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E3 Impressions - Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

9:04 AM, Jun 22, 2012   |    comments
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'Ni no Kuni Wrath of the White Witch' for PS3.

Upon picking up a PS3 controller and firing up Namco Bandai's Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, it's hard not to like it right away.  The game is, after all, beautifully made with anime cut scenes made by long-time anime company Studio Ghibli and director Hayao Miyazaki ('My Neighbor Totoro', 'Princess Mononoke').  After some experience with its battle system, however, an immediate love for the game turned into a feeling of "let's see where this goes" -- somewhat like finding out that the beautiful girl you've been crushing on has "man hands".

While the game is a Japanese-made RPG, it features one of the more unique battle systems experienced in recent memory -- and it will take some getting used to.  The player controls one character (typically Oliver), with the AI handling the actions of the other two.  Luckily, the player can tell the AI how to handle its own actions by telling it to "watch our backs" or "keep us healthy".  Another oddity is that Oliver and company do not actually do the fighting themselves, as small critters known as avatars do all of the actual dirty work.  The controlled character's avatar is given a small radial menu from which to control its actions, but combat as a whole seemed like a jumbled mess.  Of course, one advantage an actual owner or renter of this game would have over somebody who played a demo version on a trade show floor is the availability of a tutorial -- something that would have greatly come in handy for the hands-on gameplay demonstration.

The game's storyline, as should be expected from anything Studio Ghibli touches, looks masterfully done -- even with what little could be seen during the gameplay demos available at E3 2012.  Ni No Kuni follows the story of a young boy named Oliver who, after his mother passes away, cries while clutching his favorite stuffed animal.  The tears bring it to life, and Oliver soon finds himself adventuring in a magical realm in search of his late mother.  In that world, he meets a number of new friends (some of whom become party members) and visits some amazing locations, including a militaristic steam punk styled city run by a race of anthropomorphic pig people.  In all honesty, even if combat is something that the player will never fully adjust to, the story and its presentation will probably carry this game to the end just fine.

Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is scheduled for release in January of 2013.  The game has not yet been rated by the ESRB.

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