Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch triumphantly embarks onto the Nintendo Switch giving players a second chance to experience The Other World; now on the go! The Switch is quickly becoming a haven for JRPG players like myself. Developed by the master class Japanese team at Level-5, with a heaping dose of Ghibli style and animation, Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is a dream for fans of the genre and it’s just as wonderful as how I remember it. In fact it’s exactly the same. Nothing has changed at all, and that’s not a bad thing!
This is a straight up port of the PlayStation 3 version of the game that launched back in 2011, not a remaster like how the PlayStation 4 and PC are getting. The game runs at 720p at 30fps. It looks just fine, nonetheless, but $49.99 for a port of a last gen game with virtually nothing new added (other than portability) and none of the cool remastered graphics gives the game a sort of high perceived price tag. Fortunately, that’s my only gripe with Ni No Kuni for the Switch. If you missed it the first time around then this might be the perfect opportunity to see what all the fuss is about.
You play as Oliver, a young boy from a small town in America sometime in the 1950s whose mother unexpectedly passes away leaving Ollie all alone in the world – until he comes across Lord High Lord of the Fairies himself, Mr. Drippy. The story may come off as a bit naïve, but it’s also not afraid to cover difficult topics like grief and death and how children cope with the two.
Mr. Drippy convinces Oliver to travel to The Other World, a parallel place of the one he inhabits, in order to find his mother’s soul mate (think an alternate reality version of the same person) and defeat the evil sorcerer Shadar along the way. Story wise the game follows typical JRPG tropes like a chosen boy saving the world and helping folks along the way. Ni No Kuni can be a bit slow at times. It takes more than a few hours until things really start picking up and you can finally stop reading Mr. Drippy’s explanations on how to do everything.
Like any other game in the genre there’s a wealth of side quests and hunts that will keep players busy for well over 50 hours. Many of these adventures involve restoring a person who has been brokenhearted by Shadar. Basically Oliver runs around and uses magic to make people happy again, which is adorably cute and heartwarming. It’s one of the rare games where I wanted to finish all of the quests because I actually felt like I was helping these poor NPCs become whole again. Accomplishing these side quests gives the player certain in-game rewards like the ability to walk faster or find better items after battles.
Ni No Kuni boasts a fairly unique battle system, which requires players to capture monsters known as Familiars, train them, evolve them, and become the very best that ever was. Think Pokémon, but if the trainers joined in the battles alongside their beloved creatures. The combat itself is a mixture of turn-based and real-time, much like Final Fantasy XII’s battle system where characters can move while performing actions and the player can take control of one character at a time. The remaining allies are left to the vices of the A.I., which can be a bit hit or miss. Most of the time they’ll just stand around and eat the boss’s telegraphed charged attacks making the game unnecessarily difficult.
Ni No Kuni’s presentation is where it all comes together. Developed with the help of legendary Japanese animation team, Studio Ghibli (well known for its films like Spirited Away and My Neighbor Tototoro), faithfully renders a world full of magic and wonder worthy of their prestigious pedigree in the anime community. Plenty of the game’s cut scenes are beautifully animated looking just like the films they draw such inspiration from.
The musical score performed by the stellar Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra is nothing short of amazing lending to the sets and story beats. If you close your eyes you’ll think you’re listening to a Ghibli movie soundtrack, similarly if your eyes are open you might believe you’re watching one of their movies.
The one unfortunate drawback of this near flawless port is that there’s virtually no new content here to speak of. It does come with all the DLC that was originally released on the PlayStation 3 version, but I feel more could have been done. Even some quality of life enhancements would be welcomed, such as the ability to turn the game’s speed up like with many other modern ports and remasters of JRPGs have done in recent years to curb the grinding. The addition of a run button would have been a godsend as Ollie walks way too slow for me even with his upgraded shoes. At the end of the day all of these are little nitpicks that don’t take away from just how much fun can be had with this title.
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch for the Switch is an excellent way to experience a last gen classic now made better with the ability to take it anywhere. It performs quite well in handheld mode without any frame drops. I can’t help but smile thinking this huge amazing adventure is now in the palm of my hands. What a time to be alive! If you’ve never played this one before this might be the best way to experience it, although I would wait for a price drop if you’ve already played it before.
Ni No Kuni: Wrath Of The White Witch Review
- Graphics - 9/109/10
- Sound - 10/1010/10
- Gameplay - 8/108/10
- Lasting Appeal - 8/108/10
Final Thoughts: EXCELLENT
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is nothing short of a masterpiece. It may not contain any extra content that we’ve come to expect with remasters and re-releases but it’s enough on its own. If you’re a fan of Studio Ghibli or JRPGs you owe it to yourself to play this classic, if not just to listen to Mr. Drippy degrade you for 40 hours with his proper Welsh accent.