Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Shatterblog!: Ni No Kuni Wrath of the White Witch Demo Impressions


Hey everyone, as some of you PlayStation faithful may know, one of the big PS3 exclusives for 2013 is Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, a JRPG which is fully animated by Studio Ghibli, famous for animating such movies as Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, My Neighbor Totoro, and Princess Mononoke, as well as many others. As a huge fan of many of these, and a fan of RPGs and PS3 exclusives, I have been fairly excited since its announcement. On December 4th, the demo launched on PlayStation Network Store, and I rushed to play it. I decided to share my first impressions with you fine folks.
There are two different level scenarios available in the demo. The first is a forest segment, around level 5. The second is on a volcano, around level 17.
Battle with the Guardian of the Woods boss
The first section of the demo gives you a brief "story thus far", revealing why Oliver and his living plushie Drippy are in the forest to begin with. After that you walk a bit, and are immediately treated to a boss fight. Now, I am a fan of JRPG's but I have not played many recent ones. Therefore, the idea of controlling movement around the battlefield in what is essentially turn-based combat is sort of wacky for me. There are almost no instructions at all, and I failed once because I didn't realize the Familiar I was controlling shared health with Oliver. Therefore when my Familiar died, Ollie died, and I had no more party members. After a bit of trial and error I got the hang of it. The movement adds a fun element as health/mana orbs and power ups appear around the map, and it makes dodging some environmental effects fun (see second encounter for more info). You can switch between Ollie and the familiar at any time, and Ollie is more magic focused. In this part of the demo he has Fireball and a heal. After defeating the boss you speak to a tree who grants you the materials to help a broken-hearted guard who apparently blocks you from entering a major town. After a quick run on the gorgeous overworld map and a few random encounters, you learn to use the Take Heart spell to borrow "Enthusiasm" from one guard, and grant it to the other using Give Heart. This will certainly be a major gameplay mechanic, and it will most likely be pretty fun, although I see potential for it to get overly fetch-questy.
Battle with Moltaan on top of the volcano
In the second scenario you are given 3 minutes to get to the top of a volcano. This involves some sliding past erupting steam holes at the right time, a lot of running, and several random encounters. At this point you not only have Ollie, but another human named Maru. Both she and Oliver now have 3 different Familiars to summon, bringing out another gameplay element. Each Familiar has a limited amount of Stamina. Everything you do gradually degrades this, and when it runs out the Familiar slows to a crawl and is generally worthless for a while. This can be avoided if when the Stamina indicator is blinking, you swap out another Familiar. You can freely swap between Oliver and Maru, and between all of their familiars. Eventually you make it to another boss battle, and this one is much longer. This is where movement becomes a huge factor, as the fire-breathing volcano beast leaves patches of flames on the ground which you must avoid. Certain Familiars that are weak against fire are no good in this encounter, so I found myself relying more heavily on Oliver and his newly learned Frostbite spell. I didn't play much as Maru, but I did note that she has a harp and one of her menu options is "Songs", and that she can play a healing song and a buff song. I did not try either so I am unsure of those exact mechanics, but I assume they work similarly to spells.
While a bit more tutorial really would have been nice, once I got into it the combat is fluid and fun, something I didn't necessarily expect from a turn based game. While I understand that adjusting the turn-based formula has been done at least by games like FF XIII, Xenoblade Chronicles, and The Last Story, it was new and fun for me, having played none of these. As expected, everything looks absolutely breathtaking. Many of the cutscenes look like they could literally be a Studio Ghibli movie, and the art style translates well to 3D for the gameplay aspect. Also worth pointing out is the fantastic voice acting. Most characters have accents from the British Isles, and while I cannot necessarily place each one (especially Drippy), they are pleasant and fun to listen to. Even the brief dialogue between two guards was really enjoyable listening to the accents.
If you have a PS3, I recommend at the very least giving the demo a go. It doesn't cost anything, and it's a good time. The full game launches January 22, 2013 in America, and as I understand it the more people who preorder the better the bonuses become. If you are interested in the game, put down the $5! Expect a review some time after the game comes out (it's a JRPG so it's probly a trillion hours. Don't expect it fast). Til then, sound off in the comments about what you liked/disliked about the demo, expectations, speculation, whatever! By the way guys, yesterday was JD of Slightly Redder Red's birthday! While he hasn't posted in a while, I'm sure he would love some birthday wishes on either this post or one of his previous ones.

1 comment:

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