Don’t shoot me with your vitriol! Hold on a minute! Okay, Ni No Kuni getting a remaster isn’t the most earth-shattering announcement of E3, nor is it the best game of E3. But it is the game I’m most excited to see a release date for this year. Which may be a sad indictment on the lack of amazing surprises and trailers this year.
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch was initially released in January 2013, and it quickly made a remarkable impression on critics as they swarmed it with praise and sterling recommendations, finding it to be a delightful JRPG containing a gripping story and a likable cast of bubbly characters. The news about Wrath of the White Witch getting a remaster is a long time coming and (for me at least) is the best kind of unexpected news to spring up at E3 2019.
A Timeless Classic
First, let’s set the record straight. Wrath of the White Witch is not the greatest thing since thrice cheesed cannelloni and wasn’t the best game on PS3. But it is timeless, gorgeous, heartfelt and blissful to play and experience – a truly top tier Studio Ghibli production. Okay, so there are the cliches like the emphasis on light, spirit and the power of courage in the face of adversity. But Wrath of the White Witch does an impeccable job stylistically, tonally and narratively that it comes together into an exemplary whole. So much so that the sequel failed to capture and bottle its brilliance.
In a palatial small rural town called Motorville, a young orphan boy named Oliver lively runs to the local grocery store to collect his groceries, almost knocking a poor bloke and his crates over on the way. Oliver speaks to the store clerk, Ms Layla, and is excited because his mate Phil has designed a racing vehicle for him. The township isn’t dubbed Motorville for no reason y’know. Anyway, one night Oliver sneaks out of his house and meets Phil for a test drive of the racing vehicle he has designed.
At high speed, the suspension of the vehicle starts collapsing and Ollie is sent downhill, hurtling into a body of water and his mother has to swim out there to save her son. Once she does this, she feels chest pains and ultimately dies of a heart attack. One thing leads to another and a toy comes to life with a Welsh accent named Drippy. And you’re sent on a quest to save his kingdom and potentially restore your deceased mother’s life.
Studio Ghibli Poured Their Heart Into This One and It Shows
Wrath of the White Witch has bundles of heart. Not only is Oliver a polite, courageous and endearing protagonist, but he revives the ‘broken hearts’ of the citizens he meets. And it’s through saving the broken-hearted where Oliver is seen as a (excuse the Ubisoft Montreal game reference) child of light. The soundtrack is as outstanding as the story and characters, with Joe Hisashi’s whimsical and resonant score, making for one of the most wistfully sentimental soundtracks out there.
What makes this production extra special, of course, is Studio Ghibli’s involvement, who pour the same level of heart into the making of Wrath of the White Witch as they do with their classic films like Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke and My Neighbour Totoro. The art style is as crisp and gorgeous as any Ghibli production and felt truly alive when it first released on the PS3.
The gameplay design is accessible to those who are seasoned JRPG fanatics. If you like magic, ridding worlds of evil and restoring balance, then you’ll be right at home with this one. Wrath of the White Witch’s map is replete with creatures to fight and opportunities to level up your party of pals and familiars. Not quite turn-based and not quite straightforward action JRPG, Wrath of the White Witch’s battles are frequent but pleasurable thanks to the diverse set of familiars who can join you in battle.
And the boss battles are both challenging and monolithic too, making them individually feel unique and special. The Guardian of the Woods may be a huge green turd of a dinosaur, but later on, you contend with a pirate skeleton, a tank, some undersea thing resembling Tentacruel from Pokemon. The adventure really is packed with brilliant boss fights and a smorgasbord of locales.
Why Ni No Kuni Remastered Stood Out From the Crowd at E3 2019
So how can Ni No Kuni Remastered topple other major games displayed at E3 like Watch Dogs: Legion and CyberPunk 2077? For one, there’s no sense of arrogance and triple A showboating. No big Hollywood star promoting it, no grandmas with guns and no narcissism of any kind. It was simply announced and a trailer was released out of the blue.
Wrath of the White Witch has proven it doesn’t need to show anything off because most of the work was accomplished in 2013 as far as reputation is concerned. Also, I argue that no other remastered game deserves attention as much as Wrath of the White Witch Remastered because it has convinced me that if a game has as much heart and serenity as this one certainly does, then there’s no need to qualify reasoning any further.