Namco Bandai Games America Inc.’s Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch for Sony Corp.’s Playstation 3 is a stellar work of art that combines the development talent of Level-5 and world-class animation of Studio Ghibli to relay an earnest and charming quest about a boy who tries to bring back his mother after her death.

Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch tells the story of Oliver, a boy who tragically loses his mother. He subsequently breathes life to a doll given to him by his mother as a child, Mr. Drippy. Mr. Drippy informs Oliver of a parallel universe that could be traversed to find a way a bring his mother back from the dead.

Ni No KuniNi No Kuni features a traditional overworld with dungeons and villages, and action-based real-time battles. Users will trek between Oliver’s hometown Motorville and the Outer World, an alternate parallel dimension.

The battle system is active and requires users to switch dynamically between Oliver and avatar creatures called Friendlies or Companions. Friendlies and Companions can be customized with weapons, armor, and items. In addition, a Creature Cage allows users to feed Friendlies treats in order to grow their abilities.

Users can move around the battlefield and choose when to apply an action including Attack, Defend, and Spell (Oliver). A timed meter will run through during each action before a subsequent action can be deployed. Defense must be timed to each enemy’s attack. The combination of real-time action, character switching, and timed execution offers a lot of variety of depth to each battle.

In dungeon areas, Oliver and Mr. Drippy will traverse through detailed environments to complete specific mission requirements. Enemies are visible at all times in dungeons and in the overworld to allow users an option to engage. Oliver is equipped with a map at all times to detail the next point of interest.

In towns, users can purchase new equipment and mingle with townsfolk, the latter of which may have optional missions for Oliver. Tasks completed by Oliver will add stamps to a Merit Card that offers upgrades or price reduction on store items for every 10 stamps.

In addition, Oliver is equipped with a wand and a spell book that can be used in battle, and to give or take ‘Heart’ to townsfolk who need some enthusiasm or other feelings to bring them back to normal.

The graphics engine is amazing at 30 frames-per-second. Level-5 has translated the artwork of Studio Ghibli frame-by-frame to a beautiful cel-shaded engine against painted backdrops. The result is a living, breathing animated film that’s controlled in real-time, with detail paid to Oliver and Mr. Drippy’s subtle movements and feisty enemy characters.

The sound engine is fantastic with compositions by Joe Hisaishi performed by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra. Each location yields a grand symphony of whimsy and adventure with delicate touches paid to each in-game event.

Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is a defining role-playing title that melds the best talent in game production and studio artwork. From the charming storyline, solid battle system, and custom character development, Oliver and Mr. Drippy lead the way with their earnest hearts and capture each player’s for the touching journey.

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