Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Preview

After a bit of time with Ni No Kuni's English-language version, it's safe to say that the niche RPG is getting the love and attention it deserves from those in charge of its localization.


A charmingly whimsical game with an artistic style drawn from the hugely successful Studio Ghibli animation studio, Level-5's Ni No Kuni feels, from my short gameplay session with it, to be a game of which the Japanese RPG genre can be proud in a time that the category appears to be struggling.

It's bloody pretty.

Battles offer an interesting combination of real-time character control and time limits that evoke the feel of a turn-based title system.

Enemies appear on-screen in the field, though battles aren't a seamless transition - walking up to them or getting trapped by an enemy boots you into a battle screen with a familiar-feeling screen swirl.

The actual battle system feels a little bit like Namco Bandai's cell-shaded RPG effort from earlier in the generation, Eternal Sonata, with the character you're controlling at a particular moment entirely under your command, AI doing some of the footwork for others - but switching is simple enough.

In addition to the cutesy cast of human characters, players are also accompanied by tiny monsters that can be deployed into battle. A press of a button then grants you control over them and their unique set of abilities.

Battle commands are well-presented.

Each character can buddy up with and carry with them up to three creatures, and three party members head into each battle - making for a large number of possible combinations.

The game has a total number of twelve playable characters, and a large number of creatures who are unlockable both through the story and through optional quests and the like.

Ni No Kuni's presentation is the brightest feather in its cap. From the way cartoon-like speech bubbles appear about characters to signify battle commands through to the beautiful, smooth animation.

It's not only one of the best looking PS3 RPGs going, but also one that is thoughtfully presented - its beauty comes from more than raw horsepower - as one might expect from a game created in part by Studio Ghibli.

There's a more in-depth look at the game mechanics over in out preview from E3, but I want to talk about the localization. I'll keep it short and sweet: it's good.

The boss we battled was a decent challenge.

Characters speak in a variety of regional British accents and dialects, a nice touch that is probably appreciated more by Brits than most. Said accents are also emphasized and shown in the way their text is written as well as acted.

What I played featured no hammy, terrible voice over, with characters delivering lines and characterized in a way that's exaggerated, but only in the same way that characters are in a Ghibli movie.

In general the voice work felt like the localization team really understood the source material - and that's all that matters.

If it still isn't for you, the game includes an option to use the original Japanese voiceover - so there's very little to complain about - as appears to be the case for this pretty-looking, whimsical game in general.

Ni No Kuni arrives in the West in January 2013.