Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (Switch)
Level-5’s stunning JRPG, Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch has arrived on the Nintendo Switch and it remains an impressive adventure worth experiencing. Come inside for my review of the game’s latest port.
Reliving Good Times
My love of Ni no Kuni has been no secret over the years. When the game originally released on the PS3 in 2013 I picked it up on something of a lark. It landed at a point in time in my life where “free time” was something I could still enjoy. With time to play and nothing pressing in my backlog, I delved into the animated world they’d crafted…
The end result is a love for role-playing games that I’d never really experienced before. Seriously, aside from the Pokémon titles and Knights of the Old Republic (come on, it’s Star Wars) I had never cared for RPGs. I’d played a few of them, but ultimately gave up mid-way through many of them and preferred other genres.
Playing through Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, however, fully changed my perspective on RPGs, JRPGs especially. Between the stunning visuals, surprisingly addictive gameplay, and touching story, I was hooked like never before. Since playing it, I returned to many older RPG titles and gave them another chance, immersing myself in a genre I once didn’t care for.
When Ni no Kuni 2 released last year, I thoroughly enjoyed the new adventure but was kind of bummed about the various changes from the original. The new gameplay and story were tons of fun and I sunk plenty of hours into it, but the lack of direct connection to Wrath of the White Witch left me wanting. As such, I was ecstatic when they announced the original game was getting the remastered treatment and ported to the Nintendo Switch.
After getting plenty of hands on time with the game over the last week, I’m happy to say it’s still an incredible ride. While the story itself delves into a number of clichés, that doesn’t make it any less engaging. The characters are still fun to encounter and the gameplay still has me hooked. There’s a lot to love between the story and characters, but the world itself also feels alive in fun ways.
You never know what strange creature you might encounter next and how it may affect your journey. Even as you’re running around doing typical fetch quests, the charm of the world/inhabitants make it feel fresh and fun. Despite having sunk countless hours into the original game years ago, the return journey still felt exciting and like I was coming back to an old friend.
All things considered, Wrath of the White Witch has aged incredibly well, though I can understand why some might feel put off by it. The difficulty in the game fluctuates unexpectedly, and there is plenty of grinding to go around in order to reach the endgame. For me, however, this grind is offset by the game’s combat system and keeps me coming back.
Battles play out in a mixture of real-time and turn-based tactics. You’re able to swap to any member of your party and directly control their actions in battle. More so, the heart of combat lies in the capture and use of “familiars.” Pretty much every monster you encounter (aside from boss battles) can be tamed and used in battle. They all have different abilities and spells to use, and thus the team you build with them can drastically alter battles.
There are rare familiars to track down and they even metamorphose when they level up enough...Sounds pretty similar to Pokémon, huh? That’s not by accident either, and it contributes greatly to its longevity. Even as you’re grinding the thrill of finding new, or more powerful, familiars in the wild covers the tedium. I’m not ashamed to admit I used up more of my gameplay time tracking down rare familiars than on just about any other quest (even the main one).
The satisfaction of adding a new creature to your stable of fighters, or seeing them ‘evolve’ into something better is greatly rewarding. Testing out new combinations/tactics in battle is equally fun, and adds another depth of strategy to the gameplay. The end result is that you rarely realize you’re grinding. It’s cleverly hidden and you’re having too much fun to care. At least that’s been my experience.
The Port Factor
I’ve heard from others that the Nintendo Switch port of Ni no Kuni hasn’t been the best experience; from slogging framerate issues to muddy images. Personally, I haven’t experienced any of these issues and have had a smooth overall gameplay experience. The visual style of the game, pulling from Studio Ghibli’s iconic animation, makes it virtually ageless. Despite being more of a direct port (instead of the upgraded remasters on the PS4/PCs that have launched alongside it), it shines brightly on the Nintendo Switch.
I’ve long argued that the Switch is an ideal platform for longer titles, specifically RPGs, and Ni no Kuni just furthers that argument. It’s a long game, packing in at least 100 hours of gaming (if you do everything possible), so being able to pick it up on the go is helpful. Being able to put it in rest mode as needed, even in the middle of a side-quest makes the undertaking less daunting that it may seem.
The controls translate well to the system, even in handheld mode, and I never had any issues with managing my party or combat. By and large, the only real problems I had with the game are the same issues from the original release (some parts drag on, the aforementioned grind, clichés) and nothing stemming from the port.
While the PS4 version is a little sleeker overall, if you struggle with larger, more time-consuming, games (like I do), the Switch version is an excellent port. The visuals are still impressive and look great on the system and even in handheld mode it manages to immerse you in the action and story.
There’s a lot of great games coming out right now, but this remaster still deserves your attention.