May 23, 2014

Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Review

Posted in video games tagged , at 5:10 pm by riulyn

When did my blog just get filled with reviews? I guess that means I’ve been gaming too much and not paying as much attention to music. Except the music in Ni No Kuni is REALLY GOOD. Besides the normal battle theme, the music works really well with the game despite sounding like the music of a Ghibli movie. Joe Hisashi compositions are magical, that’s all.

TLDR: Game is overall a mixed bag. Had a lot of good ideas but the execution was not great, besides the music. Definitely not recommended for casual RPG players or people who cannot deal with terrible AI.

STORY

I’m going to start this review talking about the story, which is a bit different from my usual, but I think ultimately what people want to know when they think of getting this game is “is the story worth it?” Since the battle system, while unique, was not a major selling point of this game.

For me personally, the game felt like it meandered around too much. I might feel this way because the one character I do like, Swaine, doesn’t show up until 1/3 through the game (at least according to my playthrough time). None of the characters offended me but they didn’t seem very deep. I’ve certainly played many games with idealistic, “want to help everyone” protagonists, but besides an opening mishap, there is almost a stubbornness in keeping the characters the same at the beginning as at the end. I guess it’s realistic but for me it wasn’t compelling. There are certainly good parts in the story, but the game seems to be reluctant to put any real major trials for the main characters. I feel like if I say more I will make major story hints and I don’t want to spoil too much here.

The story isn’t long (I only took 40-ish hours and that included some grinding) and I guess it’s sort of heartwarming, but I’ll probably forget it pretty soon. Certainly not up to Ghibli movie quality, if that’s what you are looking for.

BATTLE SYSTEM

The battle system is a good idea but is killed by the terrible AI. As in the AI of your other party members often doesn’t do what it is supposed to and even can work against you!

Basically, you control one character. Each character (party of up to 3) can have up to 3 familiars. These familiars have their own stats (save HP/MP) and their own tricks. When a familiar is used in battle, its stamina drains over time, but its stamina recharges when not in use, so in longer battles you need to rotate your familiars or you could just use the character instead (certain boss fights it’s best to control Oliver and have him cast spells).

This game isn’t just a select commands and execute type of game, though. Your party members and enemies move around in a 3D field. Therefore you can avoid attacks sometimes by just moving your character instead of selecting defend to lessen damage. It’s also a battle system where timing matters a great deal. There’s the possibility that your action is canceled because an enemy’s trick/spell damages you. There’s also the possibility that you cancel an enemy’s trick/spell by accurate timing of an attack. I never figured out what the timing was for that, though. Puss’n’Boots just had the ability to cancel a lot of attacks for some reason.

The party member AI is horrendous for a few reasons. Unless you specifically tell them not to use abilities, they will happily drain their MP and then run around doing nothing. They don’t target enemy weaknesses or anything. They don’t understand how to defend. Even when you put the command “All-out Defend” they will only defend once they’ve finished whatever command they were in the middle of. So more than half the time when I used that command, knowing a damaging spell was coming, my party members were not defending. So I ended up using the strategy of having my party members mostly concentrate on healing (or at least one of them) while I did a lot of the damage dealing, since later on it was a better idea to try to cancel an enemy spell by going attack crazy than getting the idiots to be defensive.

There are so many ways the battle system could have been improved. Firstly, for the crazy MP-draining AI characters, you could have introduced something like gambits so they use items to refill their HP/MP as needed up to a certain point (I’m thinking of what I have set up in Tales of Hearts R right now). Secondly, you could allow your familiars that learn up to 8 tricks to be able to use all 8 of them in battle! What’s this crap of allowing only 1-4 other commands besides attack and defend/evade? It really cuts down the usefulness on familiars. Thirdly, there is absolutely no reason why a party member casting a buff on you should cancel your action. They are on your team and aren’t teammates supposed to work together? I could list a bunch of other changes but these three things seem the most obvious to me.

In the end the game isn’t hard per se but for people who want to play for the story, it might be worth just playing on casual and not dealing as much with the stupidity.

OTHER

  • Graphically the game looks pretty much like Ghibli style and it looks nice.
  • The game has a lot of “useless” spells aka spells that are only used for quests. I wish there were more useful spells in the game (maybe they are part of sidequests).
  • Many of the quests are easy to do (a lot of talk to this person, do a spell, talk to this other person in the same town). Stamp rewards are worth it though. I didn’t find any of the quests emotionally interesting, but maybe it was just me.
  • I think Oliver’s English voice is awful but the others are fine.
  • I’m slightly annoyed that Esther is a pale blonde girl when her father is medium dark-skinned and most of the people of her hometown are that way. There is a story excuse for it but I still find it annoying that she couldn’t have been a darker-skinned girl.

In the end I think the game was worth playing because it felt unique and it did have some good moments. Though I also managed to listen to a lot of podcasts while playing the game, which shows you just how into the game I was… The game is probably pretty cheap now, so it is probably worth it for those of you who are still interested and haven’t bought the game yet.

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1 Comment »

  1. Joseph said,

    I really need to finish this game. I got caught up training my monsters and stopped playing around the city where you dress like a pig. Love the story and characters, and really interested in seeing how the plot resolves. Nice review, it’s got me excited to play again


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