Game Reviews

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remastered Review

The PS3 classic finally returns, better than ever.

by Kyle Hanson

On paper, Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is sort of a JRPG wish list. A game from the makers of Dark Cloud and Professor Layton? Yes please. Pokèmon style catching and evolution mechanics? I’m in. Animated cutscenes and music from the top minds of Studio Ghibli? Seriously, you sold me already! And when the game arrived in 2011 in Japan and 2013 in the West it delivered on that promise quite well. Sure, there were some issues with the endgame and other minor concerns, but in the end it was a fantastic and well loved adventure. And now it’s gotten even better and much more widely available with Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remastered on PS4 and PC.

The story of Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch feels like a Studio Ghibli film in all the right ways. Following a personal tragedy, Oliver finds himself transported to a magical world full of interesting people and unique creatures. With his fairy friend Drippy by his side he sets out to stop the evil wizard Shadar and the forces surrounding him. To do this he must travel to various lands, including back to the “real world” in order to fix people’s broken hearts between both worlds. What follows is a massive adventure full of characters, locales, and lots of combat.

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As I said, Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remastered feels like a wishlist for a JRPG. This is true in both a good and bad way, though much more good than bad. The main bad thing is just that the game can feel a bit unfocused. This is especially true of the Pokèmon style character collection and combat. You rarely do much fighting on your own in Ni no Kuni, instead sending out various creatures to fight for you. And while you have some element of control, the battles are largely AI based with you giving directives, instead of assuming full command. This can be great fun on its own, it just never gels too well with the rest of the experience, creating a minor feeling of disjointedness between some pieces of the game. Eventually you might find yourself getting a little tired of the combat and avoiding fights until you feel you need to level up, which could take awhile since the game is rarely a full challenge.

Outside of this, Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remastered is pretty standard JRPG fare in most other respects. Oliver arrives as the “Chosen One” ready to save the world from whatever magical ill is befalling it. Along the way he’ll befriend various people, factions, and groups, some of which will join him on his journey. Dozens of hours lay ahead of you as you start the game up, full of leveling, collecting, fetch quests, and boss fights. With that said, you might worry that Ni no Kuni is an average JRPG experience, but you’d be happily wrong mostly thanks to the visuals.

60fps just makes Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remastered look so crisp

Even on the PS3 Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch looked fabulous. Cel shaded real time gameplay is colorful and vibrant, with character models and environment design really crafting a unique and interesting world to spend the next hundred or so hours in. This is mostly thanks to the work of Studio Ghibli, makers of such anime classics as My Neighbor Totoro, Sprited Away, and Princess Mononoke. Their style simply oozes out of every moment in Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, but none moreso than the animated cutscenes that are delightful, but a bit too infrequent.

This is also where this Remastered release improves things, upping the game to either 1440p/60fps or 4K/30fps. Unfortunately the options for these new modes are tucked away on the main menu, forcing a save/quit/reload if you want to test each out. Thankfully, both are a nice improvement over the PS3 original, though the game has always been one of the best looking thanks to its fantastic Ghibli crafted art style. Still, what’s offered here takes what was a great looking game and makes it look even better, especially the higher framerate option. 60fps just makes Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remastered look so crisp and the gameplay is even improved with a more snappy and responsive feel than 30fps.

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Aside from this there’s little else to differentiate this Remastered version from the initial release. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though, as the original was already fantastic, and the simple act of porting it to PS4 and PC is worth a purchase for some. Still, some other things could have been added or changed to make for a more enhanced feeling. An art gallery or music player would have been a pretty obvious choice given how amazing both of those elements are, but their absence isn’t hard felt in the end.

What this all adds up to with Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remastered is basically the exact same game just refreshed for modern platforms. Any issue with the original, such as its somewhat barebones JRPG elements and questionable postgame decisions, are all still there. But along with them come some of the best and most inventive visuals in any video game. Ghibli or JRPG fans who missed out will certainly want to jump in this time around, and longtime fans will find the visual improvements and easier accessibility enough to warrant a second purchase.

The Verdict

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remastered doesn’t reinvent the original, but that wasn’t really needed anyway. What you get here is a visually enhanced port of what was already an amazing JRPG full of charm, wit, and character. Studio Ghibli’s amazing art comes to life in new ways with either the 4K or 60fps options available. Beyond that there’s not much that’s “remastered” here, but fans or newcomers won’t find much to complain about once they dive into one of the best adventures of the PS3 era.

"loved"
loved

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remastered

  • Available On: PS4, PC
  • Published By: Namco Bandai Entertainment
  • Developed By: Level 5
  • Genre: JRPG
  • US Release Date: September 20th, 2019
  • Reviewed On: PS4
  • Quote: "Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remastered doesn't reinvent the original, but that wasn't really needed anyway. What you get here is a visually enhanced port of what was already an amazing JRPG full of charm, wit, and character."
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