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PlayStation 3 first look: Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

I'm not a fan of Studio Ghibli films, but I liked Ni no Kuni. I also not a big fan of RPGs, but again, I liked this adventure game from Level-5. The reason why Ni no Kuni won me over was for the simple fact that it is a good game and oozes charm through and through. While a lot of Japanese developers seem uncertain about whether their games should retain their local design sensibility or target a global market, Ni no Kuni embraces its Japanese heritage wholeheartedly without any hesitation. From the game's name and art style to its presentation and storyline, Ni no Kuni is a welcome return to the days when Japanese developers made games they would enjoy and hope that other overseas markets would also enjoy them.

Studio Ghibli's art style adds a level of innocence and accessibility that the production house is renowned for, and the visual art style is done justice by the game's graphical engine. Cel shaded graphics have come a long way since the days of Jet Set Radio, Cel Demage and Auto Modellista, but most modern games still fail to do justice to the art style. Ni no Kuni is likely the first game that has changed my stance on this, as the graphics are the closest I have seen to a game looking like it was animated. Character movement is fluid, models have high polygon counts, and the surrounding environments are done in a complementary style.

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The game itself is a joy to play and contains a balance between accessibility and challenge, ensuring that players of different ages will be able to enjoy it. The game also features a helpful sidekick called Mr Lumpy Drippy, who explains the various features of the game and combat to the protagonist, Oliver, during the adventure. Sometimes the character can be a bit too helpful, bringing back memories of Clippy the paperclip from Microsoft Office, but it never gets in the way of enjoying the game. A memorable soundtrack rounds off the already high quality presentation of the game, and publisher Namco Bandai was kind enough to include both the Japanese and English audio tracks with the Western release of the game.

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (PlayStation 3)

Pros

- Impressive cel shaded graphics

- Fun battle system and responsive controls.

- Great presentation and story

Cons

- Menu system could have been more intuitive.

- Characters can sometimes be too talkative and helpful.

Bottom Line

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch shows that a Japanese RPG can be both technically impressive and immersive without sacrificing fun in the process.

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