There are not many forms of art that get a successful switch from one media to another. We all know that a streak of translating video games to the big screen has been less than stellar so far. There have been some hits when it comes to books on cinema but also a bunch of misses. “What about anime, though?” – asked absolutely no one. Well, my dear absolutely no one, do I have some good news for you! Actually, one piece of good news. You see, there is one cute game from far away Japan (or maybe not so far away if you live there, hm) that captured perfectly that anime spark and the gameplay is also nothing to complain about. In a strange twist of fate, I managed to play the sequel first and then the original (aka this remastered release) but that’s fine, cause they are fundamentally different games anyway. Read on, dear reader!
We follow the journey of Oliver, a resident of Motorville. While trying out a new vehicle designed by his friend Philip, Oliver almost drowns, but is saved by his mother Allie; however, she immediately dies from heart problems after saving him. Damn, talk about an early plot twist. Devastated, Oliver starts to cry and the tears cause his doll (a gift from his mother) to come to life and reveals itself as a fairy named Drippy. Drippy tells Oliver that each person from his world has a “soulmate”, someone with who they share a link in Drippy’s world. Unfortunately, Drippy’s world has been conquered by an evil wizard called Shadar. Fearless and determined, Oliver decided to travel to Drippy’s world and find & save his mom soulmate, a great sage called Alicia. He hopes that in doing so, it might also bring back Allie in Oliver’s world. A strange plan to rely on but as they say, hope dies last.
If you played Ni No Kuni II first by any chance, here is a piece of advice: forget everything you know about that game. Not only that the stories are fundamentally different, but so is the gameplay. When a player encounters an enemy, they enter a real-time battle system. Battles take place in an open area, allowing the player (and the enemy/enemies) to freely roam the field. Pretty useful if you feel like evading or escaping from an enemy attack. To fight enemies, you use physical, magical attacks and something called “familiars”.Familiars are creatures that you can find and tame in the game world and send them to battles. Your own battle ally, if you will. Familiars level up and evolve along Oliver throughout battles, and each of them has unique attacks and stats. Not to mention unique cuteness. Once you defeat enemies in battle, you may receive experience, gold, and occasional items as loot. There is the usual health and mana bar and as you might imagine, health is lost when an enemy attacks you, while mana is depleted whenever you cast magic. Both can be replenished by using items during the battle while health can also be restored by picking up green orbs, known as “glims”. Glims are dropped when you continuously attack enemies and there is also something called golden glim. A rare drop during a battle that restores all health and enables as powerful miracle move that deals significant damage to enemies (super useful during boss fights).
There is one world that you might read over and over when it comes to Ni No Kuni games. Ghibli-like, Ghibliesque, Ghibli inspired, Ghiblibling. Ok, that last one isn’t even a real word, I just made it up. But you (hopefully) get my point. You don’t have to be a powerful anime connoisseur to know what Ghibli studio stands for. A name depicting quality, integrity, and creativity when it comes to anime. And call me crazy, but the same could be said when it comes to Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remastered. The visuals are done in the expected cell shading style (aka Borderlands or XIII), while the important cutscenes in the game are fully animated. I mean like watching the regular anime. The quality of animated segments is top-notch while the actual gameplay visuals are nothing to skip over as well. Worlds map is full of details and even the meanest monsters could be described as nothing else but cute. The big cities are fun to explore and easy to get lost into. That last bit might sound like a minor flaw but it certainly isn’t. If anything, it only amplifies the sense of awe and wonders whenever you enter a new town for the first time.
If I have given praise on the visual front, the audio angle would definitely use some polish. Especially considering that I’m playing the remastered version of the first Ni No Kuni. Major cutscenes will have a full voiceover in whatever language you prefer, while the rest of the dialogue will have occasional “ohhh”, hmmm” or “hi” sounds. A bit weird and not easy to get used to at first. If anything, it definitely took me out of the experience once I get spoiled with full voice acting in animated cutscenes. Other than that, the actual soundtrack is nothing short of amazing, thanks to Joe Hisashi. What the game lacks in voice acting, it surely makes up for it when it comes to the marvelous soundtrack.
And lastly, I have to mention the “remastered” bit of the whole game. While the game does feature slightly improved visuals in terms of world map details and performance and better resolution support, everything else stayed pretty much the same. Audio received no touch-ups at all. Call me crazy, but I expected more voice acting, at least during important moments in the game and not just in defining cutscenes. Despite that, Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remastered is a well-rounded release with loads of content. A slight improvement over the original and different experience altogether when compared to the sequel.
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