Shelved games: Why I gave up on Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

Today, I decided to cross Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch from my backlog list. I haven’t finished it and I don’t intend on ever doing so. Now, before the pitchforks and “try it again” comments come out, I should lay out my reasons as to why I’m permanently shelving the game. It’s not often that I drop an RPG, but this time I left it necessary.

What is Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch?

Wrath of the White Witch is an anime lover’s dream. It’s a PlayStation 3 Japanese Role Playing Game, or JRPG, (and a remake of a Nintendo DS title) that is developed by Level-5 with help from Studio Ghibli. Yes, one of the most famous animation production houses around lent its talents to a robust video game. On paper, it is a match made in heaven, but in reality, it’s not quite the game I was expecting.

You take on the role of Oliver, a young boy whose mother recently passed away after saving him from drowning. His tears bring to life a fairy named Drippy – yes, that’s his real name – who reveals that he is from a different world. This other place is being destroyed by an evil named Shadar.

The world mirrors Oliver’s own with its inhabitants and there’s a chance he can see his mother, or her mirror image, by visiting it. From there, it’s up to Oliver and Drippy to recruit new friends and save the world. Pretty whimsical, right?

A bit on the game itself

The story, music, and graphics all work perfectly in bringing this fairytale world to life. And while it’s running on hardware from 2006, the game gives you the feeling of playing through an anime movie. Locations are crisp and bright while all of the characters have a stunning cell-shaded look to them.

It has emotional ups and downs, covers some pretty dark subject matter, and made me laugh out loud on more than one occasion. It’s a near-perfect game in that regard, but it’s brought down by one key area.

So why did I shelve the game?

For one, the game isn’t all that fun. In fact, I found it boring. I don’t mean the story, but rather the mechanics. Wrath of the White Witch is similar to most other monster-taming RPGs. You’ll collect creatures the world over, level them up, and turn them into better and more powerful versions. It’s stock standard, really. And while the monster aspect is adorable and fits the theme of a Ghibli production, it also falls flat.

You’re not given direct control of your little creatures, but you can order them around. This can make for some frustrating battles, while others are mindless. Coupled with the need to grind out levels for hours on end, and I was left with a mixed bag of emotions about the game. On one hand, I loved the presentation, but on the other, I hated the combat.

Unfortunately, life is just too short to sit through hours upon hours of tedium in order to reach the next story point. For me, it’s easier to suffer through a game with a bad story and excellent gameplay. While I wish Oliver and Drippy the best of luck on their journey, I’ll never see them complete it.

But don’t let my thoughts discourage you. If you’re an anime or RPG fan, at least pick up the title so that it’s in your collection. You may just fall in love with Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch.

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