Joystick: “Ni no Kuni” shows depth despite flaws

Published 10:07 am Thursday, January 24, 2013

“Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch”

4.5 out of 5 stars

For Playstation 3

•Style: RPG

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•Rating: E 10+

• The game comes with amazing graphics, cutscenes and makes you feel like you’re in a movie.

• Battles can be fun, but can be too frenetic

• “Ni No Kuni” purposefully slows the plot down, which doesn’t always work.

I did not expect to find a movie inside “Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch.” Yet I found an adorable tale that, despite some clear control issues, is well worth experiencing for the PS3.

“Ni No Kuni” is a much-anticipated Japanese role playing game from Level-5, which has made several solid roll playing games over the past few years, and Studio Ghibli, the acclaimed animation studio responsible for “Spirited Away,” “Princess Mononoke,” and recently “The Secret of Arrietty.” The resulting game is much-loved in Japan, and for good reason: It’s quite possibly one of the most adorable games I’ve played in some time.

The game opens with a lot of storytelling, really setting up the future journey. It’s incredibly engaging, and the animation Studio Ghibli provides is well worth the numerous cutscenes. The game revolves around Oliver, a small boy who is struck by tragedy before journeying to a fantastic other world to save his mother. The story is like a fairy tale in its simplicity, but it works well.

What doesn’t work so much is the controls, at times. Battles can be busy and frustrating (though they are incredibly fun), and at times the controls can betray you in subtle ways. It doesn’t help when the camera is in a fixed position for much of the first few hours. You can freely move in-world and in battles, however, the effect tends to nullify the game’s immersive qualities. With a game this gorgeous, the designers should have allowed for more free-range camera work to explore the world around you.

The tutorial takes a few hours, but sticking it out will prove beneficial and worthwhile in the end. There are plenty of activities to do here, from healing broken hearts to collecting items for alchemy to even more interesting tidbits I won’t spoil.

This game is a wonder to behold, even if at times it fails to be the classic tale it’s striving toward. It’s an excellent addition to anyone’s PS3 collection, and I’d recommend it for younger gamers who are suitable for its ESRB rating. Do yourself a favor and pick this game up as soon as possible.