A Faithful Remaster
Blending the best elements of Final Fantasy, anime and Pokemon, Ni No Kuni’s arrival on the PlayStation 3 was met with critical acclaim when it dropped back in 2011. The game was certainly not without its issues though but this 50+ hour adventure was well written, well paced and incredibly fun to play. Returning to the current generation of consoles, Ni No Kuni: Wrath Of The White Witch adds updated graphics and a smoother frame-rate but gameplay-wise remains the exact same game that launched all those years ago.
If this is your first venture into the world of Ni No Kuni, the story is pretty easy to grasp although it does take a while to get going. Expect to spend a good chunk of time in Motorville completing errands and getting used to the gameplay mechanics. It’s here Oliver’s Mother dies from heart problems and as he cries, his tears bring to life his doll, a grumpy Welsh faerie named Drippy. He tells Oliver he needs to pick up his wand and join him on a magical journey to the “Other World” where an evil wizard named Shadar has taken over. What ensues from here is a fantastical adventure that sees Oliver travel across into this bright, vibrant world, collecting familiars to train up alongside you before the climactic fight at the end with the infamous white witch.
The plot itself is pretty good and aesthetically the game blends those hand-drawn Studio Ghibli cut-scenes perfectly with the more vibrant feel of the world itself. Make no mistake about it, the game is tonally identical to its PlayStation 3 counterpart although there’s a good amount of touching up here to give the world more polish, bringing it up to scratch on the PlayStation 4.
Of course, the game itself is dripping in charm and from the outset, everything from the character design and plot development, right the way through to Drippy’s overuse of “flipping” adds to that uniqueness that made the first Ni No Kuni so compelling. While I personally feel the second game improved on most of its gameplay mechanics in the best possible way, the first game is a reminder of the foundations laid for that game to follow.
One of the biggest improvements the second game made was with its battle system and here Ni No Kuni really shows its age with this turn-based battling. Each battle sees you take the reigns with the ability to call out familiars to fight for you, where you queue up moves for these little creatures to perform. With a small window to complete these moves, where you are on the battlefield makes a huge difference to how well you perform. Too far away from enemies and the familiars will suddenly stop before completing their move and stand aimlessly around. Too close and your familiar runs into the danger of being hit with more attacks by the enemy. It’s a delicate balance and one of the biggest gripes with the original game, something that hasn’t been addressed here and will probably wind up becoming more of a hindrance than before, especially after playing the second game.
Much like Pokemon though, there’s something endlessly endearing about capturing creatures and training them up to battle for you. Ni No Kuni nailed this idea in the first game and this part is very much welcome again. Unlike Pokemon’s surprisingly balanced battling, Ni No Kuni will probably see you sticking to a preferred two or three familiars and training them up to such a level that they can steam-roll through everything. Toward the end this is particularly problematic, especially if you’ve taken the time to level them up, although the final boss is challenging, with multiple forms to battle in true JRPG fashion.
While it’s been a while since I played the original back on Playstation 3, Ni No Kuni: Wrath Of The White Witch is a faithful remaster and well worth checking out if you haven’t played that one. This remaster brings back all sorts of nostalgic bursts with its various cut scenes and plot twists, bringing a true appreciation to how good this game was all those years ago. While I personally feel Ni No Kuni II is the better game thanks to its improved gameplay and battling, the original game certainly laid the foundation for that to improve upon.
Despite the gripes I have with the battle system itself, there’s enough here to make for an enjoyable game nonetheless. Make no mistake about it though, for better or worse this is the exact same game from the Playstation 3 era but if it’s one you haven’t experience before, Ni No Kuni is a flipping good game and worth checking out.
All of our videogame reviews are also featured on OpenCritic
Verdict - 7.5/10