Traditional JRPG's seem to be a dying breed these days. Back in the 90's JRPG's seemed to rule the industry with Companies like Squaresoft leading the way. Fast forwarding to this generation, traditional JRPG's seem to be a thing of the past. There have been a few games to utilize the old formula for this dying genre (Enchanted Arms and Lost Odyssey, to name a few) but few of them have been able to nail it the way No Ni Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch has.
Right away I was taken back to nostalgia when I first place my two hands on the controller and traversed a lush greenery Fantasy World. The character to world scale was reminiscent of the design of older RPG's, the many places to visit along with secret caves and forests, means of transportation to travel to said areas, and a lot of text speech which was very nostalgic and welcomed. Although, I would have loved to see more animated cut scenes.
Ni No Kuni takes you on a ride through a young boy named Oliver. Due to an unfortunate, and one heart breaking scene, Oliver gets sucked in to this magical world with help from one of the best side kicks to ever grace a video game, Mr. Drippy. The once lifeless Doll informs Oliver that all might not be lost and has a plan to help this boy get something back he desires, but he also needs his help because Oliver is bound by fate as the "Pure Hearted One" to save Mr. Drippy's world from the sinister Dark Jinn--Shadar, an evil force who breaks the hearts of all those who stand in his way. But Oliver can't do it as the way he is now. He will seek help from the Sages who will turn this fragile kid into all powerful Wizard.
When you have your heart broken you lose a piece of one of these 8 elements; Ambition, Love, Courage, Enthusiasm, Restraint, Confidence, Belief, and Kindness. Along your Journey to defeat Shadar you will mend these poor soul's hearts and get them back to their original self. The people who live in this world might have an abundance of these feelings so some may give a piece of their heart to you to help you on your main quest and side quests....make sure you don't hog them all or Mr. Drippy will give you a tongue lashing!
There are a lot of side quests in the game but there isn't much of a variety but still, it never seemed to grow stale. As stated before, you can help people mend their hearts, fetch items, and take part in some bounty missions. Doing the tasks gives you plenty of rewards, cash, and stamps. After your earn 10 stamps you get a Merit Stamp Card that can be exchanged for Merit Rewards. Some help you can EXP, lower prices in stores, or have enemies drop more treasure. Now in the beginning, I didn't really care much about side quests, but eventually, I couldn't help but doing them, especially when you can warp from town to town, getting stamps was a breeze.
The battle system is also very good. You can roam around freely when engaged in battle which will dictate whether an enemies attack will hit you or miss you (depending on the attack), which could be helpful when you find yourself in a bind....and you will. The game is very challenging at first, eases up when you progress further but still maintains a level or difficulty throughout.
Anyway, when you fight with these monsters that scour the lands of the Other World you have the ability to knock some sense into this poor misguided creatures and teach them the ways of good. These are called familiars (think of it like Pokemon). Each brings their own unique abilities into the fight and if you want, you could match up a Familiars that thrive in a specific environment (ie: Using a Fire monster for an Ice level), so it's best to have some of your monsters evenly leveled up and not stick with the same 3 Familiar for the entire game. But it's all up to you and how you want to play it.
Oliver communicates with his companions through speech bubble commands that are displayed on the bottom left corner. You can cast Spells, Attack, Special attacks, and use tactics for your AI. You can change your Familiar or Characters at any time you want. Even Drippy will help you out from time to time throwing HP and MP orbs when needed, or giving your party a much needed HP Shower.
The game has so much depth to it and that's where you get the most out of the game. Familiars can carry their own weapons and accessories, can level up through EXP or earn extra points by feeding them chocolate or ice cream, you can make powerful weapons or health items through alchemy....heck, even the Wizard's Companion (A book of teachings for Wizards) has tons of cool information such as recipes, stories, information about enemies and towns.
The game undoubtedly has a special charm to it. The bond between Mr. Drippy and Oliver is hilarious, the scene when your very first Familiar bops you on the head, the little details of shivering in a cold environment or enemies running in fear when your level is high, Cel-Shaded graphics and Anime styled cut scenes, it's all just a fresh of breathe air.
My feelings towards this game is strange. Outside of the two main characters, your party members are forgettable, the soundtrack wasn't impactful or memorable as I had hoped for (still good), Voice acting was hit or miss (overall good), and the story was predictable at times (again, good), but, I was still very much enamored by said charm.
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch showed me that the old style JRPG's are still relevant, and with some tweaks here and there, can thrive in this generation and in the next. I spent 65 hours on this game doing almost everything imaginable, to squeeze every ounce of enjoyment I could possibly get, and it was well worth it. With an engaging battle system, depth to the overall gameplay, a magnificent world to explore, I can't tell you how hard it was to put the game down. I was surely addicted to this masterpiece.