Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is an incredible JRPG and it's now available for modern consoles in a new Remastered iteration.
The Japanese animation company Studio Ghibli worked with game developer Level 5 to produce a one-of-a-kind IP back in 2010 for DS. Since then, it arrived on western shores in 2013 with a remake titled Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch for PlayStation 3. Now, we're treated to a Remastered version of this timeless classic.
I pre-ordered then played Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch on the day that it released. Although I'm not a huge fan of anime, when I saw that Level 5 was developing a game with an acclaimed anime film studio, I knew that I had to play it as I'm one of the biggest Level 5 fans out there. Ni no Kuni had me hooked from the moment I booted it up. The colourful animated world tied beautifully into the innocent and emotional story of a little boy named Oliver who's on a journey to save his mother. With this remaster now available on PlayStation 4, there's simply no excuse to miss playing this gem if you're even remotely interested in RPGs.
In Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, you play as Oliver who teams up with a fairy friend named Drippy who he meets soon after experiencing a tragic event. This fairy is a babbling Welsh familiar who loves to drop the words "mun" and "tidy" into every other sentence which I relate to because I grew up near the Welsh border. Throughout the story of Wrath of the White Witch, Oliver meets characters from all walks of life as he traverses another world and uses his magic wand to travel between his hometown of Motorville and this new world. He encounters many folks who appear to have a twin in the opposite world and it's pretty evident that Studio Ghibli played a part in the development of Wrath of the White Witch given the creativity of the characters that you meet along the way.
When Oliver needs to figure something out to continue on his quest in the other world, he will often travel back to Motorville to find a character's twin and get more information about the problem at hand. For example, he looks for a cat in Motorville and finds it chasing rats while the Cat King in the other world is fighting rats in the sewers. This constant switching between 2 worlds drives home how Oliver is depending on his travels in the other world to help him work through his grieving in the real world. The story also does a great job of taking real emotions that Oliver and his friends are dealing with and solidifying them into a game mechanic that involves taking "heart" (such as enthusiasm, courage, or kindness) from a character who has some to spare and giving it to another who needs it.
The other world is a vast land full of rolling hills, autumn forests, wintery landscapes, and a lot of your typical JRPG settings. I thoroughly enjoy being able to traverse the overworld without any loading screens. Plus, fighting and recruiting monsters as well as searching for hidden treasures and gathering spots is rewarding and exploration and combat transition well into each other.
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch looks fantastic on my OLED TV and it should because the graphics have been remastered to 1080p with 60 frames per second. Also, PlayStation 4 Pro owners can choose between 4K resolution at 30fps and 1440p at 60fps. Anyway, it also does a great job of mixing the anime characters with the more detailed elements of the world around them. Some of the scenery is quite breathtaking, especially when combined with the original orchestral soundtrack performed by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra. Unfortunately, the graphical quality seems to be the only thing that has been improved in this Remastered version and although it's definitely appreciated, it would have been great to see extra characters, story elements, and sidequests.
The monster collecting in Wrath of the White Witch is the biggest thing that I missed in the sequel and it's awesome to experience it again. Initially, Oliver uses his familiar friend Drippy to fight battles alongside him. He then recruits more monsters and each party member who joins him is also able to recruit up to 3 monsters each. Monsters have their own abilities, affinities, and favourite food. They level up and can take up to 4 different forms, too. It's a real joy when you see the little pink hearts show above a monster's head which indicates that you can recruit them and this whole system adds a welcome layer of replay value, especially for completionists.
You're free to move around battles and you're often required to do so strategically. You'll want to hit the enemy from behind and dodge its attacks to survive some of the tougher battles. You'll also swap out monsters for ones with necessary skills to strike weak spots as well as defend, evade, and heal when necessary. It's quite an enjoyable system that never makes me feel like I'm passively playing.
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch will always be one of the best JRPGs ever. It perfectly combines a heartfelt story of a young lad on a mission with supremely enjoyable gameplay all set in a breathtaking world.
- + Engaging story and endearing characters
- + Variety of visuals looks fantastic in high resolution with a smooth frame rate
- + Fun battle system and monster recruiting
- - No enhancements other than graphical