Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch – Hands On Impressions

Ni no Kuni @ Bandai Namco StandResting in the furthest left hand corner of Namco Bandai‘s stand is a broad, illustrative poster of a young hero and a simple stand decorated with PlayStation3 controllers and the words Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch.

Announced for a European release in January 2013, Ni no Kuni is the long awaited collaboration between fan-favourite games company Level-5 and internationally renown animation studio, Studio Ghibli. Having debuted in Japan in 2010 on the Nintendo DS and 2011 on the PS3Ni no Kuni has been favourably received, already garnering many fans. A title eagerly anticipated by fans in America and Europe, it was rated 38 out of 40 on DS by Weekly Famitsu in its native country.

This October, as part of their corner of the exhibition, Namco Bandai have brought Ni no Kuni to MCM Expo, providing a lavish teaser of the finished game and exhibiting two early levels for attendees to sample. 

From the moment the game begins, one of the most striking characteristics is the musical score, provided here by long term Studio Ghibli composer, Joe Hisaishi. It is at once impossible not to warm to his music, Hisaishi’s every note setting the tone for the game’s adventure.

The character designs of the game are likewise infused with the warmth and familiarity of previous Studio Ghibli animated features, the main hero Oliver appearing very similar to Markl from Howl’s Moving Castle. It is a disarming experience, a moment in which the game completely manages to win you over through the relation of it’s sound and imagery.

The game play itself is fairly unassuming, an RPG illustrated with elements of action games, somewhere between Dragon Quest and The Legend of Zelda.

Of the two levels available to play, it is the time-challenge of the erupting volcano that truly engrosses. A sense of urgency is present without ever becoming frustrating; the game urges you on, drives you forward to plot your best course up the mountain path, to plan your way ahead and avoid random battles in order to defeat the boss within the strict three minute time limit.

Combat itself is fairly standard, a turn-based affair enlivened by the beautifully constructed animation. Comparative with the standard for turn-based combat in next gen games set by Final Fantasy XII, battles are simple and intuitive, allowing players to send Oliver into battle, or to favour one of the many doll companions that join him throughout the progression of the game.

It is at once charming and simple, capable of drawing the player into the experience as well as challenging them to progress.

As a whole, Ni no Kuni presents a welcoming opening, a scenario which promises to progress through the story’s trials and tribulations without leaving the player behind.

A welcome addition to the changing manner in which turn-based titles are reinventing themselves, Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch looks to be one of the most exciting releases on the horizon for the post-Christmas period.

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