Despite having a bit of a disappointing sequel, Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is a JRPG that has already established itself as a classic in the genre. The game's breathtaking style, touching story, and intuitive combat system all helped make it a worldwide major hit when it launched nearly a decade ago. With all that in mind, it's no surprise that so many new and old RPG fans are excited to revisit the original Ni no Kuni on modern consoles and PCs.
The release of the Ni no Kuni Remaster is a little different from usual remasters. The game is only truly remastered (in the gorgeous 4k visuals sense) for PC and PS4. The game that is being released on the Nintendo Switch is more of a rerelease of the original version and will look and feel a whole lot more like the 2010 game. That said, Ni no Kuni is still a fantastic experience, regardless of which platform players opt for.
To get the real visual upgrade and see the gorgeous Studio Ghibli art in 4k glory, a powerful PC or the PS4 Pro with a 4k display are the way to go. The game's cutscenes, world map, and battles are all just as stunning as any of the Studio Ghibli films and are really what help take the title a step above other similar entries in the JRPG genre. The timeless Ghibli style holds up just as well as any of the films and will help the game feel brand new for players who never had a chance to play it in the PS3 era. If it's possible, we highly recommend turning on the ultra settings and seeing how amazing this looks on a 4k display.
Along with all of those gorgeous cutscenes does come a bit of a slow pace in terms of how the story and gameplay rollout. The game's use of cutscenes isn't quite at the Kingdom Hearts 3 level of obnoxious, but there will definitely be times where you set the controller down and feel more like you're watching a movie than playing a game. This isn't as much of a problem as it is in some similar games thanks to the high quality of the cutscenes and the opportunity to go out into the world and grind XP for long stretches of time between the major story beats. The first two to three hours may feel a little slow, but after that there is plenty of time to put Ollie's magic to use and build up an army of reliable (and adorable) familiars to wage war against the forces of evil with.
For players who are brand new to the game, Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is a game that follows a young boy on a traditional hero's journey. After experiencing a terrible tragedy in his quiet little 1950s-inspired town, he's spirited away (pun intended) to a world of wands, wizards, magic spells, and talking trees. The game's combat is often compared to the Tales series and for good reason. The combination of real-time combat with ability menus and the chance to slow down and strategically select Ollie's next offensive or defensive moves makes combat highly addictive in this game (not so much in the sequel...). That system combined with a Familiar collecting mechanic that will get its hooks into any Pokemon fan help make the XP grind in Ni no Kuni much more fun than the average rinse and repeat combat system.
Collecting a full party of familiars and outfitting them with the appropriate weapons and gear is only part of the path to victory in Ni no Kuni. Players also need to master positioning and spatial awareness during each encounter to keep themselves and their party members alive and well. Save every time you get a chance, because although the combat system isn't as punishing as something like a From Software game, getting knocked all the way out and losing hours worth of hard earned money and XP doesn't feel very good.
The world building stretches beyond a strong story and beautiful visuals though. The game's voice cast and music are both fantastic and help add an additional layer of depth to every new region and character. Some fans may get sick of Ollie's main companion, Drippy, after the tenth hour of banter, but others will find the rag-doll come to life a source of laughter and support throughout the game's lengthy campaign.
As Octopath Traveller (and many other games) proved last year, the Nintendo Switch is a perfect console for JRPGs. Although players can't amp up the graphics like on the PS4 Pro or a PC, taking Ni no Kuni off the doc and playing in handheld mode is a fantastic experience. The game's particular brand of XP grinding and long narrative make it a terrific choice for gamers who are on the go commuting or even just trying to sneak in an extra short gaming session in bed before falling asleep. The Ghibli shine still looks amazing on the small screen and the game's controllers translate perfectly to the attached Joy-Cons.
After many fans were left disappointed by the 2018 sequel, this remaster is sure to remind the community why the original 2010 release was so beloved. The remaster is a great reminder of the potential that the series had and hopefully any future iterations of Ni no Kuni return to this winning formula and bring back the story, cinematics, and combat system that all come together to help make Wrath of the White Witch a modern classic.
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch releases on September 20 for Nintendo Switch. Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remaster releases on September 20 for PC and PS4. Game Rant was provided a copy of the Switch port for this review.