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch as it stands, adds nothing other than beautiful graphics.
It is a good walk back on the memory lane but depending on the time and the shift of trends, remastering a game is indeed a tricky business.
If you have not played the game before, this is a good chance for you to do. However, If you have played it, then I can safely say you can give this a skip as there are newer games out there that are worth playing unless you do actually miss playing it.