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E3 2012: Ni No Kuno: Wrath of the White Witch (Hands-on)

Posted by: Matt at 6/11/2012 3:00 PM
I've said it before, and I'll say it again, E3 is no place for a hands-on experience with an RPG. The loud noise, the flashing lights, the impatient glare from the person waiting to play next, it all sours the experience. But that didn't stop me from making multiple trips to try out Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch at the Namco Bandai booth. I was at the few stations they had for the game a number of times over the three day show. Each time seeing something that got me more and more excited.

Screenshots have shown this game to look like something out of a Studio Ghibli production, and seeing the game in motion it is nothing short of astonishing, really, the team at Level 5 has made a game that looks the part of a Miyazaki epic. The cel-shaded look of the game leads to characters that seem like they could be 2D characters in an animated movie, while the colorful backdrops look like they were lifted from any number of Ghibli films. Even the monsters feel like they fit in perfectly with the game, which I think the previous work on Dragon Quest games helped to form enemies that fit in this world.

The super short demo (on a ten-minute timer?) gave players a chance to run around the countryside to fight enemies, or explore the town of Ding Dong Dell. The town was full of colorful NPCs that had a wide variety of designs, made up different species, clothing, genders, it felt full of life. The world map area was nice and colorful, and felt like a proper world map, with enemies roaming around looking for a fight.

Combat in the game took a bit of getting used to, but once I got the hang of it, it made sense. The main hero Oliver, can be the point for the party and can attack and cast magic on his own. Or he can summon a useful monster on screen that can employ more specialized attacks. Oliver will then hang back and the player issues commands to the monster. The other characters on screen would act independently and were useful in combat.

It wasn't much of a way to play Ni No Kuni, but the ten minute bursts had me hungry to play more. I'd constantly find myself back at the Namco Bandai booth and would hope for the line to not be too long. It was worth the wait every time though, and I'll be agonizing over the long wait til January when this game comes out.