Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

ni no kuni wrath of the white witch

Animated movies are a guilty pleasure of mine; in fact they are one of a great many guilty pleasures. Thankfully I have an older sister who embraces them to the point that she helps me to expand them to the utmost. This is why a few years ago when she said “Have you ever heard of Hayao Miyazaki? You need to watch his stuff,” I took it to heart.  I started off with My Neighbor Totoro and fell instantly in love and since that moment I’ve ridden the Studio Ghibli train and never looked back.

ni no kuni party memebers

I have no idea what's going on here but I can't wait to find out.

Fast forward a few years  to the announcement of a video game coming out of Studio Ghibli. I will admit that when I first heard about Ni no Kuni I was worried, perhaps even slightly concerned. I was unsure if the skills of Hayao Miyazaki could translate well into a video game. His worlds are rich with life and emotion. They are deep and seem to jump to life off of any screen they grace. However more often than not dreams of gaming grandeur often fall short. It wasn’t a function of ambition or imagination but instead a function of existing infrastructure to handle a world that Miyazaki could create. While I don’t know him, something tells me that he is the kind of person who is only limited by the confines of the medium he uses. I would hate for video games to tarnish someone who is, in my eyes, so sterling.

While I watched the trailers with interest I can honestly admit that I have never been this style of excited about a game. I feel like a child as Christmas approaches. I’m watching the trailer the way a bright eyed youngster watches the the twinkling lights with a mix of awe and rapture.

As we watch the video we see a landscape that is easy to get excited about. At 0:38 seconds we begin to see a world full of vibrance and life as creature dot the landscape and clouds float overhead casting shadows on the ground. We see a town full of life and traffic artistically crafted in a way that most certainly bears a Miyazaki mark. As the trailer continues we see a world where nothing is ever “stationary”. Everything in this world finds some way to come to life. Nothing lays dormant in the background just taking up space. This has always been a facet of his movies that I have found enthralling and my fears of it translating to a video game have been belayed.

But visuals are only one piece of a game. Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is an RPG and as such we expect to see something in the way of combat mechanics and gameplay techniques. This trailer does not disappoint. From puzzles to what appears to be a race the gameplay of Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch does not skimp on the Miyazaki sense of wonder. Anything that can be done can be done with magic and flair. Nothing is ever done “just because”. Ever inch of it is dripping with subtle flashes of creativity and life. Even when flying a hulking dragon through the skies, the movements and actions have hints in subtleties that only Miyazaki takes the time to animate.

Ni no Kuni for the Playstation 3

Even the bricks in the road have a sense of artistic wonder that other companies can learn from.

Then there is Ni no Kuni’s combat. It appears to have a mix of turn based and action RPG elements in it. You select your character and your actions while a clock ticks down in the bottom left. In this we see an array of combat elements from the standard melee and ranged to the more creative magic elements but ultimately how they play together remains to be seen. During battles you line up your party members to make use of tactics and skills. If one player is good at taking damage and blocking you can align them to shield other weaker party members. This hearkens back to a more classical RPG styling that has be simply delighted.

And then there is the apparent book that comes along with the game. In a time when gameplay manuals are becoming a thing of the past Ni no Kuni: The Wrath of the White Witch says “Forget that noise. He’s a book to make up for everyone else’s shortcomings.” It is a book that represents the magic book from the game itself and is needed in order to play the game. But that’s not all it contains. It goes ahead and throws a bestiary at you and short stories that contain clues to help with certain aspects and elements of the game. It’s more or less and indispensable field guide needed to finish the game. Miyazaki has essentially taken the game out of the video game and brought part of it into the real world.

I have finally come to the point where I no longer fear the release of Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch as something that may take away from Miyazaki’s legacy but something to solidify it as a creator who transcended mediums and created wonderful worlds of delight.

So I leave you with one question, what video games have you approached with worry but been so surprised by that you fell in love?

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