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Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Review

  • First Released Jan 22, 2013
  • Reviewed Jan 22, 2013
  • PS3

The witty, beautiful, and endlessly creative Ni no Kuni is a treasure not to be missed.

What a delight Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is! It's charming but never cloying, complementing its vibrant cel-shaded art and good-natured child star with plentiful doses of wit and joy. The clever dialogue dips into a bottomless well of puns, keeping you grinning wide, if not laughing out loud at the constant goofiness. More importantly, this Japanese role-playing game possesses great soul, exploring a son's love for his mother, and the vast expanses he's prepared to cross in the hopes of a reunion. Hearts are broken and restored, hidden motives are revealed, and lost relationships again blossom, even after great evil has torn them asunder. This is a wonderful world that you will be eager to lose countless hours in as you adventure through its enticing realms.

Oliver is the cherry-cheeked center of Ni no Kuni--the boy who would save the world, as so many youngsters do in RPGs. But the world he saves isn't his own. Oliver lives in Motorville, an Anytown, U.S.A. sort of place--the kind you might see depicted in a Norman Rockwell painting. Children laugh and play, cars drive slowly along the shrubbery-lined streets, and mothers shop for bottles of milk and sacks of foodstuffs. On the occasions you visit Motorville throughout the game, your travels are accompanied by slurring violins and trilling flutes and oboes. The music tells you all you must know in just a few notes: Oliver's world is idyllic, and his childhood untroubled by cares of the adult world.

This all changes drastically when Oliver's mother dies, saving his life after his reckless motorcar antics. But there is a whisper of hope amid the grief: mom has a soul twin--a great sage living in a fantasy world, currently trapped by a villainous fiend called Shadar. For Oliver, Shadar's defeat means the possible liberation of his mother from death itself. For the denizens of the parallel world, it means liberation from his magical tyranny--or so their story goes.

Thus begins your journey alongside a heartbroken young boy desperate to restore order to his life and his world. Oliver is the soul of the adventure--and his companion Drippy is the wit. Drippy is hardly mere comic relief, but his enthusiasm is infectious. He frequently refers to himself as High Lord of the Fairies in a delightful Welsh accent, egging Oliver on during moments of uncertainty. It's in Ni no Kuni's most surreal scenarios that Drippy's dialogue tickles the most--places where lines like "These littlies are nowhere near as fragile as they are egg-looking!" make a silly sort of sense. His follow-up line: "When I was their age, I ate squid for breakfast! Proper hard I was!" Drippy's a wonderful sidekick (though Drippy sees you as his sidekick, to be fair), and remains a joy, even 60 or more hours in.

Darling, it's better down where it's wetter, take it from me.
Darling, it's better down where it's wetter, take it from me.

As you traverse the overworld and its various cities and dungeons, the squat Drippy skips merrily along, a lantern pierced through his nose. His boundless energy occasionally causes him to stumble, but he bounces right back into gear without ever losing his goofy smile. He's an instant classic of a character, brought to life by fantastic voice acting, a trait the character shares with the entire cast. Oliver's young actor hits just the right balance: endearing and gung-ho, but rarely sickeningly sweet. Fantastical characters like Ding Dong Dell's King Tom--a feline ruler referred to as His Meowjesty--are uplifted by fun, sincere line readings that never cross over into self-parody.

The result is a world you love to be in, which is just as well: even as the game seems to wrap up its story with an emotionally satisfying conclusion, it presses forward, refusing to let plot threads dangle, and uprooting any sense of complacency. The whimsy of the writing is matched by the whimsy of the world and the situations you encounter. This is a game in which you explore the pastel-colored innards of a giant wobbling mother before she fancifully erupts and you experience a second birth of sorts. Unusual? Yes--but also utterly enchanting. Even the smallest moments deliver glee. A llama with a gourmet appetite wants yummies. A traveler keeps misplacing his diary. A wannabe diva of a molten monster warbles a few notes that could break a champagne glass. This is a world of wild imagination, and so you pursue every side quest and peek into every nook, knowing that a surprise lies in wait.

All of those nooks burst with beauty, and become even more varied as you explore further. When you first arrive in the overworld near Ding Dong Dell, you'll be enthralled by the sun-drenched meadows and glistening waterways. But later, you roam golden deserts, icy plateaus, and misty swamps, where the eyes of crooked trees look upon you in displeasure. Cel-shaded games often sacrifice detail in lieu of bold outlines and primary colors, but Ni no Kuni doesn't use its style as a crutch. Rather, the cartoonish visuals are heightened by extraordinary visual details. In a Motorville shop, each storefront and hanging flower planter is given careful attention, making it the hometown you wish you had grown up in. As you make your way towards a village, your party visibly shivers from the cold. These excellent small touches are crucial in creating a sense of wonder.

Shadar does not speak for the rest of us.
Shadar does not speak for the rest of us.

The impact of the fantastic soundtrack cannot be overstated. A fairy village in Ni no Kuni isn't like a fairy village in any other game, and the music reflects as much. When you enter, the oom-pa-pas of tubas lend this place the exact right kind of circus atmosphere. Explore a dungeon and you hear a rising scale motif, which in turn raises the tension. And then there comes a moment when Oliver's friend Esther raises a musical instrument in song, warmly intoning the game's main theme without additional accompaniment. And it's here you recognize how much meaning this one tune possesses--and how amazing it is that it never grows tiresome, but rather, gains emotional power over time.

Much of the success of a role-playing game hinges on its world, its people, and its story, and Ni no Kuni is thankfully rich in all of those areas. But generally, interacting with the game is as joyous as watching and hearing it. Structurally, the game is much like many RPGs to come before it. Towns and dungeons are linked together by a massive overworld that you first navigate on foot, then by boat. Even later, you navigate by dragon, soaring through the skies with ease from one locale to the next. You also unlock the ability to quick travel to and from places you've already been, but in this world, such conveniences must be earned by dedicating a couple dozen hours first.

Not every area you visit is bright and cheery.
Not every area you visit is bright and cheery.

You spend a lot of time in combat. Connecting with enemies initiates battle, and Oliver is joined by two other party members on the field. But Oliver and his buddies don't have to do the fighting on their own, though they certainly can if you wish them to. Instead, they usually deploy creatures to do it for them, Pokemon-style. Each party member can equip up to three familiars, which means you have as many as 12 combatants at your disposal during battle, though only three at any given time. You gather creatures by fighting them: every so often, Esther gets the random chance to lull one into submission. You can then name the creature and add it to your stable

The action is typically a lot of fun. During combat, you control only one character/familiar at a time; the AI handles the other two participants. The action isn't exactly real-time, but you still maintain direct control, maneuvering into effective position to attack, defend, or unleash magic or other special skills. In the most challenging skirmishes, you must pay close attention to visual indicators to take a defensive position at just the right time, or to interrupt a creature's attack with a well-timed strike.

Later hours can have you flipping back and forth between characters madly, trying to maintain a proper balance of healing, offense, and defense, all the while being aware of your opponent's weaknesses, and trying to nab the healing and mana orbs they occasionally drop. Such battles are highly entertaining, and once all the systems are in place, you can rarely afford to be complacent.

There's no finer way to get around in all the land.
There's no finer way to get around in all the land.

Familiars level separately from their handlers, so the majority of battles end with a pronouncement that at least one pet or another has gained a level. (Fortunately, your 9 active pets gain experience even if you don't order them into combat.) The constant notifications give you a great sense of progress, which is important given the amount of grinding needed to keep a decent number of creatures ready for battle. Newly-captured familiars are weaklings, and it takes time to get them in tip-top shape. And even after spending significant time with them, some familiars just aren't that effective, rarely (if ever) getting used because there are battle-ready creatures that you've already leveled up. As a result, you'll probably have a number of reliable pets you keep with you at all times, and will switch out a few other slots here and there to take advantage of particular magical skills--or just for the thrill of seeing a new pet in action.

You can set basic behaviors for the AI party members during combat, but you don't have as many options as you do in the Tales game series, whose combat system bears a passing resemblance to Ni no Kuni's. It would have been nice if the game allowed you to set these behaviors outside of combat, but at least you have the option to do so during a fight. Given how quick the AI is to waste its magical energy when given the chance, nudging them in the right direction is crucial to success. Combat exhibits other quirks too: familiars getting stuck against each other or monsters, for instance, or party members whacking on baddies with their puny weapons when a familiar would be the better choice.

The possibility of bringing along an ineffective familiar might lead to frustration if you aren't careful (and sometimes, even if you are). There are some notable difficulty spikes which are compounded by potentially imbalanced parties. Yet even at its most challenging, it's hard not to appreciate the grotesqueries you face, and the possibility of getting to nab one for yourself. You won't add boss creatures to your pen, but that hardly makes the boss battles less rewarding. Bosses require the most party micromanagement, and are often a wonder to look at to boot. Among them are a slithering snake in Egyptian garb, hissing at you with its menacing purple tongue; a horned demon, its obese figure belted by gnarled branches; and a rubbery invertebrate with blinking lights rimming its bell and tentacles, giving it the look of a carnival ride.

This might be the worst comedy routine ever--and you won't stop laughing.
This might be the worst comedy routine ever--and you won't stop laughing.

Outside of the story quests are seemingly infinite side tasks to pursue, many of them focused on Oliver's ability to siphon excess amounts of emotions like love and ambition from passersby and offer them to brokenhearted citizens needing a pick-me-up. It's a cute and pervasive activity that makes perfect thematic sense within the narrative, though you aren't limited to such simple tasks. You can take down monsters to earn rewards, help a street vendor assemble the most delicious curry you ever did taste, and collect a sun-shaped creature in order to help a plant grow. Throw in a battle arena, an alchemy system, and hidden caves to explore, and you have more than enough to keep you busy for a while to come.

Ni no Kuni is a stupendous game because there's so much to do in it, and because all of it is just so good. The hallmark of the greatest RPGs is that you don't want to stop playing them, and Ni no Kuni proudly joins that elite group of games providing such an enticing world that you can't imagine never having visited it. The only problem, of course, is that you may never want to leave.

Back To Top
The Good
Gorgeous world stuffed with inventive places and characters
Imaginative scenarios and monsters keep you looking ahead
Funny dialogue and heartfelt themes get you invested in the story
Phenomenal orchestral soundtrack
Drippy is one of the best RPG sidekicks ever
The Bad
Combat and leveling mechanics give rise to some frustrations
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Kevin VanOrd has a cat named Ollie who refuses to play bass in Rock Band.
857 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Avatar image for ph1nn

GTA5, The Last of Us, or Ni No Kuni for GOTY?

Avatar image for Flaren_Kuldes

game for kids, PS3 games developer are all desperate that could make this game. Where the great RPG PS2 had? PS3 RPG only full of copy paste game Eternal Sonata, Valkyria, etc, etc and this.. Don't mention FF XIII, its a flat ending game which just full of 100 hours of grinding

Avatar image for alioli

@Flaren_Kuldes of course, if it's meant for kids then obv it must be bad.

Avatar image for biggestnewb

the story has been told so many times before, nothing new. i don't understand why people think it's amazing. a lot of the familiars have horrible design but that's fine because there's a few of them that are alright. but if there's a sequel, hopefully they'll work on them a bit more, making them look more badass.

the most frustrating thing about this game is probably the fact that it holds your hand through pretty much EVERYTHING. there's not much point in playing when you don't have to figure anything out for yourself. i'm not sure if it's meant to be a kid's game, but even if it is, it shouldn't hold your hand that much. i mean if kids these days are that dumb they need it, then god damn that's disgraceful. i would've actually played through the whole thing if it wasn't for the fact it felt like it was treating me like i was mentally disabled. what's the point of a game if you don't have to think about what you have to do next, it just blatantly tells you? if anything, at least make the help optional.

that aside it's definitely a step in the right direction for gaming.

Avatar image for wowwow27

ten bucks is a steal for this one, BUY IT on psn!!!!!

Avatar image for mulder_000

@wowwow27 Just did!

Avatar image for Deelo_t

@wowwow27 $7 for ps+

Avatar image for wowwow27

I'm already waiting on a sequel, or at least a new studio ghibli jrpg

Avatar image for taylor888

I wouldn't put it quite on the pedestal that everyone seems to be. The gameplay is 90% (ie 9/10) there but I found there could be improvements. For example you had to scroll through menus during battle to select magic etc instead of quick select or other shortcuts. Also if you have to grind it really sucks. The biggest complaint I have though is that there was only ONE battle song! They should changed it for each continent at got super annoying realllly fast.

Avatar image for disneyskate

If you don't like grinding don't play JRPGs, simple as that. Also this is one of those rare cases where grinding almost never got repetitive for me.

Avatar image for wowwow27

@taylor888 i was cracked out on this game for two weeks, i rarely play games anymore, but this one sucked me in. no other jrpg comes close, if one does, tell me, cause i need to play it.

Avatar image for Slagar

Want this. Studio Ghibli is freaking amazing - Princess Mononoke is one of my all-time favourite films, and Spirited Away is up there too.

Avatar image for wowwow27

@Slagar spirited away was my fav, was grave of the fireflies one of theirs too?

Avatar image for AvatarMan96

@wowwow27 @Slagar Yep, so was My Neighbor Totoro (another one of my favorites)

Avatar image for iboo01

Reminded me so much of Dragon Quest 8 and the good old days where JRPG's were actually worth playing and had lovable story lines and characters

Avatar image for monchoago

@iboo01 I totally agree. They, as Dragon Quest VIII, kept intact the best characteristics of classic RPG games. I wasnt so satisfied with an rpg since DQVIII, Ni no kuni is really awesome

Avatar image for Elwin2012

The new Final fantasy games should go in this direction but sadly they don't :(.....

Avatar image for pip3dream

Does anyone know why this is in two downloads on the Sony Store?

Avatar image for StarsiderSajun

Just got this yesterday. Been putting off getting a PS3 for years and was wanting one anyways just to play this game. I was not disappointed. This game is easily worth buying the console just to play. I love how just when you get used to some fantastic mechanic, they throw in another excellent one. I love surprises like that.

Avatar image for wowwow27

@StarsiderSajun out of all the games on my ps3, i can say i am happy i have a ps3 just to play this game. i may even try to one hundred percent trophies, maybe,... one day.

Avatar image for JMcN76

Just got this game yesterday and my brother and I kept taking turns playing it. We ended up playing 6 hours in one sitting haha! This game is great so far! (By the way, got it for 19.99 brand new at Best Buy). That's right, I said, "Best Buy." I was shocked too!

Avatar image for zerantoss

This game is FUCKING AWESOME. Just buy it, play it, beat it. You won`t regret it 10/10. (If you only game for COD tho then stay away)

Avatar image for BlueSama

How can u say this game is good!!!

the teammates AI is so stupid... and i lose too much just because they don't know when to guard a attack (especially in boss fights)

Ahhh...I can't play it anymore.......

Avatar image for martinmichaud

@BlueSama You can call a all defense action after the eyes of the storm battle (they themselves think that they should be able to coordinate theuir attack mor effectively!) After that point, my group dodge or block important attack most of the time...

Avatar image for sexyeyes79

I got this off for $24.98 new. It will be here tomorrow. I'm not expecting a perfect game but I love rpg's. I can never get enough of them. I haven't played a jrpg since Blue Dragon so I'm looking forward to this.

Avatar image for evilweav

While this game is lovely and hits a lot of right notes, I found it overlong and unfocused at times. It does a lot of things well, but doesn't really knock any one thing out of the park (besides the audio/visual presentation maybe). I really enjoyed it, but I'm wondering if the general scarcity of eastern RPGs this generation is distorting our perspective.

Avatar image for disneyskate

"Overlong" Lolwut?

Avatar image for meluvulongtime8

great game, great review, but would it hurt them to have more voice acting instead of text for almost the entire game.

Avatar image for breathnac

@meluvulongtime8 I got so sick of reading text that I just skipped through everything in the latter half of the game because it was taking too long

Avatar image for evilweav

@meluvulongtime8 Yes, I felt there was a huge imbalance with cutscenes and voice acting. Both were pleasantly abundant for the first ten hours or so, but by the end it was incredibly sparse.

Avatar image for satanclause66

I found the story to be boring and i didn't really like the characters, over all its rad.

Look fishes! Look fishes! Look fishes! Look fishes! Look fishes! Look fishes! Look fishes! Look fishes! Look fishes! Look fishes! Look fishes! Look fishes! Look fishes! Look fishes! Look fishes!
Avatar image for greymon12345

The game has good combat settings. It is essentially as good as a pokemon game in 3D. A good RPG game with a cute story.

Avatar image for d3nR

I recently bought the game on the basis that I'm a fan of studio G. and JRPGs.

I found this game so far captivating and incredibly fun. Story wise is everything I expected and gameplay isn't bad.

For me, a few technical kinks like lip sync and lack of smooth lines to sell the "anime" look can be distracting at times. But the games charm and personality will quickly draw you back in.

The game as an interesting method of presenting maturity. At one point your in wonder land, and then you deal with the death of your mother suspiciously caused from a character of another dimension bent on destroying you.

In my opinion this is a must have game. Buy it.

Avatar image for rrhammer

It's definitely got that "The Neverending Story" feel to it. That's the best way i know how to describe it. Innocent without being too kid-like or cheesy. Storybook fantasy. The story has even tugged on my heartstrings a few times w/ sadness and joy, i admit. Can't think of any games that have done that recently.

Avatar image for nodemaster

Not get me wrong, I'm really enjoying the game so far. It somehow reminds me of what RPGs used to be sometime ago (back in the days of PS1). The story is unique and well structured, gameplay is really fun, music is outstanding, and graphics are simple, but equally beautiful. In fact, the game would've been a masterpiece if it wasn't for it's lack of difficulty. I mean, there's not really a challenge throughout the whole game. You just have to grind with your familiars a certain amount of time, maybe till lvl 60 (which is not hard at all, because of Toko) and you'll beat the game just fine. In addition, you'll never get lost in the game like you used to get in games like Zelda or FFVII. There's always a marker on the map telling you where to go next. That's kind of boring. This are the only reason i wouldn't give this game a 10.

Avatar image for martinmichaud

@nodemaster Yep marker make the game too easy... i disabled it in mid-game... i should have done this at the start!

Avatar image for Supabul

This review nails it

Avatar image for iamhelix

yes the story gets annoying sometimes becasue its so childish, but the best thing about this game is the combat, leveling and boss fights.

The story is ok if overly childish, but you get used to it after a few hours and its only annoying now and then when drippy goes on about things that are obvoius.

For instance after "taking heart" for the 30th time i think i know how to do it, but the stupid dialog keeps displaying,

The game is awesome though even with the little annoyances, best JRPG (other than Dark and Demon Souls) on PS3. Its very similar to the last few dragon Quests on PS2 so if you liked them you will like this as well.

Avatar image for evilweav

@iamhelix Yep, Dragon Quest on the PS2 was also done by Level 5, so your comparison makes sense.

Avatar image for mixalisss13

it s not a childish game but after 250+hours on DARK SOULS ....................................................................

Avatar image for Dakey87

over a month and this game is just gettin to #10 in most searched games on this site...#IJS its a good game

Avatar image for Juturnal

A great game overall. They kind of stripped the jrpg style to the basics for a point. Overlooking the fantastic cartoony setting are the challenging good bossfights. A classic.

Avatar image for EverydayGamer10

I'm trying to convince myself to buy this game, but considering that the protagonist is a child, I can't see myself enjoying the story. The story supposedly touches mature themes - depression, abuse, etc., but it's rated E so I can't see how it can possibly delve into these subject matters while appealing to it's targeted audience, which seems to be children.

I just don't know what to make of this game. For anyone whose 18 or older, is this game worth a buy?

Avatar image for Generic_Dude

@EverydayGamer10 Hard to say; I'm well over 18 and found it to be a good game, but I might be looking for different things from my video games. I find the medium at large to be insufficient for exploring mature themes with any sense of depth or intelligence. This is closer to AA Milne than Fyodor Dostoevsky, though comparisons to either are still too generous. Think Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and you're on the right track as to what to expect from this game.

Avatar image for marioccckc

Why is this shit better than Far Cry 3?

Avatar image for Nishua

@marioccckc Why is this sh##y post here?

Avatar image for Boom_Kat

@marioccckc Kuni is definately far from "shit." It's just not your cup of tea.

Avatar image for Oil_Rope_Bombs

@Boom_Kat @marioccckc

Avatar image for mastermetal777

@marioccckc Both games got the exact same score, dude. What the hell are you talking about?

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch More Info

  • First Released Jan 22, 2013
    • Nintendo Switch
    • PC
    • + 2 more
    • PlayStation 3
    • PlayStation 4
    Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is a fantasy RPG game from LEVEL-5 that tells the tale of a young boy named Oliver, who embarks on a journey into a parallel world in an attempt to bring his mother back from the dead.
    Average Rating999 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
    Developed by:
    Level 5
    Published by:
    Bandai Namco Games, Matthew Vimislik, Level 5, Namco Bandai Games
    Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
    Everyone 10+
    Alcohol and Tobacco Reference, Comic Mischief, Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, Simulated Gambling