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Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (Playstation 3, PS3)
Reviewed On: PlayStation 3
Available For: PlayStation 3
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: Level-5 and Studi Ghibli
Genre: Role-Playing Game
Age: 3 (PEGI)
Ni no Kuni translates to 'second country' but is also known as 'The Another World'. And there really is no other game better than Ni no Kuni to whisk players off to another mystical world full of wizardry, magic, and craziness.
Protagonist Oliver is a well mannered, peppy young soul, and although he can sometimes be mischievous, his general demeanour is kind and caring. One day after an unfortunate turn of events, his entire world is thrown into chaos and disarray - so he searches another world in order to make things right again.
From the off, beautiful animation sequences dominate, with one extremely lengthy cutscene that sets out the basic objectives of the game. Despite being long enough to turn the controller off through inactivity, it's not drawn out nor is it bloated, it's full of emotion and sets the tone perfectly.
It's during this cutscene our hero meets Mr Drippy, an odd looking fairy with the voice talents of Welshman Rhod Gilbert. Most of the games plentiful humour comes from him as he works as Oliver's guide and mentor though the strange yet charming second world.
Things aren't necessarily as open as many role-playing games, but there's still the ability to roam locales to carry out side quests, and with a storyline as engrossing and magical as it is, a more sprawling world is never yearned for.
You can't have a role-playing game without combat of some description, and it plays a large part in Ni no Kuni's proceedings. The fights are real-time menu driven battles, and although the everyday beasts of the world are easy to beat, bosses require players to use their wits and cunning, and through doing so provide some excellent entertainment.
As well as the usual physical attacks, there's a behemoth list of spells, and creatures who'll help out in battle. These helpful creatures are known as familiars, and just as Oliver will gain experience from fighting, so will they. But the customisation and upgrades to the little beasts don't end there - weapons and accessories can also be purchased to give them a performance boost in battle.
But with the low-level violence comes serenity and gracefulness - the music is performed by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra and works wonders to heighten the mood and give the mysterious second world grandeur and elegance.
The visuals are equally as spectacular, with developer Level 5 handing over the animation to Studio Ghibli, a studio famous for their work on cartoons and films such as Spirited Away. The results are breathtaking, and the vibrant graphics blend seamlessly from cutscene to gameplay and back again.
It looks Japanese in its art style, but the localisation of the dialogue is so incredibly well done, with such a great understanding of humour and delivery, it's hard to believe it's not in its mother tongue.
With thorough yet entertaining explanations for every facet and aspect of its content, it’s great for gamers of all ages, as well as for those who aren't normally over-enamoured by role-playing games.
In Ni no Kuni, PlayStation 3 owners have good reason to rejoice, and good reason to pity those without a PS3. Lucky owners of the console need this game, even if it means using their Christmas money, their savings, or even selling a kidney - after all, they have two of those. But until now, they've only ever had one world.
SCORE: 10 / 10
PROS: Amazing sound, beautiful graphics, phenominal gameplay. It's perfect for gamers of all ages and experience.
CONS: Once finished, you'll be hard pushed to find another Japanese role-playing game to fill the gaping hole in your life.