Tonight I finally finished playing the PS3 RPG Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. I started this game February 7th, so it took me 171 days to finish it! That’s a pretty long time, especially considering it ended up being only 60 hours of actual game play time.
I went a few long stretches of not playing it at all, which is part of the reason for it taking so long. It also took two tries to finish the boss battle, which took about 20-30 minutes. The first try, I got distracted by my cat, missed the cue that a big attack was coming, and didn’t defend in time. Then I hit the wrong command in the brief moments I had to revive the two characters that dropped from the big attack.
As for my thoughts on the game as a whole…hmmm. I remember being super excited about the game when I first heard of it, I mean an RPG with the graphics by Studio Ghibli is pretty much an insta-buy unless the initial reviews were horrible, which they weren’t. I was late getting to the game though I didn’t have a PS3 when it first came out LOL.
When I started the game, I was seriously impressed with the graphics. It really was like playing a Ghibli film, with amazing detail to even the movement of the blades of grass under your feet. The settings are lush and the world is large, with a full wrap around world map. The soundtrack was also beautiful and perfectly crafted to match each scene and the mood of the game.
The opening “prologue”, so to speak, was a great start with a huge emotional punch that had me super excited about where the game was going. And then…
…it just sort of fell flat.
Once the game is started proper and our young hero, Oliver, is off the other world and you get past learning about the broken-hearted and Shadar and all, the bulk of the story seems consisted of “we need this! Go here! Got it, yay! Oh wait, it doesn’t work, you need these 3 things, go get them! We got them, yay! Oh, wait now we need…”
The first two times, it wasn’t so bad as it also advanced the story and gathered together Oliver’s team. Then the story almost took a backseat to fetching, fixing, rinse, repeat. It got to the point that even the game characters were making comments near the end when getting something new that didn’t work about “oh no, not another round of running around to fetch things.” Plus, it’s super slow going as you don’t get a decently fast mode of transportation until around 2/3rds through the game.
The optional tasks also consisted of a fairly monotonous set of tasks: several people you’d help in every town because everyone just travelled around together I guess, plus other predictable tasks and a few bounties. Much like many such RPGs the monsters were all a basic set (though a good-sized one) that simply changed strength, name, and minor visuals as they grew in level.
Still, the final two chapters of the story ramp the dramatic tension back up enough to really just kick butt and almost make up for the dragging bits! Some I’d kind of guessed, but still, there were twists I hadn’t seen and the revelations were great. It is fun seeing Oliver grow from a childish boy to a mature young man as he copes with the events of the game and becoming the hero meant to save a world he’d only just learned existed.
The gameplay itself was a mixed bag for me. The familiars were both fun for the variety and extremely frustrating as it became pretty clear early on that either you stuck with what you start with or you have to spend a ridiculous amount of time grinding to level up new ones later one to make them at all valuable.
I found it difficult to keep track of which was which and could never really figure out what made any of them significantly better other than elemental spells, so my Oliver kept his first familiar the whole game (fortunately Mitey kicks good butt). Once Oliver had a healthy dose of MP and spells, I mostly just used him for fights while the other two did whatever they wanted.
I did love the way the game blended turn-based and real-time fighting styles, with it pausing while you actually searched spells or provisions, but otherwise required you to keep on your toes and react quickly to situations. The delay between being able to repeat an action was, again, mildly frustrating, but also a good way to encourage strategizing battles, being mindful of action times, and trying to anticipate enemy moves before getting stuck.
One other mild area of frustration, at least for me, was the subtitles. As it had the original Japanese audio, I kept that on, but I finally ended up switching to English and the horrible accents because the subtitles were not subtitles, rather they were dubtitles, complete with using the English names even as you heard the Japanese ones being pronounced. *sigh*
All that said, overall I really did enjoy the game, even with the dragging bits, and I am curious to see what comes of the sequel that was announced last year, Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom. From the trailer, it seems to be set in the same world, but without Ghibli’s involvement for graphics (though same composer for the music), and is a sequel. However, since the announcement no other news has been heard, so much of that may still be up in the air.