Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch was one of the few JRPGs that were able to make a big splash during the last generation. If you talk about the prominent JRPGs during that generation, Xenoblade Chronicles and Ni No Kuni should easily make the list. It was released as an exclusive for the PS3 while a stripped-down version of the game also launched for the Nintendo DS.
Ni No Kuni offers a fantasy world which tickles your imagination. The opening chapter beautifully encapsulates this feeling by immediately pulling the player into a mythical world where they encounter magical creatures and gorgeous landscapes. All of this is in contrast to the main character’s life himself. Oliver is a young boy who lives along with his mother in the town of Motorville. This is a modern town that has nothing to do with any fantasy and magical creatures but it still plays an important role in the fate of the world.
One fateful day, Olive decides to test a new prototype vehicle that is built by his friend Phillip. It, unfortunately, ends up in a crash that almost kills him if not for his mother that saves him from certain death. Oliver’s mother dies after the accident due to her weak heart condition leaving him to mourn her death. He ends up finding a toy that was given to him by his mother called Drippy. Oliver’s tears bring that toy to life and thus begins a journey that feels like another animated movie developed by Studio Ghibli.
Drippy tells Oliver about a new magical other world and shows a way that might make it possible to bring back his mother. This sets Oliver on a quest to not only save the new world but also help bring her mother back to life. In the backdrop of this accident is the cunning White Witch who has a mysterious role in the fate of this world. This other world is completely different than what Oliver has seen so far. It is also threated and ruled by a dark djinn called Shadar. Oliver now has to figure out how to kill this dark djinn while also bringing her mother back to life in his world.
Ni No Kuni was originally released for the PS3 but despite launching years ago, the art style of the game helps make it look gorgeous. There are plenty of animated cutscenes in the game which were developed by Studio Ghibli and they are used to advance the story. The remastered version of Ni No Kuni is also only available for the PS4 and PC. If you have bought the Nintendo Switch version, there is some difference between both consoles.
First up, the Switch version lacks details and clarity. Visual quality is stripped down, animated cutscenes run at a lower bitrate, and the frame rate itself has been halved from the remastered version. It does offer the player a perfectly playable portable version that works fine. It might lack the shine and polish of the remastered version but if you have never played the game in the past, it is not a bad way to go through it. In my experience, there weren’t that many bugs in this version although I am aware that there are reports out there of the game suffering from some issues on the Nintendo Switch.
Next up is the remastered version and honestly, this is the ideal way to experience Ni No Kuni if you are replaying it a second time. On the PS4 Pro, you get the choice of running the game at 1440p with a 60 FPS target or go full native 4K with 30 FPS. In my opinion, the 60 FPS mode offers much better quality and experience than the native 4K one. The art style looks good with a higher resolution but the responsive controls in 60 FPS make combat play more smoothly. Animated cutscenes also run at a higher resolution and bitrate on the PS4 and hence look much better.
Coming back to the game itself, it follows the established JRPG formula that has proven to be a success in many of the cult classics. You have an active combat system where you control Oliver but the meat of this combat system relies on sidekicks called Familiars. You will be able to capture the familiars and then use them in battle. Oliver himself can also use magic or abilities to attack in battle. As you dig deep into the story, new members can join your party. At this point, you can use commands to issue them various strategies like attacking or defending from enemy attacks.
Ni No Kuni Remastered also has arguably the best sidekick in a JRPG, with the addition of Drippy. I missed this little cute fairy so much and I didn’t realize it until I encountered him again. His way of talking is very unique from the other characters you encounter in the game and he also gets his satisfying story arc that helps develop his character. Drippy guides Oliver through the various trials and tribulations that he has to face in this other magical world. He also occasionally provides comedic relief with his dialogue. The writing of Ni No Kuni is highly enjoyable and doesn’t make you cringe, unlike most other JRPGs.
While Bandai Namco has released a sequel to Ni No Kuni, the first game still offer many things that are better than its sequel. Combat might be a letdown due to how arbitrary it feels unlike the sequel where the focus was on full-on action–but the story, character development, the world itself, is far better presented in this game. It is a JRPG that shouldn’t be missed especially if Studio Ghibli animations are your thing.