It’s been quite a while since Namco Bandai Games first announced PS3-exclusive Ni No Kuni: Wrath of The White Witch. A collaborative effort between veteran RPG maker Level-5 and veteran animation house Studio Ghibli, Ni No Kuni promises to seamlessly blend Ghibli’s gorgeous art style with Level-5′s RPG chops for a completely unique experience not seen on PS3 until now. I went hands-on with the game at Namco Bandai’s recent media event in Las Vegas, exploring the lush world of Ni No Kuni, battling a plethora of creatures, and traversing through a pig-obsessed city appropriately titled Hamelin.
If you haven’t yet, check out the gorgeous new trailer for Ni No Kuni: Wrath of The White Witch above.
Oliver explores worlds both fantastical (left) and real-life (right) in Ni No Kuni.
If you’re unfamiliar with what Ni No Kuni is all about, here’s a quick refresher: players take on the role of Oliver, a young boy who has just lost his mother, as he searches for a way to find her again. As his tears fall on a doll given to him by his mother, the doll comes alive and leads him to a fantastical place, telling Oliver that he may be able to find his mother in this new world. Players will experience both the real and the fantastical worlds as the story goes on. It’s a very Ghibli-esque premise and one that suits the game’s presentation well.
It goes without saying that the first thing you’ll notice about Ni No Kuni is the striking visual style that Studio Ghibli and Level-5 have created within Ni No Kuni — it’s arguably the closest a developer has come to recreating the look and feel of Japanese animation within the confines of a video game. The cutscenes were created especially for Ni No Kuni by Studio Ghibli, and anyone familiar with the studio’s past work with films like Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away will instantly recognize their unique aesthetic. Just as impressive though, are the real-time graphics. The whole world of Ni No Kuni ebbs and flows just as effortlessly as the Ghibli-produced cutscenes, lending a truly cinematic feel to the whole experience.
One of the most crucial elements to any RPG is its battle system, and Ni No Kuni takes a unique approach to the typical elements that many RPGs share. First off, there are no random battles when roaming the world map. Enemy groups can be seen well in advance, giving players ample time to decide whether to avoid or engage. Once in battle, players are free to roam the enclosed battle environment with their character, while issuing group commands to other characters. Players can also switch control to other characters on the fly. Additionally, Ni No Kuni presents a “familiar” system, allowing each of the main characters to summon creatures to fight by their side, each possessing their own special abilities. In my experience with the game, it helped to consider each enemy group before devising a tactical strategy to take them down, making the battle system quite a breath of fresh air in the RPG world.
My hands-on time also gave me a chance to explore the wider world. In an area called Hamelin, which is appropriately titled as my party encountered a society run by a porcine president, I encountered a vast culture with dozens of townsfolk and areas to explore. The town itself was filled with armory and item shops, which in the demo were closed for business. That said, the town itself felt like an interactive Studio Ghibli film, with a host of zany characters and an elaborate boss fight that I won’t spoil here.
Suffice it to say that if you’re a fan of RPG games you’d be wise to watch out for Ni No Kuni: Wrath of The White Witch in early 2013. Keep your eye on the PlayStation.Blog for more details as we get closer to the release date of this promising PS3 exclusive.