Review – Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remastered

Originally released in 2011, Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch was actually an enhanced version of a DS game released a year prior. At the time, it was a PS3 exclusive, a console I did not own then and still don’t own to this day. It was one of those games that always made me want to buy a used PS3 just so I could experience it, alongside a few Yakuza titles as well as Resistance. That was until Bandai Namco announced a remastered version of the game for modern consoles, with the exception of the poor Xbox One. I could finally play Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch and find out what I have been missing.

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Putting Studio Ghibli’s storytelling skills to the test.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way, shall we? Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is one of the most gosh darn beautiful games ever conceived. The Studio Ghibli (Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Ponyo) art style is instantly recognizable and looks fantastic to this day. It’s like as if the game hasn’t aged a single minute ever since it was released years ago. Everything, from characters to environments, is just pleasing to the eyes. The fully animated cutscenes feature the same quality as Studio Ghibli’s best works, making you want to progress through the story in order to be rewarded with another beautiful clip. The framerate is equally fantastic and the characters look like proper cartoons, even though they’re polygonal.

The same can be said about the sound design. From the second Ni No Kuni starts, you’re greeted to a big orchestral tune that makes you feel like you’re on an epic journey, and it never slows down from then on. The soundtrack is incredibly well-composed, making even the most mundane of tasks, such as traversing a forest in the beginning of the game, sound like the climax of most adventures games or movies. The voice acting is also pretty good. At first, I thought I’d hate it, given how the game’s protagonists are a little kid and a comic relief with a Scottish accent. I ended up warming up to both, to the point I started caring about them and even laughed a few times due to their dialogue exchanges.

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Every cartoon/movie/game animated by Ghibli always has these dead-eyed monsters with simple faces.

The gameplay is where people will either love or hate Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. It features tons of typical elements from the most common of JRPGs, such as leveling up, various equipment, a bit of grinding (but nothing too absurd), item crafting, puzzle-solving, sidequests, and an overworld populated by monsters and NPCs. There is also a bit of Pokémon thrown into the mix. You can fight alongside little creatures called “familiars” and you can capture and train them. It’s like as if Ni No Kuni saw everything that had ever been added to a JRPG prior to its release and decided to include it in its gameplay in order to try to appeal to every niche possible.

The combat system is very divisive. It feels a bit like a mix between a Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts game. It’s not exactly turn-based, as you can freely walk around the small arena you’re confined to, but it’s not a full action RPG system either. You walk around and then select your actions, such as a normal attack or a spell, with each action featuring a small cooldown to prevent you from spamming them. You can also collect health and magic restoring items if you either kill an enemy or successfully defend an attack. It’s a bit confusing, as the game takes an eternity to explain you all of its features, to the point it even acknowledges that there is too much to learn. Even though I did enjoy the combat system, as it allows for a lot of different strategies, I wouldn’t try to argue against someone who ended up disliking the game because of it.

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It’s like a bit of Final Fantasy, and a bit of Pokémon, and a bit of Kingdom Hearts, and a bit of…

If someone had told me that this game wasn’t a remaster of a title originally released eight years ago, I would have totally believed them. Ni No Kuni hasn’t aged a bit. It looks astonishing, it features and epic soundtrack, it runs well and it has a metric ton of content. I’m delighted that I have finally played it, as it is a true testament of how video games can (and should) be considered art, even if it does feature a few annoying issues due to its excessively convoluted combat system.

 

Graphics: 10

Ni No Kuni is one of the most gorgeous games ever made thanks to its fantastic Studio Ghibli art style. It hasn’t aged a single minute ever since it got released.

Gameplay: 8.0

Even though the combat system is fluid and unique, it does feature way more mechanics than it should. Plus, the game doesn’t do a good job at properly teaching all of its tropes right from the start.

Sound: 10

A surprisingly good voice acting, even funny at times. It also has a phenomenal orchestral score that makes every single battle encounter or dungeon exploration sound even more epic.

Fun Factor: 8.0

There is a lot to enjoy in Ni No Kuni, from its fantastic production values to its Pokémon-esque gameplay. Its story, while featuring lots of Studio Ghibli tropes, is also well written and endearing. It doesn’t reinvent the JRPG wheel, but it more than satiates those looking for something more in the genre.

Final Verdict: 8.5

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remastered is available now on PS4, PC and Switch.

Reviewed on PS4.

A copy of Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remastered was provided by the publisher.