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Preview: Playing Through A Living Anime in Ni No Kuni: Wrath Of The White Witch

Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is a joint endeavour between LEVEL-5 and Studio Ghibli, it was originally released in Japan only on the DS and PlayStation 3, however a localised version is now on its way to western shores exclusively on the PlayStation 3.

A 13 year old boy named Oliver tragically loses his mother and travels to Ni No Kuni (a parallel universe), in an attempt to bring her back. With the help of a lantern-nosed doll named Drippy - who is brought to life by Oliver’s tears, he travels around the land of Ni No Kuni befriending familiars for battle to find his mother.
There is obviously a lot more to this RPG than that brief description, unfortunately a 20 minute preview is never enough for a game of this magnitude, but even so it did not disappoint. The most striking thing about this game is its stunning visuals that are no surprise considering Studio Ghibli’s involvement. The environments range from large explorative areas which resemble paintings to towns bustling with life giving a sense of a living anime.
Drippy and Oliver walking through a forest.
Travelling between major areas on the map, you view the world through a removed camera allowing for a grander sense of scale. This is also the time where enemies can be encountered, much like in (and I hate to say this) Pok√©mon, enemies will attack you at every turn and a battle will occur. The camera changes to ground level where you can choose to attack or defend with Oliver or one of his familiars in real-time turn-based combat. What’s great about this system is that you have a choice of customisable familiars and the ability to move around in real-time, so you are not helplessly watching while you are being attacked. Unfortunately the frequency of the encounters was slightly irritating, hopefully there is a lot more to battles for fear of boring repetition.

Arriving at Ding Dong Dell, one of the bustling towns, you are met with a closed gate and a guard who has lost his enthusiasm. You’re tasked with transferring some enthusiasm from one guard to the other; this is a great introduction to the spell book you carry and is a great way to learn its uses. Once you are granted access to the town you are free to roam and speak to characters, the voice acting is great but it’s always disappointing being met with text conversations when speaking to towns folk or quest givers after a voice acted cutscene. Having said this, individual personalities are present in text, giving light to just how well this game is written.
Acquire familiars for battle.
The main cutscenes are fantastic animations from Studio Ghibli and despite being anime; the transition to gameplay is very natural and provide an immersive story experience. Adding to this experience is the incredible orchestral music; it perfectly complements the artwork, story and gameplay. The characters are endearing and the story is heart warming, mixed with the stunning visuals and music this is certainly a game to be excited about. Ni No Kuni will be hitting Western Shores for the PlayStation 3 in January 2013!

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