NI NO KUNI: WRATH OF THE WHITE WITCH REMASTERED / DEVELOPER: LEVEL-5 / PUBLISHER: BANDAI NAMCO / PLATFORM: PC, PS4 (REVIEWED) / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Developed by Level-5 (best known for the Professor Layton series) in conjunction with the anime masters at Studio Ghibli, Ni No Kuni is one of this decade's most endearing JRPGs. It tells the story of a young boy named Oliver and a stuffed toy called Drippy, a strange elephant-esque patchwork creation brought to life by Oliver's tears following the death of his mother. Drippy quickly informs Oliver that everybody in the “real” world is linked to a soulmate in Drippy's world, but Oliver's mum's soulmate – the great sage Alicia – has been captured by an evil wizard. In order to bring his mother back, Oliver must travel to Drippy's homeland and rescue Alicia...
Oliver's travels take him through a variety of wondrous locations, where he undertakes missions for the locals to restore their broken hearts. In return, they provide useful information and items to help Oliver on his journey. There's plenty of combat, which operates on a unique turn-based battle system where Oliver and his familiars are able to roam freely around the battlefield while attacking enemies. If the words “turn-based” are a big no-no for you, don't worry – there's enough going on during combat to make it feel like you're always moving, always attacking, always doing something, rather than waiting around for your chance to attack.
Originally released in 2011, this new remaster adds a layer of polish to the already beautiful animations and offers 4K support to those with the appropriate technology, but leaves pretty much everything else as it was eight years ago. Not that there's anything wrong with that – Ni No Kuni's strength was always in it story, backed up with perfectly adequate gameplay, and that's still very much the case today. Studio Ghibli's knack for creating timeless characters (and, especially in the case of Drippy, incredibly memorable ones) mean that the game didn't really need to undergo any drastic changes in order to retain its playability. If you missed out on this one first time around, or no longer have a PS3 hooked up to your TV, this is an excellent opportunity to experience a truly outstanding JRPG on current-gen hardware.