Ni no Kuni preview: otherworldly

We've been long entranced by the gorgeous visuals of Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, Level-5's beautiful collaboration with the famous Studio Ghibli. Seeing it in motion, it's hard not to be entranced by the game's lush green forests, expansive towns, and whimsical creatures and townspeople. Nearly every moment has a visual detail worth admiring. In typical Ghibl fashion however, the story is as moving as the art. A young boy, Oliver, gets thrust into an adventure in another world (the titular Ni no Kuni) for a chance to resurrect his mother.


The demo I played has Oliver exploring the forest. Monsters are not encountered randomly, as you can see them roam around on the field. However, in typical JRPG fashion, running into an enemy transports you to a separate battle screen.

Those of you who have played Level 5's White Knight Chronicles will likely feel right at home with the battle system. Oliver, and later on, two other party members, can summon Pokemon-esque creatures named Familiars to help them do battle. On the battle screen, the human character you are currently controlling is free to move around, but his/her offensive options are limited. Like Pokemon, one of the strategic aspects is the consideration of the elemental attribute of each of the creatures you bring into battle--certain enemies are weak against one element and that one element might not be very effective on another enemy.

The game pauses whenever you make a decision and each action you take in battle results in a cool-down period before you are allowed to do something else. The cool-down also applies to the Familiars themselves, as they can only fight for a limited time before being recalled. Switching

Familiars around while allowing you to change the human character you control on a whim potentially gives the player hundreds of tactical choices--especially considering there are over 200 Familiars to choose from.

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Already a beautiful game, it's obvious Namco Bandai has paid considerable attention to Ni no Kuni's localization. For example, characters speak with different English accents, analogous to the original game's use of different. The Western version also includes all the free DLC Familiars from the Japanese release, as well as an additional easy mode not present in the game's original release.

With its charming presentation, moving story, and engaging battle system, it's hard not to eagerly anticipate Ni No Kuni. The game will be available on PS3 on January 22nd.