"That Good Old Feeling of Magic and Beauty"
I desire much in a JRPG. I've been playing them since the dawn of time (or at least Dragon Warrior/Quest for the NES), and I have seen my fair share. These days I've been missing a good game from the genre that can spin me a clean and simple story. I want one that doesn't forget to be beautiful, while still delivering an exciting battle system. I miss JRPGs with plots and characters that aren't rehashes of old Final Fantasy tropes or attempts at making the old stuff seem more edgy. I desire an RPG that can still be retro but feel new. I guess that may be asking a lot. I was skeptical that Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch could deliver all these things to a tired, old RPG gamer. Boy, was I wrong to feel that way!
You can tell right off the bat that Ni No Kuni looks essentially like a Miyazaki film come to life in video game form. That's because, of course, Studio Ghibli has designed and animated the game. It's almost impossible not to dive right into talking about the graphics and design of Ni No Kuni, because this is essentially one of the most gorgeous RPGs seen in years. Yes, Final Fantasy XIII may have looked pretty, but Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is unique and gorgeous, giving off a fantastical aura that JRPGs have often missed in the past years.
The score by Joe Hisaishi is simply wonderful too, with the Tokyo Philharmonic playing the pieces and in turn making Ni No Kuni feel even more like a Miyazaki film masterpiece. The voice work is fairly masterful too, and it very rarely falters. Amazingly, even your fairy companion Drippy, with his heavily accented fast-talk, is surprisingly charming. As far as world building, Ni No Kuni excels at it, and that is something you just have to experience for yourself.
Ni No Kuni offers your basic JRPG gameplay fare in a classic sense: running around from town to town, fighting enemies on the overworld, hitting save spots, and fighting bosses at the end of a dungeon. It's actually quite refreshing to go back to this old style of nearly uncomplicated gameplay. Battles, however, are spiced up with the use of familiars (which are little creatures sent out to attack for you), and the addition of orb-collecting helps. What I mean is, you can run around freely on the battle screen, and these orbs which help replenish HP and MP, pop out of enemies after attacking them. This system alleviates potion fatigue and turns these "random" battles into much more than that. Switching out familiars and going back to your character to cast spells surprisingly doesn't feel Pokémon-ish at all. Feeding your familiars snacks will boosts their stats, and everything meshes together quickly and smoothly.
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